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Athletics | Running

Natalia Volgina © Gallo Images

Volgina returns after nearly a decade



Former women's champion Natalia Volgina will make a return to the Two Oceans Marathon, joining a record field in Cape Town on Saturday, after an absence of nine years.

Nurgalieva, who won the 56km ultra-marathon in 2002, has focussed on standard marathons since she placed second in the Two Oceans in 2003, but the Nedbank Running Club confirmed her entry on Tuesday.

Volgina, 35, the wife of multiple Comrades Marathon gold medallist Alexei Volgin, also finished second in the 2001 race.

"Natalia is in excellent shape and ready to challenge for victory in the Two Oceans," Volgina's representative, Sergey Nochevnyy, said on Tuesday.

"She has been training in the mountains and is in great shape and will be aiming for a time of 3:35 for the event."

The women's race has taken a knock with a couple of the elite athletes withdrawing on the eve of the event.

The Nedbank club said Svitlana Stank of the Ukraine had pulled out of her debut race with a back injury she picked up last week. Stanko won the 2011 Zurich and Warsaw marathons.

Only one of the dominant Russian twins, Elena Nurgalieva, will take part this year as three-time winner Olesya withdrew last week due to injury.

Elena will make a solo charge as she aims for her fourth victory in five years.

In the men's ultra-marathon, defending champion and South African hopeful George Ntshiliza has confirmed his entry.

Meanwhile, in the half-marathon field, Lusapho April will be back to defend his title, while in the women's category, last year's winner and course record holder, Helalia Johannes, will not be participating.

A record field of over 25 000 runners are expected to line up for the annual event, which includes a 56km ultra-marathon, a 21km half-marathon, a trail run and a fun run.

Just over 16 000 runners will take part in the half-marathon, according to race organisers – the biggest field in the event's history.

The Two Oceans celebrates its 43rd consecutive run this weekend, with the first race held in 1970 when 26 runners taking part.

Since then, it has become a favourite with local and international athletes, earning the reputation of the world's most beautiful marathon.

In the half-marathon category, just over half (52%) of the field are novices, compared to the ultra-marathon (56km) field, in which 34% of the 9 200 runners are running their first Two Oceans.

Race organisers have also announced that, for the first time, the top 10 men and women in both the ultra- and half-marathon fields will undergo compulsary drug testing by Drug Free Sport SA.

In previous years, there was random testing of the top 10.

The race has seen a growth in international interest and this year it welcomes 1 517 participants from outside South Africa, with the biggest contingent of foreign runners coming from the UK, which has 394 entries.

The Two Oceans has attracted runners from 78 different countries.



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