It almost goes without saying that perennial SPAR Knysna Forest Marathon winner Lloyd Bosman will be back to defend his 21.1km title this year.
In many respects the 35-year-old has become a posterchild for the event, having won the half-marathon on six occasions and the 42.2km once.
The problem for the rest of the 7 000-plus runners taking part in Saturday’s race is that Bosman has never felt better.
He placed an impressive 12th at his first Two Oceans ultramarathon in April, only months after storming to victory at the 27 for Freedom race near Paarl.
“I am feeling much stronger this year. I ran two 10km races where I came in with 29-minute times, so I’m feeling good,” he said.
His current form stems from a decision he took before his 35th birthday. Recognising that he was not getting any younger, he took a realistic look at what he still wanted to achieve in the sport.
By his estimation he had another five good years left in him, and that meant realigning his focus to remain competitive.
“In December there was no partying or anything, it was all training. Now everything is going phenomenally.”
Perhaps one glimmer of hope for his rivals is that this year’s Forest Marathon is expected to be heavy underfoot.
Knysna has received steady rainfall over the past fortnight, with more forecast for the weekend, which Bosman believes will make the going much slower.
“I think it will be slippery. I’ve told members of my training group that they’ll really need to position themselves in the first 5km of the race and they shouldn’t hold back.
“It will be very difficult to gain ground if you are not near the front.”
Though born and bred in George, Knysna has become a second home to Bosman. Both his parents are from the town, and he has enjoyed its beaches and lagoon since childhood.
“I really do know it like the back of my hand,” he quipped.
Bosman has run all his life, from primary school in Pacaltsdorp to George’s Outeniqua High School and later North-West University.
His love of the sport comes from the challenge it presents to the individual.
“You need self-discipline. In running it’s different. You are not playing for a team. You are alone and it’s all on you.
“But it’s marvellous to be out, either early in the morning or at night.
“I was talking to someone the other day and he asked what he should do for stress. I told him running was the best thing for it.
“Put on your shoes and just go.”
He is thrilled at the numbers that have signed up for this year’s event, as it shows how popular it is around the country.
“It’s going to be awesome.”
While last year’s 42.2km winner Renier Grobler will not be back owing to his efforts at the Comrades Marathon, he has offered some advice to runners.
“The race in the Knysna ‘bos’ has a cold start, so remember to bring an extra shirt that can later be donated to charity,” he said.
The first 3km were uphill, followed by more climbing between the 7km and 10km marks, he explained. From there, it was fairly flat until 16km, after which runners would hit an up-and-down stretch that took them through to 23km, he said.
“While there is some nice downhill between kilometres 24 and 32, don’t run this too hard as there is a big climb from 33 to 35,” Grobler warned.
He said the SPAR Knysna Forest Marathon experience was “amazing” and that the lights illuminating the forest on runners’ arrival created an electric atmosphere.
The 38th edition, sponsored by SPAR Eastern Cape, offers an expo and marathon market on Friday and Saturday. The latter includes a beer tent, food stalls, drink stands and sweet treats.