The Russian Twins

These two sisters have dominated the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon, since 2004

Between the two of them Russian twins, Elena and Olesya Nurgalieva, have notched up five wins at the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon – Elena in 2009, 2005 and 2004, and Olesya in 2008 and 2010. Coupled with their seven Comrades victories and successes at various international marathons, it's no surprise that Elena and Olyesa are celebrities in their home country. Here in South Africa, I caught up with Olyesa, to find out how she's feeling ahead of the big race.

How did you feel when you won your first Two Oceans?
Every time I win I feel incredibly emotional- filled with happiness.

Do you decide which one of you (out of the twins) will win, ahead of the race?
Never. It depends on which one of us is feeling stronger that day.

Africa is a continent well known for producing great athletes. With this in mind, have your Two Oceans and Comrades successes surprised you?
A lot of people find our success confusing because we're white and have a larger build than Kenyan, female athletes. Perhaps the Kenyans can run a stronger marathon, but when it comes to Two Oceans and Comrades, we are stronger.

What is it that you love about Two Oceans?
We love the nature, the flora and fauna that this beautiful city has to offer. The organisation of the Two Oceans Marathon is of a much higher standard, compared with other marathons in Europe.

During the week leading up to Two Oceans, what have you done to prepare?
We've been stocking up on plenty of meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and dairy products.

Do you ever get nervous before the race?
Once you win a race, you are under so much pressure to be victorious again. Yes, this pressure can make you feel nervous but, at the same time, it motivates you to try and be the best.

You've been beaten by Simone Staicu (Hungary) and Madina Biktagirova (Russia) in the past. Do any of your opponents worry you this year?
We honestly won't know until race day - runners have been training separately.

Are you looking to break the course record of 3:30:36, set by Frith Van Der Merwe, in 1989?
Frith's record is extremely fast and seems impossible to beat at the moment.

Will you win the race this year?
I've won the Comrades five times, so why not? Of course I want to win, but only today will tell.

Are top athletes 'superhuman''?
I don't consider myself superhuman, nor do I see running as a natural ability. You have to train very hard to get to the top.

What's the best piece of advice you can offer novices?
It will be a tough race, but if you test your endurance, you'll be one of the people crossing the finish line, saying to yourself, “I can do it.”

Results: Olyesa came in 1st place with a time of 3:33:58, closely followed by Elena in 2nd place, with a time of 3:37:54.

By Lisa Nevitt

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