Ethiopians running away with SA races

2014-11-09 15:00

Ethiopia’s double triumph at the Soweto Marathon last weekend underlined east Africa’s dominance of South Africa’s premier road races.

Sintayehu Yinesu and Meseret Biru’s wins of the 42km titles – and R100?000 each – in Soweto last Sunday brought to slightly more than R1?million the prize purses Ethiopian and Kenyan distance runners have raked in on our flagship marathons in just less than two months.

The Ethiopians claimed R700?000 from winning the Soweto, the Gauteng and the Cape Town (women’s race) marathons, while the Kenyans ran away with the Cape Town Marathon (men’s race), Gauteng Marathon (women’s race) and the PetroSA races.

South African women’s marathon hope Mapaseka Makhanya believes that Ethiopian and Kenyan runners “know how to win it”.

“There is big prize money and they know how to win it. At the end of the day, we South Africans can’t run five marathons in two months. If you want to run for the next five to 10 years, you cannot do that.”

Makhanya won the women’s half marathon – her first 21km career win – at the Soweto event that had two South Africans each in the men’s and women’s top 10 in the 42km race.

“It’s a matter of us South Africans not wanting to run some marathons. At the end of the day, they are just doing their job. I have proved in the Gauteng Marathon [as a champion in 2013] that I can run against them.

“It’s that just most of the local ladies are not running marathons.”

René Kalmer was the last local woman to win the Soweto Marathon in 2009.

Renowned middle- and long-distance coach Michael “Sponge” Seme said east African runners raise the standards of local marathons.

“It’s good that they compete in our races as their presence gives our runners a good test,” said Seme, whose charge Stephen Mokoka won the Shanghai Marathon on the same day as the Soweto Marathon.

Veteran marathon runner Hendrick Ramaala said: “It’s all in our hands because there’s talent and infrastructure. Our runners just need the will and the desire. But most importantly, we need a national plan now. The east Africans run the marathon as businesses and they have a factory of distance runners.”

»Meanwhile, the SA Half Marathon Championships will take place at Kolonnade Retail Park Shopping Centre in Pretoria on Saturday.

Why are east Africans such good distance runners?

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