Marathon returns to Soweto

2014-10-26 15:01

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East African marathon runners, who have dominated the world stage for so long, are now challenging their Lesotho and Zimbabwean counterparts in South Africa’s road races.

The Nike Soweto Marathon on Sunday will bring this rivalry to the fore.

South Africans will have their work cut out for them as Kenyan and Ethiopian runners have claimed three top 42.2km titles and won R575?000 in the past month.

In the space of three weeks last month, David Tumo clinched the Western Cape’s PetroSA Marathon (plus R60?000), compatriot Willy Kibor claimed the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon (plus R265?000) and Ethiopian Ketema Bekele Negassa won the Gauteng Marathon and its R250?000 prize.

According to the Soweto Marathon race office, Kenyan, Ethiopian, Lesotho and Zimbabwean runners have shown significant interest in the ­revamped Soweto race, which has ­attracted 21?000 entrants this year.

Kenyan Shadrack Kemboi, the 2012 champion, will return to defend his ­title. He won the last Soweto Marathon in a record time of 2:16:28, beating the time set by Zimbabwean Elijah Mutandiro in 2003 by almost a minute.

Kemboi came fourth in the Cape Town Marathon last month.

Two Oceans Marathon champion and 2010 Soweto Marathon winner ­Lesotho’s Lebenya Nkoka will be gunning for the 21.1km winner’s medal.

Mamorallo Tjoka of Lesotho has had a stranglehold on the women’s race in Soweto, having bagged an unprecedented seven titles, while three-time winner Tabitha Tsatsa of Zimbabwe is also a serious contender.

The local contingent includes Mapaseka Makhanya (21.1km), Ludwick Mamabolo and Charné Bosman (42.2km) and Elroy Gelant (10km).

The Soweto Marathon was cancelled last year due to a lack of sponsorship. Its troubles were compounded by Athletics SA (ASA) leadership issues.

ASA road running commission ­chairperson James Moloi said: “This is the first time the race has attracted 21?000 participants. It used to average around 10?000.”

Moloi will run the 10km event alongside Gauteng Premier David Makhura, SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee president Gideon Sam, and other politicians and administrators.

With a R100?000 first prize at stake, the marathon could prove to be easy money for the east African athletes.

Legendary local marathon runner Hendrick Ramaala said most foreign runners found the South African marathon scene easier to negotiate.

“The best runners are going for top marathons like Berlin and New York. The ones who come here know the ­locals are not that competitive,” said Ramaala. SA distance runners Lusapho April and Stephen Mokoka will line up in New York and Shanghai, respectively, on the day of the Soweto Marathon.

All you need to know

Start and finish point

» Nasrec Expo Centre, Soweto

Distances and start times

» 42.2km (6am)

» 21.1km (6.30am)

» 10km (7am)

Prize money

» 42.2km (R100?000)

» 21.1km (R10?000)

» 10km (R5?000)

Important information

» Walkers will not be allowed to compete in the half-marathon and marathon events.

» Participants are not allowed to use earphones and iPods, and other media players during the race for safety reasons. The use of these items will lead to immediate disqualification. This does not apply to hearing aids.

» Race packs can be collected from Thursday (October 30) until Saturday (November 1) between 9am and 7pm at Constitution Hill in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.

Facts and figures

Counting down the numbers

21?000 – The number of entries – with a split of 7?000 runners – received across the three distances: 42.2km, 21.1km and 10km

300 – The number of race marshals who will oversee the activity on the three routes

282 – The number of private security personnel who will be present at the Nasrec Expo Centre

260 – The number of Johannesburg Metro Police officers who will be deployed on the day of the marathon

21 – The number of water points along the three routes. These points will be placed at intervals of almost 3km

4am – The opening time of the Expo Centre gates

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