Despite a calf strain, last year’s Soweto Marathon runner-up is up to the challenge of going one better.
Mapaseka Makhanya came agonisingly close to winning the Soweto Marathon on her debut attempt last year.
Can the homegirl go one better this time, after she finished second in the 2017 edition of the gruelling, tradition-steeped race?
“I’m game,” was the quick reply from the Naledi-born athlete.
Makhanya fancies her chances in the 42km event, which starts and finishes at FNB Stadium next Sunday.
“The Soweto Marathon is nice, but tough. I am hoping for a top-three spot,” said Makhanya, who was beaten in November by compatriot Irvette van Zyl by three and a half minutes.
Van Zyl, who told City Press a fortnight ago that she would be back to defend her crown, won last year’s race in a time of two hours, 41 minutes and 37 seconds.
Despite not winning, Makhanya (33) sees the positive side, saying she is happy that the titleholder is South African.
In winning the event, Van Zyl became the first local woman champion since René Kalmer’s win back in 2009.
Makhanya is hoping that the title will remain here, despite an expected strong challenge from entrants from beyond our borders.
While she has not made much of an impression this year because of a calf strain she’s been struggling with, the mother of one says she is up for the challenge.
“I am fully fit and in good shape to tackle the race next weekend,” said Mapa, as she is known among her peers.
“The race is tough towards the end. After the 32km mark, you sort of run a lonely race because at that point you are out of the vibrant atmosphere in the middle of the township – and at that point, the heat is unbearable.”
Meanwhile, the men’s race is expected to be lit again, with the obvious threat coming from east African runners. The closest the locals have come to winning was in last year’s race, when Ntsindiso Mphakathi claimed third place in a race that was won by Lesotho’s Tsepo Mathibelle in two hours, 19 minutes and 41 seconds.
Three City of Joburg firefighters will run the Soweto Marathon on Sunday in their full fire gear to honour fallen heroes.
Firemen and avid runners Siphiwe Tshabalala, Nhlakanipho Khoza and Nkosi Mzolo will tackle the 42km stretch in memory of Simphiwe Moropane (28), Mduduzi Ndlovu (40) and Khathutshelo Muedi (37), who died while trying to put out a fire at the Gauteng health department’s offices in the Johannesburg CBD last month.
Khoza and his mates this week said they had been training so that they would finish Sunday’s race within the six-hour cutoff time.
“The training has been difficult, exciting and productive as we witness progress every day; we have been training with both the fire gear and sport gear,” said Khoza.
“Our wish is to complete the race within the prescribed time.
“The mission is also to remind the community to pray for emergency services workers to be safe in all the calls they take as they serve the citizens with dedication.”
Tshabalala said: “This will be our first experience running the Soweto Marathon and we’ll make sure that we honour our fallen heroes in the best possible way.”
Tshabalala said Khoza hatched the idea when they were going to lessons at the Tshwane University of Technology, where they are in their final year of their national diploma in fire technology. Khoza and his group thanked race organisers for allowing them to run in their fire gear.
A total of 35 000 runners are expected to participate. The race consists of three distances – 10km, 21km and 42km.
– Daniel Mothowagae