Johannesburg, South AfricaA last gasp effort saw South Africa’s Hendrick Ramaala win the men’s race at the inaugural Nedbank Series 20km road race in Johannesburg on Sunday (29). In contrast Lesotho’s Soweto Marathon Champion Mamorallo Tjoka stamped her authority and outclassed the field to win the women’s contest.
As athletes ran through the black township of Alexander, the atmosphere was alive with residents dancing to the sound of drumbeats to welcome the return of athletics to the township after a gap of over 25 years.
The race got off to a cracking start. Despite the runners encountering the first of a series of hills as they entered Alexander, the lead group of 30 athletes reached the 5km mark in 15:54. First Pule Mofokeng (South Africa) then Cuthbert Nyasango (Zimbabwe) took turns surging up the hills which had the effect of thinning out the lead group to 12 contenders by the eight kilometre mark.
Local hopefuls Shadrack Hoff, Mofokeng and Ramaala, appeared to be struggling to keep up with the pace, and when Nyasango made his move at Marlboro Hill (12 km) only Patrick Nthiwa (Kenya) and South African new find Zolani Ntongana could follow.
However, with just a kilometre to the finish Ramaala begun clawing his way back into contention, overtaking Ntongana with less than a kilometre to go to the finish. Then digging deep into his reserves to overtake Nyasango then Nthiwa in the last 100m, he won the race in 1:02:11. Nthiwa (1:02:13), Nyasango (1:02:32) and Ntongana (1:02:44) and Pule (1:03:00) followed him home in that order.
“I had given up the race,” declared Ramaala. “These hills were really trying. Towards the end I noticed the race leaders were also feeling the strain. It encouraged me to up my game and that’s how I won. This has been a though test ahead of my plan to recapture the title at the ‘World best 10km’ in Puerto Rico on 26 February.”
Although he will also compete in Puerto Rico, Nthiwa has his focus on something more immediate: “I feel my legs are strong enough to carry me when I bid for a place in the Kenyan 3000m Steeplechase contingent for the Commonwealth Games in (Melbourne) Australia. The trials are this coming weekend in Nairobi. I know I have to come close to my career best to make the team.”
Meanwhile in less dramatic fashion, Lesotho’s Mamorallo Tjoka surged to the lead in the women’s race at seven kilometres, and was never challenged again, going on to win the race in 1:15:17. Zimbabwe’s Samukeliso Moyo (1:16:37) was runner-up, ahead of South African Gloria Baeba (1:17:10).
The 21-year-old Soweto marathon champion was pleased with her performance. “Hilly courses suit us who hail from Lesotho. I want to win all the 20km races in this series. Besides defending my Soweto Marathon title, the Johannesburg Marathon will be my only other marathon this year,” Tjoka revealed.
Mark Ouma for the IAAF
Note: All Athletes are South Africans unless otherwise mentioned.
MEN 20 KM
1 Hendrick Ramaala 1:02:11
2 Patrick Nthiwa (Kenya) 1:02:13
3 Cuthbert Nyasango (Zimbabwe) 1:02:32
4 Zolani Ntongana 1:02:44
5 Pule Mofokeng 1:03:00
6 Lewis Masunda (Zimbabwe) 1:03:39
7 Wirimayi Juwawo Zimbabwe) 1:03:50
8 Motsamai Motone 1:03:55
9 Norman Dlomo 1:04:12
10 George Majaji (Zimbabwe) 1:04:23
WOMEN 10 KM
1 Mamorallo Tjoka (Lesotho) 1:15:17
2 Samukeliso Moyo (Zimbabwe) 1:16:37
3 Gloria Baeba 1:17:10
4 Tabitha Tsatsa (Zimbabwe) 1:17:57
5 Louisa Leballo 1:18:41
6 Alice Cherotich (Kenya) 1:19:04
7 Ann Khumalo 1:20:41
8 Charne Radameyer 1:21:07
9 Marlise Retief 1:21:16
10 Mankutoane Matlakeng (Lesotho) 1:21:30
MEN 10 KM
1 Johannes Kekana 30:42
2 Aaron Gabonewe 31:03
3 Coolboy Ngamole 31:10
JUNIOR MEN 10 KM
1 Joshua Sabao 31:46
2 Khethang Mahapa 32:01
3 Edwin Molepo 32:25
WOMEN 10 KM
1 Ronel Thomas 36:42
2 Poppy Mlambo 37:00
3 Patience Khumalo 37:13
JUNIOR WOMEN 10 KM
1 Patience Khumalo 37:13
2 Praxedis Dim 38:57
3 Rochelle Mosge 40:44