Lesotho’s Mabuthile Lebopo surged with four kilometres to go finish and held off a spirited challenge from Zimbabwe’s defending champion Elijah Mutandiro to win the men’s race in today's Old Mutual Soweto Marathon.
Elsewhere, an impromptu team strategy midway through the women’s contest enabled South Africa’s Charne Radameyer, Dimakatso Morobi, and Louisa Leballo, to clinch the top three places.
MEN – Lebopo takes control at top of Diepkloof hill
There were clear signs early in the men’s race that the contest was going to be quite intense. A mere five seconds covered the entire lead group of about 50 athletes at the halfway mark.
Having covered the first half in just over 68 minutes, Mutandiro threw caution to the wind and surged ahead which saw the group thin out, before Johannes Kekana, the All Africa Games Marathon champion, opened a small lead but soon paid the price for his ambitious move. He fizzled at 28km, and Tanzania’s Jumana Boki, took over the lead at 31km (1:39:40) and Mutandiro re-emerged to lead the race at 35km.
Mutandiro made his move at the energy sapping “heart break hill” in Diepkloof (37km) but Lebopo surged past him at the end of the top of the hill.
Determined to improve on his fourth place last year, Lebopo powered to victory in 2:18:05. Mutandiro (2:18:54), Boki (2:19:10), Ndombeni (2:19:22), Zimbabweans Hontest Motsakane (2:19:44) and Tsunga Mwanengeni (2:20:43) followed in that order.
“Today I have atoned for last year’s setback when I missed three months of training due to a leg injury. I only resumed training for this race five weeks ago. When I noticed Mutandiro struggling at “heart break hill”, I knew the race was mine,” said a delighted Lebopo.
A smiling Mutandiro insisted he was not disappointed at losing the title. “I injured my shins two weeks before the Olympics and therefore missed Athens. With only six weeks training I am happy to finish second,” he said.
Tanzania’s Boki was the surprise package having run his third marathon this year in this his first season at the discipline. “This has been an eye opener. I did not know about this steep hill at 38km. Next time I will be better prepared, “said Boki. He was second at the Kilmanjaro Marathon in Tanzania in March and ran a career best in Belgrade (2:14:46).
WOMEN - South Africa’s day
The women’s race started at a fast pace with the leader covering the first four kilometres in under 16 minutes. Sensing the stiff competition from their Zimbabwean and Lesotho opponents, defending champion Radameyer, and her South African colleagues Leballo, and Morobi bunched together midway through the race.
“We decided to take turns wearing down Thabita Tsatsa (Zimbabwe) as she was a threat. After 30km we had confidence that a South African would win the race,” Morobi explained in a post-race interview.
At 32km Radameyer took the lead and never looked back. She retained her title with a 2:48:32 effort. Morobi (2:50:50) and Leballo (2:51:11) followed. Fourth place was taken by Lesotho’s 20 year old marathon debutant Mamorallo Tjoko (2:52:19). Tsatsa (2:52:43) came in fifth.
“We want to run a sub 2:37 at the national championships early next year so that we can get invitations to compete in a major marathon abroad,” said Radameyer.
“We appeal to Athletics South Africa to stage the national championship at the coast on a flat course. That would give us a chance to run fast times,” Leballo added.
“Our goal is to see South Africa enter the women’s marathon at the World Championships in Helsinki. We hope that ASA will assist us to qualify the way they assist the male marathon runners,” said the outspoken Morobi.
Mark Ouma for the IAAF
Note All Athletes are South Africans unless otherwise mentioned.
PB denotes personal best
1 Mabuthile Lebopo (Lesotho) 2:18:05 PB
2 Elijah Mutandiro (Zimbabwe) 2:!8:54
3 Jumane Boki (Tanzania) 2:19:10
4 Sivuyile Ndombeni 2:19:22
5 Hontest Motsakane (Zimbabwe) 2:19:44
6 Tsunga Mwanengeni (Zimbabwe) 2:20:43
1 Charne Radameyer 2:48:32
2 Dimakatso Morobi 2:50:50
3 Louisa Leballo 2:51:11