Irvette van Blerk on the way to the South African Half Marathon title (Mark Ouma) © Copyright
General News Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa

Mohale and van Blerk take South African Half Marathon crowns

Lucky Mohale and Evert van Blerk emerged winners at the South Africa Half Marathon Championships in Motherwell, Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa on Saturday (24 July).

The contest is the first stage in selecting the team for the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Nanning, China on 16 October.

Men’s race

In spirited quest for national honours, a lead group of over 20 runners broke away from the rest of the field early in the race covering 5km in 14:35 and 10km in 29:43. The pace then slackened over the next two kilometres. Up until then Lusapho April, Lungisa Mdedelwa, Sibusiso Nzima Motsamai Motone, and Lindikhaya Mthangayi took turns leading.

Then Mohale hit the front, his injection of pace breaking up the lead group. By the time Mohale reach 15km, only Nzima, April, and Mdedelwa remained serious challengers.

Mohale briefly glance back at those pursuing him, before putting in another surge. From then on the contest was more or less about who would be seconds. Mohale (1:01:58) was first across the finish line. Nzima (1:02:10), April (1:02:24) followed.

“When I saw the lead group slowing down, I grew confident I will win so I took the lead at 12km. I knew that. I have trained for this race for three months in Thembisa township (30km north east of central Johannesburg). So I was ready for a good time,” Mohale explained.

“Now I want to redouble my effort so that I can run 58 or 59 minutes. My aim is to make an impact competing against the great Zersenay Tadese (four time World champion) at the World Championships in China,” a confident Mohale declared.

Women’s race

Thozama April set the women’s race alight with an aggressive front running style. This saw the lead group thin out rapidly with only Irvette van Blerk and Tanith Maxwell keeping pace with April after 5km. Zintle Xiniwe, Lousiia Leballo, Nolene Conrad and Mpho Mabusa where strung out in the chase.

After 10km Van Blerk took over the lead and begun opening a gap over April and Maxwell who were paying the price for their early efforts. In contrast Xiniwe seemed to find a new surge of energy from 15km clawing her way back into contention.

However Xiniwe left too much for too late. Van Blerk covered the distance in a life time best of 1:11:09. She was followed by Xiniwe (1:13:13), Maxwell (1:13:22) and April (1:13:58).

“The pace was quite fast in the opening 8km. When April begun fading I took charge of matters. I followed the men in front of me and that helped set a personal best from 1:12.55 at the Two Oceans in Cape Town last April,” says a delighted Van Blerk.

Athletics South Africa (ASA) Assistant Administrator Richard Stander says this is the beginning of their two year plan towards the 2012 London Olympic Marathons. “We will sponsor the top ten men and women to our national 10km race next month.

“That will be a speed test before the Southern Africa Marathon Championships in Malawi in September and the World Championships in October. We aim at developing Olympians capable of running 2:05 (men) and sub 2:30 (women) at the Olympics,” Stander disclosed.

Mark Ouma for the IAAF

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