By Sifiso Cele for Athletics South Africa
It came down to the wire this morning in the star-studded ASA Marathon Championships which started at 5.30am at East London, Eastern Cape Province.
The contest was not so easy, with runners battling against strong winds which bashed them from front, side and the back, only relenting towards the last quarter of the largely hilly route.
But that only added to the excitement as the race lived up to expectations with all the drama one would expect in South Africa’s epic marathon contest.
At least 800 runners went pound-for-pound, in a race, which was incorporated into the 43rd Buffalo Marathon and Half Marathon.
At the end of it all, it was a joyous day for Athletics Gauteng North, who took the first positions in both Male and Women races with underdogs.
Novice, Patience Khumalo stunned the field when she shook off nagging cramps to dig deep into her reserves to win the ASA Marathon Championships in 2…hours…47minutes 15…seconds, even after she was forced to a temporal stop after just 7km to stretch off trouble on both legs.
From the start, she had kept toe-to-toe with Mapaseka Makhanya who had set a blistering pace from the start as if a cat had been set amongst the pigeons. She clocked 2:5129. Tanith Maxwell was third in 2:53:19
“I had to stop at least four times to deal with cramps, but each time I worked hard to catch up with Mapaseka,” said Khumalo, who wobbled to the finish line and then collapsed in what seemed a scary moment for all.
“With this being my maiden race, it was a surprise even to me to have won. Before the race this was definitely not the finish I expected.
“In my last race, which was the Mandela Marathon, I ran, stopped, crawled and walked throughout and became the joke of the day. But it’s all thanks to Mapaseka today who encouraged and told me to go in the last few kilometers when she was having stomach problems,” said Khumalo.
Makhanya, who had looked relaxed throughout in the lead, was however not amused by the design of the course.
“I think it was ridiculous because it was just endlessly hilly. I don’t have issues with the windy conditions because one cannot control that, but the hills were ridiculous. But I had a good race, never threatened and was been confident from the start about where I would be placed in the end.
“During the race, I told Patience that whatever happens, she must run her race. Congratulations to her!” said Mapaseka of Central Gauteng Athletics.
The Men’s race was equally a thrill-a-minute affair where the race leadership often took turns in the twists and turns of this challenging course.
Lucas Jani, who had hidden himself in the second bunch that had chased like hyenas from a distance for half the race, clinched it in 2:21:32 at the finish, ahead of Lungile Gongqa of Western Province Athletics, who seemed to come from nowhere for runner-up position in 2:22:17. Ntsindiso Mphakathi finished third clocking 2:23:12.
“I had a good race,” explained Jani. “I went for a tactical race, because I knew it was going to be tough today. I deliberately stayed behind within the chasing, but tried to work myself up the field every seven kilometers to test them.
“The winds were really difficult to deal with, but I managed to deal with that like everyone else. Towards 27km, I decided to put pressure on the leaders (Ntshindiso Mphakathi CGA and Chabeli Nyedimane ACNW), before making my decisive break just after around 30km,” said Jani.
Runner-up Gongqa said he realised around 32km that he had a good chance for a top three finish and went for a kill in the dying kilometers of the distance.
Team Results Standings:
- Central Gauteng – Gold
- Athletics Gauteng North – Silver
- KwaZulu Natal Athletics – Bronze
- Athletics Gauteng North – Gold
- Central Gauteng Athletics – Silver
- Western Province Athletics – Bronze