JOHANNESBURG – Debeko Dakamo Dasa, the Ethiopian who won yesterday’s Soweto Marathon as a debutant, would not have made much of an announcement just before the start of the tough 42.2km race.
With the event delayed a little as organisers waited for traffic on the route to clear, they introduced Abel Mokibe to the runners, whose patience was fast running out.
It worked like a charm, the fact that Mokibe won the tough race twice in successive years distracting the runners a little as they applauded the legend.
Mokibe won the Soweto Marathon at his first attempt in 1996 and defended the title a year later. Granted, he had run marathons before but to win the People’s Race on debut is pretty tough.
Such is the toughness of the race that many local runners are advised to never make it their first marathon lest they get dissuaded from pursuing the event.
That advice does not apply to east Africans though, and Dasa proved this yesterday by cantering to victory in his first ever marathon race.
His victory ensured that Ethiopia’s dominance of the Soweto Marathon continued unabated as he followed in the footsteps of three-time champion Sintayeho Legese, who did not run this year.
Dasa clocked two hours, 18 minutes and 35 seconds to beat Kenya’s David Maru (2:18.48), who had run him close for most of the race as they ensured that South Africa continues to search for that elusive success in the race last won by a local back in 2011.
“I am happy with my first win in the marathon. I would like to come back next year to defend my title. I had no idea about the race. It was very hot and it had too many hills,” Dasa said.
His run suggests he felt neither the high temperatures or the steep slopes that the runners had to negotiate as they went through the world famous collection of townships in the south-west of Johannesburg.
The local disappointment at not winning the men’s race was soothed somewhat by the incredible Irvette van Zyl, who led from start to finish at FNB Stadium to hold on to the title she won in record time last year (2:34.01).
She came close to breaking that record (2:33.43) again yesterday but the mother of two had to settle for a third title on the trot..
Former champion Selam Abew Alebachew of Ethiopia was second in 2:45.54 while her compatriot Godise Bekele was third in a time of 2:48.19.
South Africans reigned supreme in the other races though, with Elroy Gelant winning the half marathon in 64:53 and Caroline Mhando triumphant in the women’s race after running 80:58.
Desmond Mokgobu and Glenrose Xaba were winners in the 10km race.
The best South African man in the marathon was Ntshindiso Mphakathi who came home in eighth place in 2:19.45.
It was the third time Mphakathi finished as the best local in the race as he also did so back in 2015 and 2017.
The day, however, belonged to Ethiopian marathon debutant Dasa and there can be no denying this victory in the tough Soweto Marathon will set him up for success in the more renowned but much easier marathons in the world.