KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala and MEC Sipho Hlomuka congratulating the men's 42 KM winner Muhajr Haredin Sraj. Photo: @MMandelaDM on twitter

JOHANNESBURG - Someone clearly forgot to tell the Ethiopians just how tough the Mandela Day Marathon is. Why else would the east Africans have smashed both the men and women’s course record on a pretty hot morning yesterday?

But then again, the east Africans have been threatening the records for some time now, that one - in this case two - of them was eventually going to rewrite it.

Just last year, Ethiopia’s Sinyatehu Legese came just 53 seconds short of deposing South Africa’s Thobani Chagwe as the record holder of this difficult 42.2km trek up from Mananye Hall in Imbali just outside Pietermaritzburg to the Capture Site on the outskirts of Howick when he won the race in 2:28:05

In the women’s race Kenyan Loice Jebet got in at 2:50:01, some time off Irvette Van Zyl’s mark of 2:47:15 set back in 2014 on the same day Chagwe ran his record.

In 2017 another Ethiopian Tekletsion Kassahun Tefera had come close to usurping Chagwe when he won the men’s race in 2:28:31.

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Yesterday though, that charmed life the records lived came to a screeching halt as Muhajr Haredrin Sraj and his Ethiopian compatriot Shemsu Chegen beat all comers to register new records for the eight-year-old race.

A good field of 63 international runners suggested that the likes of Chagwe and Teboho Noosi would have to be at their best if the men’s title was to return home.

Noosi went for it and was in the lead by the halfway mark with Sraj breathing down his neck and most of the supporting crew at that turn into Hillary Street in Hilton could tell that the Ethiopian was looking the stronger of the two and should rein the Maxed Elite runner in and go on to win.

The duo were followed by Wondwosen Ketema Mamu but the trio had opened a massive gap between themselves and the big group following behind.

The Ethiopians made it a one-two finish, with Noosi completing the podium placings for a marked improvement on his sixth placing last year.

In the ladies section, Chegen looked unstoppable as she proved to be and sauntered home to a new record of 2:45:41.

Just like in the men’s section, it was an Ethiopian one-two finish - Alebachew getting silver in 2:54:25 - while South African S Mbanjwa took the bronze following a distant third place finish that saw her clock 3:03:36.

@Tshiliboy


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