Cape Town - Gerda Steyn and Stephen Mokoka are the South African favourites for the Cape Town Marathon, but they will face serious competition from a few international athletes tomorrow.
Over 9 000 runners will line up for the 6.15am start outside Cape Town Stadium in Green Point, and while Mokoka holds the record of two hours, eight minutes and 31 seconds (2:08.31), this will be Steyn’s first ever standard marathon in South Africa.
Of course, she is familiar with Cape Town, having won the 56km Two Oceans Marathon in 2018 and 2019, while her personal best in the 42.2km distance is 2:25.28 at an event in Siena, Italy earlier this year, which is also the South African record.
The 31-year-old Steyn produced a resolute performance at the Tokyo Olympics a few months ago, finishing in 15th position in tough, humid conditions in a time of 2:32.10.
She has been training hard in Gauteng in recent weeks, posting regular updates on social media, but now she is excited to get going in tomorrow’s race, which doubles up as the South African Marathon Championships.
“Hello Cape Town!! Let’s just settle this once and for all … Cape Town is THE PLACE TO BE !!!! ” Steyn said on Instagram this week.
“The work is done, the legs are resting, so let’s get the show on the road.. and with show, I mean @ ctmarathon of course!!! Africa’s only @worldathletics (Gold) Label marathon, and home to the @asa_athletics_south_africa Marathon Championships is going to be!!
“Who’s excited for RACE WEEK??!! I know there’s at least 10 000 of us that can’t wait for it!! I’ll have ALL the covid tests in the world if it means we get to run @CTMarathon!!! Good luck to everyone running!!!”
Some hilarious facial expressions spotted before entering the expo hehe! 😭![CDATA]>😅![CDATA]>🤣![CDATA]>😋![CDATA]>😬 #thisis2021— Gerda Steyn (@gerdarun) October 14, 2021
But tbh, I'll have ALL the covid tests in the world if it means we get to run @CTMarathon !!! 💙![CDATA]>🥳 pic.twitter.com/6bhISg3415
Steyn is not the fastest woman in the field, though. Kenya’s Lucy Karimi clocked a time of 2:24.24 to finish third in the Geneva Marathon in May, although she was not in the Olympic marathon field – where her compatriots, Peres Jepchirchir and Bridget Kosgei, claimed the gold and silver medals respectively.
Namibia’s Beata Naigambo is another title contender, boasting a personal best of 2:26.57, while Ethiopian Nurit Shimels finished second at the 2019 Cape Town Marathon in a personal best effort of 2:27.40.
On the men’s front, Mokoka will look to put the disappointment of the Tokyo Olympics behind him. The 36-year-old was in the lead group at one stage, but battled to contend with the difficult weather conditions, and stopped at around the 35km mark.
But cool and rainy conditions are expected in Cape Town tomorrow, so he will attempt to go even quicker than the 2:08.31 race record he set in 2018.
Mokoka’s South African mark is 2:07.40, produced in Shanghai in 2015, which makes him the fastest in the field, and he has been pounding around the streets of Pretoria to get into prime shape in recent weeks.
“Any day I’m able to pick my legs up this high during a marathon build up is a good day … ” he posted on his Facebook page. “Interval repeats on the track. The legs may not love it anymore, but it is important to keep that leg turnover for the Marathon.”
Mokoka’s main challengers will be Ethiopian Belachew Amato, who has a personal best of 2:07.55, and Kenya’s Aperumoi Joseph Kachapi (2:08.26).