The start of the 50km World Championships race. Pic: @esternick on twitter
The start of the 50km World Championships race. Pic: @esternick on twitter

Golden day for South African ultra running team

By Matshelane Mamabolo Time of article published Sep 2, 2019

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JOHANNESBURG - "We are up there with the world’s best."

Nick Bester was perhaps being a little too modest. Moments after the South African men’s team he is the manager of won gold at the IAU World 50km Championships in Brasov, Romania yesterday, Bester’s excitement was somewhat contained.

He should have been jumping for joy and he should have uttered the words “we are the best in the world” instead. After all they were the best team out of the 27 participating countries. Team South Africa finished in a combined time of 8:28:36. Germany were in second spot overall following their 8:35:52 while the Great Britain and Northern Ireland took home bronze in 8:41:00.

Good as their run was, Bester had hoped for individual honours as well and a first place finish by one of his team members would have had him walking on cloud nine.

Still, a runners up berth - by Lungile Gongqa - and three places in the top six of arguably the most competitive Championships since their inception, confirmed South Africa’s standing as a world leader in ultra marathon running.

“This was an extremely competitive event. We had a massive 17 athletes complete the race under three hours. That speaks to a very, very fast race and four of our six runners were in that group,” Bester said yesterday.

Gongqa finished 44 seconds behind Spanish winner Iraitz Orrispide in 2:48:26.

Comrades Marathon champion Edward Mothibi was the second best South African home, finishing fifth in a time of 2:49:49. Just as it happened at the famous KwaZulu/Natal ultra, Bongmusa Mthembu was hot on Mothibi’s heels, the three-time Comrades champion placing sixth a mere 34 seconds behind his teammate.

Joseph Manyedi ran an impressive 2:51:46 for 11th spot.

The race was not so good for Comrades Down Run record holder David Gatebe and successive three-time Loskop Marathon winner Charles Tjiane. The duo finished in 21st and 30th spots with times of 3:02:42 and 3:07:16 respectively.

It was also not a good day out for the six-member women’s team as they missed out on a podium finish as they finished in fourth place out of the 29 nations.


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