Lungile Gongqa will lead the South African charge at the Cape Town Marathon. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky, BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – If the women’s elite field for the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon looked impressive, the men’s one can actually be described as breathtaking.

With no less than nine gold label status runners set to participate in next month’s race, there is every good reason to anticipate a lightning fast race that should see the course record tumbling.

Reigning champion Asefa Negewo’s time of 2:08.41, set last year, is pretty fast, but with the race having taken on the IAAF’s Gold Label Status after it was run at Silver Label last year, expectations are that the standards will be much higher this year.

And it is bound to be if the calibre of competitors is anything to go by.

The organisers have secured the services of Lani Kiplagat Rutto as a pacer and with his 2:06.34 personal best (PB), the Kenyan could well set the field on to a blistering pace on the flat course.

Posing a threat to the Ethiopian’s reign and record is Kenyan Laban Mutai, who comes in on a 2:08.01 PB that he set in Cologne, Germany, back in 2014.

There is also another potential Kenyan winner in the form of Samuel Maswai, whose PB is just 50 second slower than Mutai’s.

Three other men in the field – Ethiopian Seboka Nigusee (2:09.14), Duncan Maiyo of Kenya (2:09.25) and Lesotho’s Motlokoa Nkhabula (2:09.47) – have dipped below the sub 2:10 mark and will no doubt fancy their chances of success in the continent’s first ever Gold Label Marathon.

The host country will also be well represented by runners capable of going at a blistering pace.

Leading the charge will be Lungile Gongqa, this year’s Two Oceans champion who boasts a marathon PB of 2:11.59.

Renowned South African marathon runner and now coach Johannes Kekana believes the locals have a great chance of shining at the race.

“Simply based on the times that were run last year, I think we are in for yet another fast Cape Town Marathon, and I believe our guys will do well,” Kekana said.

Elroy Gelant will hope to take his track form into the Cape Town Marathon. Photo: Chris Ricco, BackpagePix

“Our guys generally run times of 2:11 and 2:12 but I think at a flat course like Cape Town and with the top international runners for competition, we are going to see our guys going in at very fast times.

“A guy like Lungile must be very high on confidence after his Two Oceans win, and I have no doubt that Hendrik (Ramaala, his coach) is hard at work with him and the rest of the team preparing for the race.”

Kekana also believes that debutant Elroy Gelant has the potential to do well.

“Elroy has a fantastic half-marathon time (1:01.30) and I think if he is well prepared, he has what it takes to be among the serious contenders to win.”

Also sure to carry the South African flag high are Michael Mazibuko (2.12.29), Lucky Mohale (2.13.35), Xolisa Tyali (2.14.26), Gladwin Mzazi (2.17.43) and Mbongeni Ngxazozo (2.18.23).

Marathon debutant Melikhaya Frans (1.01.58) will not want to be left behind either.

“The fact that this is a Gold Label Status race helps because these kind of races have big incentives that make our runners go all out to do well against the top international athletes,” he said.

“Besides, the Cape Town Marathon is one of the best-organised races in the country, and I know that every runner enjoys it.

"So, I am sure we are going to see excellent times next month.”

 

The Star