Legendary Stephen Mokoka inspiring other runners ahead of his Two Oceans debut

Legendary South African distance runner Stephen Mokoka has had a positive influence on his fellow athletes ahead of the Two Oceans Marathon. Photo: Supplied

Legendary South African distance runner Stephen Mokoka has had a positive influence on his fellow athletes ahead of the Two Oceans Marathon. Photo: Supplied

Published Apr 12, 2024


If the presence of debutant Stephen Mokoka in Saturday’s Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon was meant to excite the crowd, the organisers clearly did not count on the legendary South African distance runner’s impact on his fellow athletes.

The Hollywood Athletics Club star is a role model for many a young athlete and one of those is the irrepressible Onalenna Khonkhobe who could not hold himself at sharing a platform with Mokoka.

At the pre-race media conference here Friday, the Nedbank Running Club’s rising star spoke openly about his admiration of Mokoka.

“This is going to be my second Two Oceans and I am ready and excited. I am happy I am going to be running with my role model – Tshipi,” he said, turning to Mokaka and referring to him by his nickname which means steel.

The young man renowned for that incredible front-running he did at the 2022 Comrades Marathon before he pulled out after about 60km has plans to grab the limelight once again.

Delighted as he is by Mokoka’s presence, he is not, however, going to be overawed and has promised to be in the lead again just as he did in the longer KwaZulu/Natal ultra.

“I’m going to be up there in front and, you see this cameraman,” Khonkhobe said, pointing to the photographer clicking away during the presser. “He is my cameraman. Tomorrow everyone will acknowledge me.”

Whether he will last the distance and win the race remains to be seen.

Mokoka was typically cagey about voicing his chances of success even though he lines up tomorrow as the favourite given he is the fastest marathoner in the field with a 2:06 Personal Best. He is a novice in the distance though.

“It is my first time and I am really excited. It is a new distance for me, but it excites me. I am hearing the man there (Khonkhobe) who says we will acknowledge him. I will follow the guys and learn from them. My main aim is to move up (in distance from marathons to ultras) and my training block has gone well.

The defending champion Givemore Mudziganyama was his usual humble self, preferring to let his feet and legs do the talking for him.

He could not hide his delight at having finally won something big following many years of trying — the Zimbabwe native switching from road to trail only to go back to the more financially viable road. He reiterated the fact that his victory was no surprise to him as he had worked hard and proven himself through being one of the fastest marathoners at the start of last year’s race.

He loves it that his “unexpected” victory has inspired many.

“My win motivated people to come this year. So this year is one of those that’s going to be very competitive. People did not know there’s a car (to be won), now (that they know) it will make the race even harder. Everyone has done what they had to do to be ready for tomorrow.”

And he has done that too and knows he has the advantage.

“The odds are with me. I have won it before therefore there is a high chance of doing it again.”

Khonkkhobe will probably beg to doffer. Ditto for the other contenders including Mudziganyama's Entsika Athletics Club Siboniso Sikhakhane who is looking to have as good a race as he did two years back when he made the top ten.


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