JOHANNESBURG – The pressure is on for the trio of Lusapho April, Elroy Gelant and Melikhaya Frans to ensure that the title of the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon champion remains in the country in the face of what is sure to be the biggest Kenyan onslaught of a South African race ever.
With last year’s winner Stephen Mokoka (in record time) set to miss the September 15 race due to being on national duty at the World Championships in Doha, the onus will be on the aforementioned local elites to reign supreme.
To do that, however, they will have to run the race of their lives given the quality of the elite field that will be coming down for Africa’s only IAAF Gold Label Status marathon that is set on graduating to Platinum by the next edition.
Yesterday the organisers announced an incredibly strong line-up of elite runners headlined by 17 IAAF Gold Label runners.
Among them is a man who boasts a personal best (PB) time that is way faster than the Cape Town Marathon course record of 2:08:31 set by Mokoka.
Kenya’s Peter Kimeli Some, the 2013 Paris Marathon champion, will line up in the Mother City as the fastest runner in the field with a super-fast 2:05:38. He was third at the Daegu Marathon in South Korea last year where he ran yet another impressive time of 2:06:49.
Such is the quality of the field that it would actually be a travesty if the record is not broken.
There will be six runners in the field who have dipped under the 2h10m mark with Ethiopia’s Tariku Kinfu (2:07:48) and Edwin Koech of Kenya (2:08:17) boasting times better than the course record.
What chance then, do the local trio have against a field that will also see last year’s fourth-placed finisher Kipkemoi Kipsang of Kenya returning? He ran a 2:08:27 at the Seville Marathon in 2017.
Elroy Gelant will be taking part in this years event! Aiming for a time of 2:08 and break the record— Cape Town Marathon (@CTMarathon) July 31, 2019
Gelant admits it will be a tall ask but after running Mokoka very close at the weekend’s national half marathon championships, the runner from the southern Cape is hopeful of giving the foreign brigade a serious challenge.
“I had a great race with Stephen at the SA Half Marathon Championships in PE last weekend,” Gelant said of his 61 minutes race, his fastest 21.1km time ever.
Perhaps April, with the best marathon PB (2:08:32) of all the South Africans, stands the better chance of keeping the title on home soil. April has great experience of racing against world class opposition having won the Hannover Marathon in 2013, grabbed a third place finish at New York Marathon the same year, as well as having been to two Olympics.
There is also Lesotho’s gold label athlete Motlokoa Mkhabutlane - who was fifth in 2016 and then went on to win the Paris Marathon (2:09:47) thereafter - who the local crowd will no doubt be cheering on against the east Africans.
If the local men’s chances look bleak, the women are likely to have it even tougher.
The likes of the Phalula twins - Lebo and Lebohang - as well as Marie Rabie face stiff opposition that sees Kenya’s Celestine Chepchirchir, with a personal best of 2:24:48, headlining the women’s category.
Ethiopia’s Abeda-Tekulu Gebremeskel, who is second on the personal best roster after placing second at the Sevilla Marathon in January, will run her first Cape Town Marathon this year.
Elana Meyer, the race ambassador and former Olympian, could not hide her delight at the impressive field they have managed to assemble.
“Unquestionably, we’re striving for excellence in this year’s event. There are over 30 Gold Label-status marathons around the world, and international demand for elite athletes to take part in these has never been higher.
We’ve worked hard at securing the elite field we have, but it’s also an indication of how well known and popular the marathon has become.”@Tshiliboy