A crisis was averted but the 25th anniversary of the OUTsurance 94.5 KFM Gun Run almost backfired, as upcountry athletes, David Manja and Jenna Challenor defended their titles ahead of record fields in perfect running conditions at Green Point on Sunday.
Twenty thousand runners took part in the half marathon, 10km and 5km fun run – a record field for the event, which took place on the traditional courses between Green Point and Camps Bay.
Klerksdorp athlete and twice Gun Run champion, Manja, was on track for his third win, 20 seconds clear of Johannesburg’s Xolisa Tyali, when he made a near-costly error in the final kilometre, following the referee’s bike on a longer detour to the finish instead of the leading marshall.
Tyali, just three weeks after a courageous race in the Cape Town Marathon, where he was the sole South African in the lead group through 33km before finishing 8th, followed the correct route and was mystified when he broke the tape at the finish in 1:04:37 to be announced the winner.
“I knew David was ahead of me and did not know what had happened,” said Tyali. “We had been in a close battle throughout the race, but my legs were still a bit tired after the Cape Town Marathon and David was stronger in the final kilometres. I was never going to catch him – he was the winner today.”
A conference between the referee and the Nedbank teammates at the finish concluded that the error was not entirely the fault of Manja. The Klerksdorp marathon was awarded the title with a corrected finish time of 1:04:36 - one second faster than that of Tyali – and first prize of R25 000.
Fellow Klerksdorp athlete, Obed Kopong, running in his first Gun Run, claimed the last podium position in a time of 1:06:20, with Wild Runner’s Raydon Balie, the first Cape Town runner home in 4th in 1:08:13.
Manja broke from the lead group approaching the Sea Point Pavilion at 9km, but Tyali fought back to close the gap on the long climb up Kloof Road and had drawn level with his rival as the athletes turned for home at Camps Bay at 14km.
Together for just a kilometre, Manja surged again through Clifton, opening a gap which gradually widened as the athletes flew towards the Green Point Rugby Grounds finish and the unexpected and dramatic finale.
Two months after representing South Africa in the marathon at the World Athletics Championships in London in August, Challenor was back to defend her Gun Run title. “I was only running for the title today, not a time,” admitted Challenor. “I took a four week break after London and so I’m well off my best, but I’m delighted to have won again – about a minute slower than last year.”
Starting conservatively, Challenor allowed the front runners their head of steam as Cape Town-based Zimbabwean, Fortunate Chidzivo, stayed the pace with
KZN’s Loveness Madziva and Soweto’s Liziwe Mabona, before racing into the lead after 5km.
Challenor moved into second before 10km and began to reel in Chidzivo on the climb up Kloof Road, taking the lead 8km from home to race to an impressive 1:17:40 victory.
Nedbank’s Johannesburg athlete, Precious Mashele, took line honours in the 10km in 28:51, with KPMG’s Zintle Xiniwe giving Cape Town a Gun Run title, winning the women’s race in 35:49.