Cape Town - Maxed Elite Running Clubmanager Martin Ngwenya believes Lebenya Nkoka has what it takes to win his second Tow Oceans Marathon title, eight years after the Lesotho runner put paid to South African running darling Hendrick Ramaala’s dream of a victorious ultra-marathon debut.
Nkoka has rejoined the club with whom he won the 2014 title when it was called Mr Price Sport and Ngwenya is confident the 39-year-old is in the kind of form that can see him reign victorious on Sunday.
“Lebenya is back with us now and he has been having some great training runs. Given his condition, I am expecting him to get a podium finish. And if all goes well, he can win the race,” Ngwenya said.
Nkoka, a multiple top ten finisher since his brilliant victory which saw him leave Ramaala and his compatriot Masilo Matjiane and Warinyane Lebopo for dead on Constantia Nek in windy conditions, has been focusing on speedwork via shorter distances.
He recently won the tough Pirates Half Marathon in Johannesburg and was fifth in the inaugural Motsepe Foundation Half Marathon also in Gauteng.
“His preparations have been going well and he is very confident he will do well on Sunday. Remember, he has always been among the challengers since he won the race, generally finishing in the top ten. He believes he will come good again this time around.”
Since his victory eight years ago, Nkoka came close to winning the race in 2018 when he finished runner up, a minute behind Kenyan winner Justin Kemboi in a time of 2:10:32. He was 16th in the last race in 2019 before Covid-19 restrictions ensured the race did not happen for the past two years.
Nkoka ran an impressive 2:13:39 for 12th place at the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon in September and he was also part of the runners who competed in last year’s inaugural Nedbank Breaking Barriers 50km race.
Ngwenya is also sending Nkoka’s compatriot Teboho Nosi, a multiple top ten finisher at the race, to the Mother City. The duo will be joined by Ethiopia’s Endale Abayneh Beachew who boasts a 2:11 marathon PB.
“He has a fantastic marathon runner and if he can hold on to the guys until Constantia Nek he might pull off a surprise. The thing is that the east Africans sometimes struggle with the ultras. But he’s ready and looking forward to his Two Oceans debut.”
The Maxed Elite contingent will also be represented in the half marathon on Saturday in which Ngwenya expects another Mosotho in Jobo Khatoane to shine.
“Jobo was runner-up in the last race in 2019 and he is keen to win this time around. He had a fantastic run in the PDAC 25km where he finished second behind Nkosikhona Mhlakwana as they both broke the course record. We’ll also have two ladies competing in the half marathon, Mokolobete Makatisi from Lesotho and Zimbabwean Caroline Mhandu who won the last Soweto Half Marathon,” Ngwenya explained.