JOHANNESBURG – Desmond Mokgobu would love to see a South African win next Sunday’s Sanlam Cape Town Marathon.
It is for this reason that the man who runs under the guidance of the legendary Hendrick Ramaala has agreed to be one of the pace-setters for the only race on the continent to achieve the IAAF Gold Label status.
“The race organisers invited me to try and pace the race for a 2.08 (two hours and eight minutes finish time),” Mokgobu told Independent Media following an intensive 20km fast tempo run at their Zoo Lake base.
“We have not discussed the final plan with the organisers yet, but from my own assessment, I am going to have to try to pull them into running the half-marathon in about 63 minutes.
“I have heard that they want to run the first half really fast, and hopefully they can then break the record.”
An experienced campaigner who set the pace at a race in Chile two years ago and even went on to finish in a World Championship qualifying time, Mokgobu believes the local elite contingent have what it takes to keep the title at home and end the stranglehold Ethiopians and Kenyans have had on the race in the past years.
He believes his three teammates, Lungile Gongqa, Michael Mazibuko and Xolisa Tyali, have it in them to be triumphant next Sunday.
“We have all trained well and I know the guys are at their peak. They can do very good times in Cape Town, and any of them can win it,” Mokgobu said, adding that Two Oceans champion Gongqa is at a particular advantage.
“Lungile’s win at Two Oceans has given him more confidence, so I do not see him having any issues with Sanlam. He is very strong mentally, and going there as a marked man won’t affect him at all.
“You must remember that he did very well (finished runner-up) at this race back in 2015.”
What about his other teammates? “Xolisa and Michael are fantastic runners and they have given it their all in training. They are both in great shape, and I have no doubt they are serious contenders to win too.”
According to Mokgobu, marathon debutant Elroy Gelant could also surprise.
“Elroy has done some fantastic half-marathon times, and they have to watch out for him.
“I also think Gladwin Mzazi is another South African with the potential to do well in Cape Town.”
The plan is for Mokgobu to set the pace up until the half-marathon mark.
“But if I still feel strong, I might run on further,” said the man who boasts a 2.10:51 marathon personal best.
“For me, this is an opportunity to gain experience at a high level running against top runners, and I hope it will help me gain experience that will help me in future.”
The Cape Town Marathon record of 2.08.41 is held by Asefa Negewo, last year’s winner. The Ethiopian has confirmed his participation, and will be keen to hold on to his title, if not set a new mark.
But he will have to dig deep to beat the challenge from the likes of Kenyans Laban Mutai (2.08.01) and Samuel Maswai (2.08.51), as well as Eritrean Seboka Nigusse (2.09.14).
Should Mokgobu do a brilliant job at pace-setting, the record could well be broken.
And nothing will please Mokgobu more than to seeing it being done by his fellow countryman... more so one he trains with.