Stephen Mokoka was just too quick for Elroy Gelant on Saturday. Photo: Gerhard Duraan, BackpagePix

Racing to his seventh South African Half-Marathon title in Port Elizabeth, Stephen Mokoka confirmed his status as the country’s top athlete over this distance in the past decade on Saturday.

The women’s race produced personal bests galore, with the in-form Cornelia Joubert earning her first national 21km title with a time of 72 minutes and 31 seconds (72:31).

She took six seconds off her previous best she set in the Friendly City two years ago, while second-placed Mapaseka Makhanya knocked almost two minutes off her PB.

Makhanya raced home in a time of 72:43, with Diana-Lebo Phalula crossing the line in fourth place as the third South African, clocking 74:25.

Neheng Khatala of Lesotho officially finished in third place with a time of 72:46.

The race had its own bit of drama, with the first two women over the line – Genet Abdurkadi (71.45) and Elisabet Arsedo of Ethiopia – disqualified as they didn’t have their numbers pinned on their backs.

This meant Abdurkadi will not be able to claim the R50 000 on offer to the first woman in the open category. The drama in the men’s race was reserved for the road, with a lead group of five runners taking charge.

The first four men all dipped below 62 minutes, with Elroy Gelant setting the early pace but having to be content with second after Mokoka beat him to the line by nine seconds with a 61:21 finish.

Gelant crossed the line in 61:30, with Precious Mashele bagging the bronze in 61:56.

Missing out on a podium finish, Melikhaya Frans posted a new personal best of 61:58 for fourth place.

Mokoka won his first half-marathon in 2008 and boasts a personal best of 60:40, set two years ago in Newcastle, England.

Sunday Independent

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