Stephen Mokoka is one of the pre-race favourites at the Cape Town Marathon. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN – Stephen Mokoka is aiming to become the first South African winner of the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon since 2010, while Namibia’s Helalia Johannes is looking to improve on her runner-up finish from last year’s edition of the IAAF Gold Label road race.

Following some minor changes to the route, the race records of 2:08.41 and 2:30.20 could also be under threat.

Mokoka, a four-time winner of the Shanghai Marathon, will be contesting his first marathon of the year. So far in 2018 he has clocked 27:44.58 for 10 000m and 1:01.26 for the half marathon, suggesting he is in good shape.

“Now all my friends can watch me compete at home,” said Mokoka, who will be running his first marathon on home soil.

The 33-year-old set his lifetime best of 2:07.40 in 2015.

Fellow South African Desmond Mokgobu has competed in the Cape Town Marathon twice before, finishing sixth in 2016.

Earlier this year he won the Beppu-Oita Marathon in a lifetime best of 2:09.31 and more recently he clocked a half marathon PB of 1:01.50.

“With Stephen (Mokoka) running, you know it will be fast,” Mokgobu said at the pre-event press conference.

With a best of 2:07.46, Jacob Cheshari is the second-fastest entrant for Sunday’s race, but the Kenyan’s PB was set back in 2013 and he has bettered 2:10 on just one other occasion since then.

Compatriot Albert Korir, who clocked 2:08.17 at this year’s Lake Biwa Marathon, appears a better prospect. The 24-year-old has achieved podium finishes in all six of his marathons to date.

Other contenders include Kenya’s Kipsang Kipkemoi, Edwin Kimaiyo, Ethiopia’s Fikre Assefa and Spain’s Ayad Lamdassem.

Johannes finished second in the women’s race last year, just six seconds shy of the winner. Earlier this year she won the Commonwealth Games title in 2:32.40 in difficult conditions and has since reduced her own half marathon national record to 1:10.51.

“My preparation has gone well,” said the 38-year-old, who has a best of 2:26.09. “This year I’m not a pacemaker. This year I’m going to run from the beginning.”

Ethiopian duo Askale Alemayehu and Ayantu Gemechu Abdi, with respective PBs of 2:29.01 and 2:30.38, are expected to provide the toughest opposition.

Britain’s Tish Jones, the 2016 Cape Town winner, is also in the field.

Tanzania’s Failuna Matanga could be the surprise package. She has contested just one marathon before, a 2:34.12 clocking in Amsterdam, but recently reduced her half marathon PB to 1:09.36.

African News Agency (ANA)