It is the first time in a long time South Africa’s top-ranked male marathoner will be racing in front of his home crowd, with Desmond Mokgobu added to the start list.
Mokgobu was South Africa’s top marathon performer at the London 2017 World Championships where he finished in a creditable 21st place with a time of 2:16.14.
The Cape Town Marathon will effectively have three of the country’s four IAAF gold-status athletes lining up on the day, with Noelene Conrad headlining the women’s elite race.
Mokoka has been the country’s top-ranked marathoner for four years running, boasting a personal best of 2:07:40 which earned him a second place at the Shanghai Marathon in 2015.
“I believe if we can get good weather and the pace is good we can run good times,” Mokoka said.
“It doesn’t mean I won’t go back again but it is an amazing opportunity to run a marathon at home.”
It is quite the coup for the organisers to lure Mokoka, who has been a feature at the Shanghai Marathon since 2011. Mokoka has become synonymous with the Shanghai race, winning his fourth title in his seventh consecutive year in 2017.
Last year was the second time Mokoka had won back-to-back titles including victories in 2013 and 2014. He boasts two second-place finishes with only one position outside of a podium with his fourth place on debut back in 2011.
“I never thought I would run a marathon at home, as we never had fast marathons but now I will get an opportunity,” Mokoka said.
“It is amazing for me and I am very excited, I must just do it for my friends and my family and also for South Africa.”
Mokgobu tops this year’s SA rankings list thanks to his 2:09:31 winning time at the Beppu-Oita Marathon in Japan in February.
“I am excited, I always tell people with the marathon it is all about racing the distance,” Mokoka said.
“Times and the opponents aren’t really a factor for me when I run a marathon, it is not like the half-marathon where you have to look at the calibre of athletes.
“With the marathon, it is about who is the strongest on the day, who is able to run the distance. They say the human body can run 30-something kilometres and after that, it takes the training that you have done the last few months to carry you through.”
Mokoka said he hoped organisers would attract more of the country’s top distance athletes to launch a decent attack for the title. The men’s elite title has been in foreign hands over the last seven years with South African marathon record holder Gert Thys (2:06:33, in Tokyo in 1999) the last local athlete to win the race in the Mother City.
“I am very excited and I just hope they can assemble more quality athletes especially the South Africans because it would be great to see a South African win,” Mokoka said.
“I would hope they can bring someone like Lusapho April (fourth gold-status athlete) so that we can challenge these guys and win it for South Africa.”
The current record for the event is 02:08:41, set by Asefa Negewo of Ethiopia in 2016.