The Sanlam Elite runner Elroy Gelant holding a toy with sanlam ambassador Elana van Zyl-Meyer ahead of the race. Photo: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

CAPE TOWN – Six men and eight women with IAAF Gold Label Status will be on the start line of the 2019 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon on Sunday to take on the 42.2km race.

With no Stephen Mokoka to defend his title due to World Championship commitments, South Africa’s hopes will rest firmly on the shoulders of Elroy Gelant.

This will be a true test for Gelant as he will be racing in only his second marathon, having debuted here in 2017 when he finished in 2:12.49 in fifth overall.

“For me, 2017 was just a tester to see how I would handle the marathon,” said Gelant. “I always knew I would make the move to the distance sooner rather than later. There was no pressure and I could see what the distance was all about.

“I want to run the marathon at the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020, so this year’s Cape Town Marathon is the perfect time for me to get in my qualifier and then focus on the preparation for the Games.”

Gelant is in arguably the best shape of his life after his 61:00 half-marathon in Port Elizabeth at the end of July this year. He has raced sparingly and wisely, and the results are visible.

But Gelant will have his work cut out for him. There are many challengers, including Kenyans Edwin Kibet Koech, Wilfred Murger, Kipkemoi Kipsang and Samuel Thueri Mwaniki and Ethiopia’s Abdi Fufa. Another of the Gold Label athletes is Motlokoa Mkhabutlane. The 34-year-old Lesotho Marathon record-holder finished ninth in the Paris Marathon in 2017 when he clocked 2:09.47.

Gelant will not face the foreign onslaught alone, though. A number of eyes will be focused on Lusapho April, who finished third in the 2013 New York Marathon, while Melikhaya Frans is another South African to be watched.

The woman’s race is littered with depth. No less than eight athletes have gone under 2:29 for the marathon, with Filomena Chepchirchir heading the list with her 2:23:00 in 2013.

The in-form athlete though is Celestine Chepchirchir with her 2:24.48 run in Seoul in March this year, while Abeba-Tekulu Gebremeskel and Urge Diro Sokoka of Ethiopia have shown impressive early form with a 2:24.53 and 2:28.10 in Sevilla in February this year.

The Phalula twins, Lebo and Lebogang, will be back in the Mother City to race the Cape Town Marathon. Both will have eyes on the 2:29:30 time set by Athletics South Africa as an Olympic Qualifier.

The Cape Town Marathon doubles once again as the South African Marathon Championships, so there will be extensive local pride at stake on Sunday.

African News Agency (ANA)