Stephen Mokoka — Ready to tackle the Two Oceans Marathon

Stephen Mokoka is going to be one of the big names who will be competing at this year’s Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town. Photo: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Stephen Mokoka is going to be one of the big names who will be competing at this year’s Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town. Photo: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Apr 4, 2024


Stephen Mokoka is arguably South Africa’s best all-round road athlete and one of the most consistent marathoners. He already boasts a proud Totalsports Two Oceans record – five gold medals out of five starts, including four wins, in the competitive Two Oceans Half Marathon.

But this year he steps up to the ‘big daddy’ in his first race in excess of 50km.

If there had ever been any doubt about Mokoka’s ability to stay the pace beyond the standard marathon 42km, his world record win at the Runified 50km in Gqeberha in March 2022, which he won in 2:40:13, would have dispelled them. Had there been suspicions that the 39-year-old, Mokoka might have slowed in recent years, his 2:06:42 marathon PB in Japan last February – just 9 seconds outside Gert Thys’ national record – would have shushed the nay-sayers in no uncertain terms.

Mokoka has chosen to race the 2024 Totalsports Two Oceans 56km as part of his build-up to the Olympic Marathon in Paris in August and while Magawana’s mark may not be in Mokoka’s sights this year, there is little doubt that Mokoka’s stepping up to the 56km race has placed it in mortal danger in the not-too-distant future.

“I never met Thompson Magawana,” Mokoka admitted from Taipei on the weekend, where he competed in the New Taipei City Marathon. “But his time in the Two Oceans is impressive. From my side, I feel I need to learn the distance first. Before Gerda broke the women’s record, she had run it twice before.

“I don’t have the record in mind this year. My goal is to get strength and use the hills in preparation for the Olympic Marathon, which has an elevation gain of over 430 metres. I’ve seldom run a hilly marathon, only Cape Town Marathon in 2022 (which had a 380m elevation gain), so that’s why I chose to run the Hong Kong and Taipei Marathons (both incorporate testing climbs) this year in preparation for Two Oceans.

“As I’m new at the distance, my goal for this year is to have fun, enjoy and learn. I will need to build more strength and endurance to have a go at the record. Maybe in the next year or two.”

Unlike at the testing Hong Kong Marathon, where Mokoka raced to a competitive second in 2:12:58 in January this year, just 8 seconds behind Kenyan Anderson Seroi, Mokoka’s approach to the New Taipei City Marathon, just four weeks before the Two Oceans, was to use the hilly marathon as a training run, which he completed in a comfortable 2:24:20.

“The Taipei Marathon didn’t really disrupt my training.” Mokoka explained. “I arrived just three days before the race and travelled back home soon after. My target was to run 2:15 through 40km and I went through in 2:16. I plan to take off three days, just running easily, before my last block of training for Two Oceans. There is still much hard work ahead as we move into a speed cycle.”

Mokoka enjoys racing in Cape Town, the scene of multiple racing titles on road and track, and is excited about incorporating new elements to his training for the Two Oceans with his long-time coach, Michael ‘Sponge’ Seme.

“Much has changed in my training programme for the Oceans with longer runs incorporating longer hills,” Mokoka continued. “I’m no longer doing the sessions I did in my preparation for the 50km. Everything is new – I enjoy that.

“Taipei was my last longer run and from now I’m back to normal marathon preparation – the toughest part is behind me and now I’m back to something which I’m familiar with.”

Mokoka recently moved from the red-vested Boxer Club to Hollywood Athletics Club’s distinctive purple, saying the club has given him a new lease of life. “Hollywood’s priorities are different and I’m glad they are on board with all the things I mentioned before signing with them.

“They’re happy with my limited and focused schedule – Hong Kong Marathon, Totalsports Two Oceans then Olympics. They have made it possible for me to train at high altitude in Kenya for a solid block prior to the Olympics. I’ll be training with Kenyan athletes such as Cyrus Mutai, who won the New Taipei Marathon.”

Training with the Kenyans could take Mokoka to new heights, but before that is a date with ‘The World’s Most Beautiful Marathon’ and Two Oceans Marathon destiny. And in time, Magawana’s history.

Two Oceans Marathon