Stephen Mokoka, a runner up in 2016, will be one of the top South Africans taking part. Photo: Gerhard Duraan, BackpagePix

PORT ELIZABETH – Several top athletes have confirmed their participation for the ASA Half Marathon which takes place from Pollock Beach, Port Elizabeth, on Saturday.

Last year’s champions, Edwin Koech and Sheila Chesang, will be back to defend their titles. Both runners set course records, with Koech clocking a time of 1:1:16, and Chesang 1:10:58.

With prize money of R500 000, the Championships are set to attract top runners from around the country and as far afield such as Kenya, Ethiopia and others.

“Fifteen of the top 20 male finishers from 2016 and 15 of the top 20 women finishers have already been entered by their provinces,” confirmed race director, Mike Mbambani.

“The exciting male line-up includes 2016 runner up Stephen Mokoka (Gauteng North) as well as 2015 winner, Lucky Mohale (Central Gauteng) and 2014 winner Elroy Gelant (Central North West).

“Top women athletes include 2015 runner up Lebogang Phalula (Central Gauteng) and 2014 winner, Mapaseka Makhanya (Central Gauteng).”

Athletes will be hoping for less wind compared to last year to ensure record breaking times once more on the fast 21.1km course.

“Unfortunately, Irvette van Zyl had to pull out due to an injury during a race in Durban,” said Wynand Breytenbach, team manager for Gauteng North.

“However, the team is looking forward to competing well in Port Elizabeth. Tracey McKay, team manager for Central Gauteng said: "We are fielding a very strong male and female team this year. Gladwin Mzazi is running well and Derocious Makhublao ran an excellent race in Gaborone recently.

“Our female runners Lebogang Phalula, Cornelia Joubert and Christine Calmer, are looking forward to a fast race on a superb course."

Martin Ngwenya, running co-ordinator for Mr Price Sport, confirmed that he will be bringing four elite athletes from Lesotho.

The male and female winners will pocket R50 000 each and the top EPA finishers will receive a R8 000 bonus. The route, credited as the fastest in South Africa, will start and end at Pollock Beach, Summerstrand.

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