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Totalsports Two Oceans half marathon set to produce fireworks this year

David Manja is hoping for a strong performance in the Two Oceans half marathon. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky BackpagePix

David Manja is hoping for a strong performance in the Two Oceans half marathon. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky BackpagePix

Published Apr 14, 2022

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Cape Town - The 21.1km race at the Two Oceans Marathon is often overlooked with the focus mainly on the 56km ultra. But the half marathon has often produced fireworks over the years, given that some of South Africa’s fastest athletes opt to participate in the event.

Close finishes have always been part and parcel of the race, with the winners often beating the runner-up by mere seconds as was the case when Elroy Gelant won the last edition in 2019, the Boxer Athletic Club star finishing just 13 seconds ahead of Maxed Elite’s Jobo Khatoane.

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In 2018, David Manja reigned supreme - but only just - as he pipped Lesotho’s Namakhoe Nkhasi by seven seconds.

That same year, the woman’s race was also a closely-contested affair that saw Capetonian Nolene Conrad victorious ahead of Betha Chikanga by 25 seconds.

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Both Manja and Conrad will be racing on Saturday, this time in the black and yellow colours of a Murray & Roberts Running Club that is sending a contingent capable of dominance of the team prizes.

Back in 2019, the club had no less than nine of their women finish in the top 20 in the ultra marathon while taking home five team prizes. They can do it again this weekend, with their half marathon team looking particularly strong.

Manja, champion at the Peninsula Half Marathon in 2019 and runner-up at the same race this year, leads a strong quartet of accomplished half-marathon runners who should mount a serious challenge for the podium.

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ALSO READ: Maxed Elite Running Club out to dominate Totalsports Two Oceans marathon

There is 35-year-old stalwart Sibusiso Nzima who was victorious at the Peninsula Half Marathon in February as well as Philani Buthelezi who is a two-time winner of the very tough Dischem Half Marathon in Bedfordview, Johannesburg.

The trio completed a podium clean sweep at the Peninsula Half Marathon at the beginning of the year and given their vast experience, they are likely to be the ones to beat this weekend.

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In their team, they also have Mhlengi Gwala – the KwaZulu-Natal runner who came to prominence after being attacked and having his legs nearly sawn off. He has since recovered and runs as a disabled athlete. But he remains fast even against able-bodied runners and goes into Saturday’s race on the back of an impressive 36:27 in the 10km during the Durban City Marathon.

Manja is in particularly good form as shown by his brilliant run in the very hilly 15km out on Gqeberha, and will be looking to reclaim the title he won in 2018.

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Ditto for Conrad who missed out on defending her title due to injury in 2019. Conrad has since fully recovered and matured as a runner and showed she has regained her form by finishing third at the Peninsula Half Marathon in 77:50.

Alongside her will be the veteran Rene Kalmer, fellow Capetonian Alexandra Stuart-Smith, Megan Dempster, Janie Grundling and Kate van Jaarsveld all pushing to have the black and yellow team win the team prize.

@Tshiliboy

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