Ts’epo Ramashamole out to emulate his hero Lebenya Nkoka at Two Oceans Marathon

Ts’epo Ramashamole, in the cap, will line up for his maiden Two Oceans Marathon on Saturday with the aim of running a sub 3:10 race and a podium finish. Photo: Supplied

Ts’epo Ramashamole, in the cap, will line up for his maiden Two Oceans Marathon on Saturday with the aim of running a sub 3:10 race and a podium finish. Photo: Supplied

Published Apr 10, 2024


Back in 2014, Lebenya Nkoka broke South African hearts when he defeated local darling Hendrick Ramaala in his ultra debut at the Two Oceans Marathon.

A former New York Marathon winner who had dominated the local long distance scene, Ramaala’s move up to the ultras was met with excitement with many even anticipating that he’d break the race’s long-standing 56km record.

Fast forward to ten years later today and there is a similar vibe as Stephen Mokoka prepares to run the premium race of the World’s Most Beautiful Marathon.

He may not have won any major, but — like Ramaala back then — Mokoka is moving into the longer distances on the back of a highly successful half and standard marathon career that has catapulted him into the status of South Africa’s number one distance athlete.

The Hollywood Athletics Club is a hot favourite for Saturday’s TotalSports Two Oceans Marathon and many believe he can succeed where Ramaala failed and break the late Thompson Magawana’s 36-year-old record of 3:03:44.

But there can be a spanner in the works in the form of an athlete from the mountain kingdom; an athlete who, ironically, was not only inspired by Nkoka to take up the sport but was coached by the former Two Oceans champion himself.

Ts’epo Ramashamole lines up for his maiden ultra marathon on Saturday with the aim of running a sub 3:10 race and a podium finish. Victory, he says, would be a bonus.

Yet given the tough nature of the race that has over the years produced novice victors, the lad who also runs for Hollywood will not kick a gift horse in the mouth should an opportunity to reign victorious present itself.

“It will be my first time running it, so I am not looking for a miracle. If I can run well and finish in the top five I will be happy. But I am very well prepared and I have trained hard for it. I decided to race it now because I am still in the peak of my running. It would be a great achievement if I can win it.”

His role model and mentor has told him he has what it takes to emulate him and take the title back home to Lesotho.

“When I told him I am going to run Two Oceans, Lebenya said to me ‘you can do it’. He told me that after placing in Soweto I should not struggle with Two Oceans because they are similarly tough. He told me to follow the program I used for Soweto and then add some extra mileage,” said the man who finished third at the 2022 Soweto Marathon.

Nkoka knows what he is talking about, having not only won both races but also having trained his younger compatriot.

“When I was still running at school, he spotted me and spoke to me and made me realize that I could make a living out of being a full-time runner. But he also took me under his wing and trained me for about 16 months and I learnt a lot. He was the guy I looked up to as a youngster and to work with him was like a dream come true.”

Ramashamole knows that his challenge could be going into the unknown of a much longer distance. But he has trained hard for it and is encouraged by his recent performances.

“Of course I’ve not run a lot of marathons and everybody talks about Two Oceans being a tough, hilly course. But for us Basotho that is not a problem because we are used to the high altitude races. We do not have flat routes at home so climbing is not an issue.

“I ran the Joseph Tshabalala Marathon in Ladysmith and won it in a 2:21 as a way to qualify for Two Oceans. It was not very competitive but I was comfortable and I got confidence from it,” said the man who boasts a 2:12 PB ran at the 2021 Cape Town Marathon.

He ran a 2:13 at the Durban International Marathon a year later but was disqualified for using a temporary licence.

Ramashamole says he is ‘not threatened by the big names and fast runners that would be at the race’ because he has ‘confidence in my abilities’.

“As a person you have to believe in yourself and say you can do it no matter the opposition; no matter how tough the race; no matter if it is your first time. There are people who have done well in ultras without (standard) marathons. A race is a race, and people have gone in as hot favourites with fast times and being hundred percent fit and still got beaten.”

Nkoka proved it by winning in 2014 ahead of the local favourite Ramaala. Can Ramashamole shock his revered teammate Mokoka?


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