A galaxy of running superstars will clash in a battle of titans in tomorrow’s FNB Cape Town 12 ONERUN, with records likely to be the name of the game in town.
A record field of more than 13000 will line up at Woodbridge Island in Milnerton for the colourful mass dash down Marine Drive into the city centre and with the calibre of athletes expected to do battle at the sharp end of the field, expect local, national and international best times and records to go by the board in what has become one of Cape Town’s “Big Five” racing events.
While the 12km distance lacks the competitive global profile of its 10km counterpart, the athletes who set the marks and the speed they run are essentially the same. Last year Morris Gachaga made the world best his own with a 33:27 win in Cape Town, shaving four seconds off the previous best, and the 23-year-old Kenyan is back in town to defend his title.
“I am looking forward to coming back to Cape Town to defend my title,” said Gachaga. “I have good memories of that race and want to do well. I am in great shape. If things go well, maybe I can better my 33:27 and lower the world mark further.”
Gachaga starts in the best shape of his life, having improved his half marathon best by a minute to 59 min 36 sec in Morocco in February before pacing compatriot Eliud Kipchoge to victory in the London Marathon.
But victory for Gachaga will be even harder fought than last year, with as many as ten athletes having a realistic chance of a podium place. Top athletes from Kenya, Uganda and South Africa will find themselves in a high speed battle for supremacy, with the Kenyan looking to his compatriots, Mathew Kiprotich Kimutai and Noah Kipkemboi for support.
Kipkemboi, who moved to the Kenyan running Mecca of Iten two years ago to join famed coach Renato Canova’s stable, has emerged as a world leader in sub-marathon distance running, the 25-year-old recording the 4th fastest 15km time of 2017 in 42:43.
But equally the dramatic rise in fortunes of 22-year-old Ugandan, Abdallah Mande, cannot be ignored. Mande, who returns to the Cape Town after representing his country at junior level at the African Cross Country Championships in Rondebosch in 2012, undoubtedly has the performances in recent months to back up his confident pre-race reflections.
“I am excited and looking forward to racing in Cape Town,” he remarked shortly before departing for the Mother City. “I know I am in good shape. I’m not coming on holiday and I feel very confident.”
Mande has excelled in cross country and over 10km, and has run faster than 61 minutes in each of his three half marathons in the past twelve months, bringing his best time down to 60:14 at the Venloop Half Marathon in Holland just six weeks ago.
However, South Africa’s top athlete, Stephen Mokoka, is determined to take the fight to the East Africans. CT 12 ONERUN winner in 2016 ahead of top Kenyans Daniel Salel and Emmanuel Bett, Mokoka is confident of giving it his best shot of regaining the title.
“I love racing in Cape Town, especially this race,” admitted Mokoka, who cancelled his planned April marathon in Europe to focus on the race.“We always have good competition from outside the country which makes us run better. I know we will once again have a really tight tussle. It’s going to be fast.”
Other Southern Africans who will likely be in touch with the leaders at least through half way, include Thabang Mosiako, who beat Mokoka in last year’s FNB Joburg 10K CITYRUN, Gun Run champion, David Manja, and 2017 Two Oceans Half Marathon and Cape Town 10km Peace Run champion, Lesotho’s Namakoe Nkasi.
The women’s race also promises to be a cracker with the top South African duo of Kesa Molotsane and Blue Downs-born Nolene Conrad up against 21-year-old Ugandan, Stella Chasang. The former World Mountain Running champion, Chasang, proved a sensation at the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane last month by winning the 10000m as her country’s third choice athlete for the distance, and with a 31:54 10km best set in Berlin last year she will be tough to beat.
But Free State’s Molotsane could prove the surprise package with the talented KPMG athlete having dominated 10km racing in South Africa this year. She has yet to be extended and undoubtedly has the potential to run with the Ugandan for much of the distance. “I haven’t run over 12km before so I have no idea what to expect,” said Molotsane. “I know I am in great shape and am looking forward to racing, but I really just do not know what to expect.”
The race gets underway at 09h00 with the winner expected at the Bree Street finish opposite the Portside Building shortly after 09h30.