JOHANNESBURG - South African distance runners will be looking to break the vice-grip like hold foreign athletes, and specifically East Africans, have on the Old Mutual Soweto Marathon on Sunday.
The iconic race has been firmly in the hands of Ethiopian and Kenyan athletes over the last five years in both the men’s and women’s categories.
Last year Ethiopian Sintayehu Legese Yinesu raced to an unprecedented third consecutive Soweto Marathon title with compatriot Selam Abere Alebachew winning the women’s race.
The biggest challenge for the title is likely to come from Kenyan David Barmasai with a personal best of 2:07:18 he set at the 2011 Dubai Marathon while he also boasts a fourth-place finish at the 2011 IAAF World Championships.
Edward Mothibi was the first South African across the line in seventh-place while Olympic marathoner Irvette van Zyl finished third in the women’s race.
In the absence of Yinesu, compatriot Ketema Bekele is looking to continue Ethiopia’s dominance, buoyed by his second-place finish at the Cape Town Marathon in September.
Top-10 finisher from last year, Siphiwe Ndlela will be among the local challengers that include Teboho Sello and Mabutile Lebopo.
Former Comrades champion Claude Moshiywa and three-time Comrades gold medallist Rufus Photo will also be lining up.
The women’s race may provide South Africa’s best chance of breaking the East African spell with Van Zyl going into the race in good form after a top-10 finish at the Cape Town Marathon in a time of 2.36.43.
Racing in her first marathon in her hometown this weekend, Mapaseka Makhanya will be looking for a top-five finish and will line up as the second fastest South African female in the field with her season’s best of 2:40:15.