Soweto Marathon tests local athletes

If the number seven truly signifies completion, then bet on a South African male runner to win tomorrow’s Soweto Marathon. For the past seven years, local athletes have merely added to the numbers as foreigners reigned supreme in the popular People’s Race through the world-renowned township.

Not since Michael Mazibuko won the race in 2011 has a South African occupied the top step on the podium. It is a saddening statistic for a country that generally prides itself on its road-running prowess.

But with the likes of Sintayehu Legese Yinesu around, Mzansi’s top runners have not even sniffed the groomsmen roles.

The Ethiopian has literally bossed the 42.2km run generally regarded as one of the toughest in the land with incredible four victories and a runners-up berth since 2012.

Kenya’s Shadrack Kemboi and Tshepo Mathibelle of Lesotho were the other winners of the last six races since
Mazibuko’s success. There was no run in 2013 because of financial difficulties.

Incredibly, every year the race has seen local runners’ chances being talked up only for them to fall way too short.

The likes of Benedict Moeng, Johannes Kekana, Ntsindiso Mphakathi and Edward Mothibi were among those who carried the country’s hopes for glory but they had to be content with making the top 10 over those years.

What is the stumbling block to the locals attaining success at the Soweto Marathon though?

“It is not that we do not have talented runners who can win the race,” said Athletics South Africa’s road running chairman James Moloi. “We have a lot of them, but the problem is that most of our athletes overrace.

They belong to clubs that tell them which races to run and, by the time of the Soweto Marathon, a lot of them are tired.” Moloi has a point in that a number of the potential Soweto Marathon winners go to the race on the back of having ran ultras such as Two Oceans and Comrades Marathons, as well as a few 42.2km.

“That is not the case with the East Africans who merely run just one marathon a year and do some 10kms and 21kms,” Moloi

Fat chance then of a local ending the foreign domination? After all most of the elite runners participating in next weekend’s race have all been pretty active in the year. Meanwhile, Comrades Marathon champion Gerda Steyn is anticipating her participation at the New York Marathon taking place on the same day as the Soweto Marathon.

By Matshelane Mamabolo

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