SA not ‘in the run­ning’ in marathons

CityPress - - Sport - CHARLES BALOYI in Lon­don sports@city­press.co.za

Given the big gap be­tween the South African marathon run­ners and those from Kenya and Ethiopia, it would not be fair to ex­pect our lo­cal run­ners to get any­where near the podium at the IAAF World Cham­pi­onships in Lon­don to­day.

Des­mond Mok­gobu, Lusapho April and Sibu­siso Nz­ima will carry the flag for the men’s marathon team, while Ma­paseka Makhanya and com­pa­triot Jena Chal­lenor will rep­re­sent the women.

A lot still needs to be done to bring the South African marathon run­ners up to speed with the rest of the world. For ex­am­ple, Mzansi ath­letes don’t train as a group and al­most al­ways un­der­per­form at ma­jor international events.

For the first time in the his­tory of the IAAF 42.2km marathon event, both the male and fe­male events will take place on the same day. The start and fin­ish are sched­uled for the iconic land­mark, the Lon­don Tower Bridge. The course heads west along Vic­tory Em­bank­ment to­wards an­other iconic land­mark, Par­lia­ment, then back along­side the edge of the River Thames, bring­ing in fur­ther at­trac­tive sights, in­clud­ing St Paul’s Cathe­dral, the Guild­hall and the Bank of Eng­land.

It’s a beau­ti­ful route on which the best run­ners in the world will be on hand to show­case their God­given ta­lent. The medal cer­e­mony will take place out­side the Queen El­iz­a­beth Olympic Park, also a first for the cham­pi­onships.

The men’s marathon will start at 11.55am, while the women’s event starts at 2pm.

April, who is the most ex­pe­ri­enced of the trio, started his own train­ing back home. Nz­ima and Mok­gobu, who are chas­ing a top-20 fin­ish, are trained by le­gendary marathoner Hen­drick Ra­maala at Joburg’s Zoo Lake. Back at home, Ra­maala also ad­mit­ted that Mzansi ath­letes must not be pres­sured into win­ning or at­tempt­ing to break into the top 20 as they were not ready to take on the world.

Ra­maala wants Ath­let­ics SA (ASA) to dig deep into their pock­ets and bring big-name ath­letes and coaches to lend a help­ing hand as a way to nar­row the gap.

Be­fore the ath­letes de­parted for Bri­tain ear­lier in the week, he said: “We must not put too much pres­sure on our male and fe­male run­ners. To do well, they must first have many train­ing camps and get more races. Cur­rently, we are not any­where near the 2:08 or 2:09 times, but, in time, we will get there. We have to get a group of Kenyans and Ethiopi­ans to train with.”

In Lon­don, Nz­ima, who was at the Rio Olympic Games in Brazil last year, said he wanted to se­cure him­self a top-20 fin­ish.

“We did all the train­ing with Ra­maala at Zoo Lake. We just have to im­ple­ment what we have learnt. We are ready for the marathon, but we want to use this stage as a learn­ing curve,” said Nz­ima.

Mok­gobu also said their ob­jec­tive was to learn. He said he wanted to run a 2:09 and he was happy about the Lon­don weather.

“We had a train­ing camp and the weather is not bad. I just want to push hard and not dis­ap­point.”

Makhanya is equally ex­cited to rep­re­sent the women and she is eye­ing a top-25 fin­ish.

“I missed out on the 2015 champs in China and want to have a good race,” Makhanya said.

PHOTO: ROGER SEDRES / GALLO

HOPE­FUL Ma­paseka Makhanya com­petes at the IAAF World Champs in Lon­don to­day

PHOTO: JUMBO

EX­PE­RI­ENCED Lusapho April is one of South Africa’s most ex­pe­ri­enced marathon run­ners

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