The Star Early Edition

Sweat­ing it out in Soweto


Thou­sands of run­ners took part in the an­nual Old Mu­tual Soweto Marathon yesterday.

IRVETTE van Zyl fi­nally broke the for­eign stran­gle­hold on the Old Mu­tual Soweto Marathon be­com­ing the first South African fe­male to win the race since 2009.

The Olympic marathoner up­graded her bronze medal from last year for gold in a time of 2:41.06.

René Kalmer was the last South African woman to win the gru­elling race through the fa­mous Jo­han­nes­burg town­ship.

The men’s ti­tle re­mained in for­eign hands with Tsepo Mathi­bele of Le­sotho tak­ing the spoils in a time of 2:19.41.

Mathi­bele held off a challenge from Ethio­pean Sin­tayehu Legese Yi­nesu, who was bid­ding for his fourth con­sec­u­tive ti­tle.

Ntsindiso Mphakathi was the first lo­cal ath­lete to cross the line fin­ish­ing in a cred­itable third place, clock­ing 2:21.23.

Michael Maz­ibuko is the last South African to win Soweto Marathon back in 2011.

Lo­cal favourite Ma­paseka Makhanya, rac­ing in her home town for the first time, fin­ished sec­ond be­hind Van Zyl for a lo­cal 1-2. She crossed the line in a time 2:44.37 with de­fend­ing cham­pion Se­lam Abere Ale­bachew of Ethiopia fin­ish­ing third in 2:46.33.

A large lead group in the men’s race went through the half­way mark be­fore the top three broke away.

With the course of­fer­ing lit­tle re­lief with the un­du­lat­ing course and min­i­mal pro­tec­tion from the sun, the fi­nal kilo­me­tres sep­a­rat­ing the wheat from the chaff.

Mathi­bele dropped Yi­nesu and Mphakathi at the 30-kilo­me­tre mark where he held onto pole po­si­tion to claim the vic­tory.

In the women’s race, Makhanya took an early lead with Ale­bachew go­ing with her.

Van Zyl worked her­self into a strong po­si­tion af­ter mov­ing past Makhanya but saw her ad­van­tage slip when she had to stop for a bath­room break at the 29km mark. Slip­ping back to third place Van Zyl had to work hard to reel in Ale­bachew and Makhanya again.

Van Zyl first caught up with Ale­bachew be­fore mov­ing past Makhanya with eight kilo­me­tres re­main­ing.

“I didn’t ex­pect to win to­day, al­though I wanted to, but I felt it was out of reach and I had a hic­cup go­ing to the toi­let,” Van Zyl said.

“When I caught Ale­bachew I could see Mapa (Makhanya) far ahead and I told my­self sec­ond is good enough.

“This meant a lot, it was my third time lin­ing up for this race, the first time in 2011 I fell and fin­ished in a taxi and last year I had a bit of an in­jury prob­lem.”

For Makhanya it was a home­com­ing of sorts re­ly­ing heav­ily on her home-town sup­port.

“I wish I had never avoided this race, the sup­port along the route was amaz­ing, I’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced so much sup­port in a race,” Makhanya said.

“I’ve al­ways wanted to tick it off my bucket list, I am very happy with it be­ing my first Soweto Marathon and fin­ish­ing sec­ond.”

Van Zyl said the long wait for a South African vic­tory was made even sweeter with the two lo­cal women shar­ing the podium.

“I thought if come sec­ond to­day at least Mapa will be the first South African and it would be a dou­ble for us,” Van Zyl said.


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