If a team ever did totally dominate a race, then yesterday’s Old Mutual Soweto Marathon was definitely the scene as Nedbank Running club turned the streets green with total dominance.
On a perfect Sunday morning, over 12 000 runners set off from the FNB stadium on a 42.2km journey through the streets of Soweto. In what has been dubbed as the most competitive Soweto Marathon field ever assembled, NRC Ethhiopia’s Abebe Kumsa Gondero assumed the role as unofficial paced setter as he went through the 10km mark in 32:10, on pace for a 2:15 finish. Just behind him was fellow countrymen Sintayehu Legese Yinesu going through in 32:15 and looking to record his 4th victory in the iconic marathon.
The pack stuck together going through halfway in 68:52 which comprised of 11 athletes. 8 of these leading 11 were NRC athletes. Shortly after the athletes ran up the tough Vilikazi street climb at 27km, Yinesu and Lebenya Nkoka from NRC Lesotho took charge splitting up the pack. It was just before the 32km that Yinesu made his bid for victory as he had a 7 second lead over Nkoka and NRC Ethiopia’s Daba Debele who were together at that point. With R250 000 up for grabs Yinesu used this motivation as he made his way into the FNB stadium. Becoming the first male to ever win the race 4 times, Yinesu crossed the line in 2:19:10 to take the title. Nkoka hung on for 2nd in 2:20:31 getting the better of Debele who ended 3rd in 2:21:13 rounding off the podium and a complete podium sweep for NRC.
Behind them, NRC Kenya’s Justin Cheshire came from behind to take 5th with Edward Mothibi the first South African to finish in 6th. Early pace setter Gondero hung on for 8th with the final NRC athlete Ramolefi Mostsieloa in 9th to give NRC 7 of the top 10 men’s positions.
Similar to the fast start we saw in the men’s race, the ladies set out from the word go looking for a quick time. NRC’s Irvette Van Zyl took it out fast and only had NRC Ethiopia’s Genet Habela & Worke Amena for company as Mamorallo Tjoka, a multiple Soweto Marathon winner from NRC Lesotho stalking the trio just behind.
Running through the 10km mark in 34:32, Van Zyl continued to pile the pressure as by the halfway mark which was reached in 74:28, she only had Tjoka for company as Amena and Habela had by this stage dropped back by over a minute.
Van Zyl continued to lay it on and by 33km, had opened a gap of 42 seconds over Tjoka. Not looking back once, Van Zyl stormed into soccer city to not only defend her title from the previous year but also smash the course record with a time of 2:33:43. “Im really happy with this victory and especially the time,” said Van Zyl afterwards. “To be honest with it being still so close to my second pregnancy I didn’t have 100% confidence of being strong but I still wanted to try run a fast time. Tjoka held on for 2nd in 2:37:12 with a fast finishing Selam Abere Alebachew from NRC Ethiopia repeating her 3rd place performance of last year to finish 3rd in 2:44:50 giving NRC yet another clean sweep of the podium.
Behind them veteran athlete Charne Bosman had a great run to take 6th and first veteran in a time of 2:53:48. A total of 7 NRC athletes took positions in the top 10 amongst the women giving NRC a total of 14 out of 20 gold medal top 10 finishes on offer.