Helalia Johannes from the Nedbank running club green dream team beat the odds against her in one of the most brutal World Championship Marathons ever run, finishing on the podium and earning a bronze medal in a time of 2:34:15.
Starting at 23:59 and already with the temperatures above 30 degrees and a humidity over 75%, 68 of the Worlds best female athletes took to the loop course around Doha Corniche waterfront. Setting off at a tempo of 2:34 pace, Ruth Chepngetich from Kenya who this year was the Worlds fastest marathoner with a time of 2:17:08 started surging as early as the 8km mark, breaking up the pack.
At this stage, Johannes running in the colors of Namibia bided her time, and over the next 4km closed the gap. It was a ding dong battle as surge after surge was thrown in and athletes were stepping off the course in the brutal heat. Halfway went by in 1:16:40 and already the lead bunch was down to 5. “The heat was not good at all, but I just did what I could tactically to run as smart as possible,” said Johannes. After winning the Commonwealth Games last year in similar conditions, Johannes was looking good to do something special.
With 4 athletes left in contention at 35km, Chepngetich made the break at 37km splitting the pack up and Johannes holding 3rd. Going through 40km in 2:26:17, Johannes had 22 seconds on Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat in 4th and extended that to over a minute at the finish, becoming Southern Africa’s first female marathon runner medalist at a World Championships Marathon.
“I am so very happy with this medal, the first for my country as a woman and it’s a big achievement in my sport career because this is my first World Championship Marathon. Johannes also credited her coach Robert Kaxuxuena who has coached her since 2012. “We made some changes to the training program and I’ve really benefited from these.” This is evident as Johannes has had a stand out 2019 which includes winning all the current Spar Ladies 10km events as well as the Nagoya Marathon which she ran a World class time of 2:22:25.
Time will tell if Johannes has recovered well enough from her marathon effort ahead of this weekends final Spar Grand Prix series. Johannes is the current leader of the series which comes down to a nail-biting finish to conclude the 2019 season.
The Nedbank running club are a proud supporter of Helalia Johannes and congratulate her on her historic achievement.