Not since doing the double in the men’s and women’s races in 2010 has a South African won the Cape Town Marathon.
For the past seven years Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes have ruled the roost in both categories while there have been sporadic raids by Zimbabwe.
But 2018’s 12th edition of the race, expected to be run in perfect conditions on Sunday, could bring a change in fortunes for the locals, with SA No1-ranked Stephen Mokoka a definite contender for honours in the men’s race and Capetonian Nolene Conrad fancied to go all the way in the women’s field.
The IAAF gold label status race, which was awarded in 2017, doubles as the SA Marathon Championships and also sees a revival of the Captain’s Challenge.
The Challenge was initiated by World Cup-winning former Springbok captain Francois Pienaar who challenged captains of industry to tackle the 42km run.
Olympian and race ambassador Elana Meyer is upbeat on SA’s chances of a double.
“Without doubt we’ve attracted our strongest line-up as far as SA runners are concerned, and that is what the race was meant to do,” said Meyer.
“Having a number of gold label status athletes in our ranks now shows how far our runners have come … I feel we’ll see them winning this race in the near future, if not this time …
“Stephen [Mokoka], who won the national half-marathon championships in Port Elizabeth recently, is a serious contender for first place among the men.
“He’s proven himself to be a seasoned marathoner and will want to show his rivals who’s boss on his debut.”
With the reigning champions not back to defend their titles, it opens up things a bit and what better motivation for the local contingent to strut their stuff? Mokoka, whose fastest time is 2hr 07min 40sec, will not have things his own way — he will have lively competition, especially from the East Africans.
Young Kenyan runners in the form of trio Albert Korir, Kipsang Kipkemoi and Fikre Assefa Robi will be gunning for glory, as will 21-year-old Ugandan Robert Chemonges.
Meyer tips Conrad to push for a podium spot on Sunday.
“She grew up on the Cape Flats and slowly worked her way up the ranks without setting the world on fire.
“She always wanted to achieve gold label status and has done just that. “She’s a fine example to other SA runners on how to manage a career.
“Here we have a 32-year-old who has set herself goals and worked her butt off to tick them off, and she has winning the Cape Town marathon on her to-do-list,” Meyer said.
Conrad can expect tough resistance from 2017’s designated pacesetter Helalia Johannes.
The Namibian was out on her own and seemed destined to go all the way, only to be outrun a kilometre from the finish by Ethiopia’s Betelhem Moges.
It remains to be seen whether the Commonwealth Games champion will adopt the same tactics.
Askale Adula of Ethiopia and Cape Town-based British athlete Tish Jones, the winner in 2016, are also podium contenders.
The race has attracted about 20,000 runners and more than 50 charities will benefit from it.
SA cricketer JP Duminy will be running to highlight his JP21 Foundation while thousands of other athletes have pledged to #RunForChange.
“It’s what my foundation stands for, #ChangingLives, and this fits in well with our values,” Duminy said.
“I’m also an ambassador for Red Cross Children’s Hospital, so being able to be part of creating change is close to my heart.”
The race goes along the Atlantic seaboard and then returns to the CBD before heading out to the southern suburbs and finishing in town again.