Stephen Mokoka. Picture: ROGER SEDRES/GALLO IMAGES
Stephen Mokoka. Picture: ROGER SEDRES/GALLO IMAGES

Stephen Mokoka lit up the finish chute along Marine Drive as he sped home to claim the SA Half Marathon Championship title in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.

The event saw Mokoka produce a stellar final surge to outrun archrival Elroy Galant‚ crossing the line in 60min 56sec as the sun rose over the finish line.

Gelant‚ who ran an aggressive race and put pressure on Mokoka‚ took second place in 61:00‚ a new personal best‚ while Precious Mashele (61:21) finished third to round out an all SA podium.

Ethiopia’s Tadu Neru won the women’s race in 1:10.20 with Kenya’s Sarah Naibei second in 1:10.54. Glenrose Xaba claimed third spot and also the national title in her first competitive half-marathon.

Speaking after his win‚ Mokoka said: “I told you these young boys are getting scary now‚ they make you feel as if even the half-marathon is too short‚ I was very impressed with the outcome of the race‚ having had a slow start‚ but we managed to run low 60s.

“At about 15km‚ there were a lot of young athletes. I was very impressed with how many of them have improved and it is a good sign for road running in the country‚” he said.

All the main contenders in the men’s race went through the first 5km after a slow first kilometre (3:05). The pace picked up at 8km as Kenyan’s Bernard Bil and David Maru pressed with Gelant throwing in surge after surge. Mokoka‚ Gelant‚ Mashele and Joel Mmone then attacked and dropped the Kenyan challenge in the final 4km.

“We broke away from about the 15km mark. Precious said we should go for it‚ he went in front with Elroy‚ then I went to help keep the pace. At about 17km‚ that’s where Elroy and I pulled away. But from 15km‚ we were running 2:51/2.52‚ which helped us to make up the time [from the slower start]‚” Mokoka said.

“Somewhere around 19.5km‚ I decided to make one last move. I told myself‚ if it doesn’t work‚ I will just wait for the right moment. But I’m happy that when I moved‚ my legs just carried me‚ I was able to keep the pace and take it in the end‚” he added.

Nare‚ 18‚ said the race was one of her best yet. 

“I am very happy with my race‚ it is great to take the win here. The first 10km were very fast‚ but after that some of the ladies started to drop off‚ then I knew I had to keep pushing‚” she said.  “There were a few athletes who were trying to catch me‚ but I knew if I wanted the title‚ I would have to keep up my pace and focus on what I needed to do. I am happy with this result.” 

Leading results

Men: 1 Stephen Mokoka 1:00.56‚ 2 Elroy Gelant 1:01.00‚ 3 Precious Mashele 1:01.21‚ 4 Joel Mmone 1:01.30‚ 5 Mbuleli Mathanga 1:01.50‚ 6 Pheeha Mokgobu 1:01.55‚ 7 Khoarahlan Seutloali 1:02.02‚ 8 Collen Mulaudzi 1:02.12‚ 9 Milton Kekana 1:02.16‚ 10 Melikhaya Frans 1:02.20

Women: 1 Tadu Nare 1:10.20‚ 2 Sarah Naibei 1:10.54 3 Glenrose Xaba 1:11.08‚ 4 Gerda Steyn 1:11.53‚ 5 Jenet Bhele 1:12.08‚ 6 Fortunate Chidzivo 1:12.46‚ 7 Neheng Khatala 1:13.14‚ 8 Lebo Phalula 1:15.33‚ 9 Alina Armas 1:16.54‚ 10 Lebogang Phalula-Luthuli 1:17.03