Athletes To Watch At This Weekend’s CT Marathon
With no Stephen Mokoka to defend his title due to World Championship commitments, South Africa’s hopes will rest firmly on the shoulders of Elroy Gelant. This will be a true test for Gelant as he will be racing in only his second ever marathon, having run his debut here in 2017 where he finished in 2:12.49 in fifth overall. “For me, 2017 was just a tester to see how I would handle the marathon. I always knew I would make the move to the distance sooner rather than later. So, 2017 was the perfect time for me. There was no pressure and I could see what the distance is all about,” said Gelant. “I want to run the marathon at the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020, so this year’s Sanlam Cape Town Marathon is a perfect time for me to get in my qualifier and then focus on the preparation for the Games.”
Gelant is in arguably the best shape of his life after his 61:00 half marathon in PE at the end of July this year. He has raced sparingly and wisely, and the results are visible.
But Gelant will not be merely able to stand on the start line and “runaway” with a win. He will have his work cut out for him. Fastest in the list of challengers to the win is Kenya’s Edwin Kibet Koech. His 2:08.17 PB was run in Eindhoven in 2015. In March this year Koech finished second at the Chongqing, crossing the line in 2:10.28. Boasting a half marathon best of 59:54 from 2015, Koech has the pedigree to cause some serious damage on race day.
Possibly more dangerous though is another Kenyan. Kipkemoi Kipsang boasts a marathon best of 2:08.26 which he ran in Sevilla in 2017. However, his 2:08.58 in Madrid on 27 April this year is a better indicator of where his fitness lies. Kipsang finished second in the race after having run 2:14.44 in Mumbai in January for 9th. Another 2:08 marathoner, Samuel Thueri Mwaniki joins the fray. Mwaniki ran 2:08.56 in Marakesh in 2015 and finished 6th in Linz this year, clocking 2:17.48.
Then there are three more athletes who have broken 2:10 in their careers. Ethiopia’s Abdi Fufa at the age of 23 is a bit of a dark horse. Already a 2:09.24 marathon behind him from Shanghai in 2018, Fufa has been improving continuously after his marathon debut in 2016 with a 2:11.22 in Barcelona. In 2017 he went 2:10.41 in Hangzhou before his 2:09.24. Fufa finished 15th at the World Cross Country Championships this year. Kenya’s Wilfred Murger is no slouch either. His marathon best is 2:09.37 run in Seoul in 2015. But it is his half marathon time of 59:57 that catches the eye. Also run in 2015, Murger finished second in the Prague Half Marathon that year. Murgur can also boast a 10km best of 28:07 (Hilversum 2011) showing he has a good bit of speed. Last of the Gold Label athletes is Motlokoa Mkhabutlane. The 34-year-old Lesotho Marathon record holder finished 9th in the Paris Marathon in 2017 when he clocked 2:09.47.
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Gelant will not face the foreign onslaught alone though. A number of eyes will be focused on one Lusapho April who finished 3rd in the 2013 New York Marathon. April has won the Hannover Marathon on three occasions and boasts a best of 2:08.32. April last ran a marathon in 2017 (Hannover) where he finished 5th in 2:11.41. He certainly has the pedigree to make life difficult at the front end of the race. Melikhaya Frans is another South African who will be watched. On debut he ran 2:15:40 for 10th in the 2017 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. 2017 was also the year in which he ran his half marathon PB of 61:58. Showing he is coming back into the shape that saw him break 62 for the half marathon, Frans finished 10th at the SA Half Marathon Championships in July this year with a season’s best of 62:17. Last but not least is Collen Mulaudzi. He may have ‘only’ run 2:18.58 here in 2018, but his 62:02 personal best at the 2019 SA Half Marathon Championships shows he is in much better shape and could go close to 2:14 this year.
The woman’s race is littered with depth. No less than eight athletes have gone under 2:29 for the marathon with Filomena Chepchirchir heading the list with her 2:23:00 in 2013. Her last marathon saw her finish second in Shengzhen in 2018 with a 2:32.05. This does not mean she can be ignored, not with a 66:12 for 20km (Prague, 7 April 2018). The inform athlete though is Celestine Chepchirchir with her 2:24.48 run in Seoul in March this year. This is an improvement of 2’10” over her previous marathon best of 2:26.58 from 2018. In March 2018 she ran 68:35 for the half marathon. In June this year she ran 74:44 in Kigali for a half marathon. Kigali lies at 1574m altitude so not too much should be read into this time.
Abeba-Tekulu Gebremeskel and Urge Diro Sokoka of Ethiopia have shown impressive early form with a 2:24.53 and 2:28.10 in Sevilla in February this year. Sokoka who was third in 2018 in the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon finished 5th in Sevilla, while Gebremeskel was second. But she took a whopping 5’20” off her marathon best of 2:30.13. The list doesn’t end there though. Milliam Ebongon has run 2:27.16 (Kosice, 2018), Janet Jelegat Rono boasts a best of 2:26.03 (Tokyo, 2014), Mercy Jerotich Kibarus clocked 2:26.52 (Seoul, 2017) and Nurit Shimels ran 2:28.41 in Marrakesh in 2018. With this incredible amount of depth, do not be surprised if a whole host of runners break 2:30, weather permitting.
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The Phalula twins, Lebo and Lebogang will once again be back in the Mother City to race the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. Both will have their eyes on the 2:29:30 time set by Athletics South Africa as an Olympic Qualifier. With this field and on this course, they will never have a better opportunity. Lebo Phalula has a marathon best of 2:33.48 run in Enshede in 2016, whilst Lebogang clocked 2:38 on this course in 2016.
The 2019 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon doubles once again as the South African Marathon Championships so there is extensive local pride at stake on Sunday 15 September.
“Last year Stephen Mokoka made us so proud by winning the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon in a new course record time of 2:08.31. That was then personal best for Stephen. With Elroy (Gelant) in such great form, we are hoping he too can make it a South African victory for the second year running,” said Elana van Zyl-Meyer, ambassador for the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon.
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