Asefa Negewo made history in 2016 when he won the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon in the fastest time ever recorded on South African soil, crossing the line in 2:08.41. The Ethiopian is back to defend his title, but will be facing some incredibly tough opposition.
On Friday 15 September, the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon presented their elite men and women’s fields to the media, and deep fields they are indeed with five athletes having dipped 2:10 and two having gone under 2:09; and four women breaking 2:30.
It is not the defending men’s champion who boasts the fastest time in the field, but rather Kenya’s Laban Mutai who has come within a whisker of cracking the 2:08 barrier. Mutai ran 2:08.01 when he finished fourth in the Rhein Energie Marathon in Cologne in 2012. Mutai can lay claim to four sub 2:10’s in his career (2:08.01 – Cologne, 2012; 2:08.03 – Linz, 2014; 2:09.55 – Valencia, 2015; 2:09.16 – Ljubljana, 2016). Of the eight marathons he has competed in, Mutai has been on top of the podium four times and knows what it takes to fight for the win.
Negewo’s win in 2016 was his best marathon performance to date. In marathon terms, he is a bit of novice having competed in only three marathons including his remarkable win in 2016. But knowing the route should give him an advantage over most of the other contenders.
Throw in the mix Duncan Maiyo of Kenya and Seboka Nigusse of Ethiopia and you have a race that will deliver fireworks. Nigusse is the next fastest in the field with a 2:09.14 PB run in Amsterdam in 2015, while Maiyo’s best of 2:09.25 came in 2016 at Eindhoven.
Of particular interest for South Africans, will be the debut of SA 5000m record holder, Elroy Gelant. Gelant was the pacemaker in 2016, so is familiar with the first 30km of the route. He is the fastest in the field over 5000m, 10 000m, 10km and the half marathon (13:04.88/27:41.30/28:18/61:10), and, many believe the 31-year-old is making the move to the marathon at just the right time.
Even without the stellar line up which in itself should ensure a fast time, the organisers have left nothing to chance and have lined up pacemakers to set a 2:08 pace.
The women’s field is arguably the strongest ever assembled for the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. Headlining the field is Agnes Jepkemboi Kiprop who clocked 2:23.54 when she finished second in Frankfurt. Despite running her PB in 2011, Kiprop has gone sub 2:30 every year except for 2016. But Kiprop will need to draw on all her experience to withstand the challenge of 26-year-old Betelhem Moges of Ethiopia. Moges has an impressive pedigree, 33:32 for 10km on the roads; a 69:23 in the half marathon. But, it is the 2:24.29 PB in the marathon that stands out. Run in the heat and humidity in Dubai, this is an impressive performance and has to make her a serious contender for the number one position.
Then there is Fantu Eticha Jimma. With a 2:26.14 marathon best, she will be a dangerous element to the race. Debuting with a 2:30.25 in 2011, she steadily improved every year until she ran the 2:26.14 in Dubai in 2015. She finished 14th in the same race that Moges ran her 2:24.29 for 10th.
Germany’s Lisa Hahner makes up the fourth athlete under the 2:30 mark. Hahner ran her PB (2:28.39) in Frankfurt in 2015 where she finished 6th. Lisa and twin sister, Anna, crossed the line at the Rio Olympics holding hands and instantly shot to fame.
Leading the South African charge is Irvette van Zyl who ran her marathon PB of 2:31.26 in London in 2013. Her 10km and half marathon best times of 32:50 and 70:56 though indicate she should be able to go faster than the 2:31 from four years ago and the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon could just be the place to do it. Both she and Lebogang Phalula (2:38.00) Gold and Silver Label athletes respectively, will lead the South African challenge.
“Last year we had the fastest time on South African soil with Negewo running that superb 2:08.41. This year, we have been able to assemble a field that could go even faster than that. I’m also excited that Elroy Gelant chose to make his debut at the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. It shows how much we have grown,” said Elana van Zyl – Meyer. “And what a women’s field. If we do not see a time faster than 2:30 for the women and a new event record, I would be very surprised.”
“This is the first time in history that a marathon will be run under IAAF Gold Label status on African soil. The milestones this event has achieved within a short space of time have come from the hard work, commitment and dedication from so many people. It is a proud moment for all who have contributed to this outstanding achievement. This year we have an exceptional group of athletes from all parts of Africa competing in our elite field,” says Yegs Ramiah, Chief Executive of Brand at Sanlam.
“As a business with an extensive footprint in 34 African countries our business and brand is built on partnerships and a firm belief in the talents and potential of people of Africa. Investing in Africa, and creating opportunities for international athletes to compete in a global event on our continent is a step towards unlocking the real potential, talents and abundant energy that can shape the continent for generations to come.”
Sunday 17 September will see some 20 000 runners standing on either the start line of the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon, starting at 07h00 in Beach Road, Green Point, or the 10km Peace Run/Walk taking off at 07h10 on the corner of Granger Bay Boulevard and Fritz Sonnenberg Road. Before they get underway though, the traditional ceremony that has become synonymous with the race will take place. Showcasing the race’s endeavours to further peace in South Africa and the World, a flame, symbolic of the one burning in the cell of Nelson Mandela on Robben Island, will be handed over to Elana van Zyl – Meyer to send the 42.2km athletes on their way. The flame will then also make its way to the start of the 10km Peace Run/Walk, after which it will be taken to A Track’s finish line. A fitting way to get the racing underway.
Africa is my home, this is my race. It’s Cape Town, must run it!
Entries for the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon are open. To find out more, go to www.sanlamcapetownmarathon.com