Steyn defends her title in style
Nedbank running clubs Gerda Steyn successfully defended her Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon title from last year but it was the manner in which she did that really shone through.
In the build up to race day, much of the focus was on the Kenyan contingent in the Nedbank running club chasing after Thompson Magawana's 3:03:44 course record, which stood from 1988. With an inform Steyn as well as team mate Irvette Van Zyl making her ultra marathon debut, talk amongst the running fraternity was also leaning towards a possible record in the women's race but none of the women when asked had any inclination of going for it. Add to that, a route diversion over the much harder Ou Kaapse Weg announced 2 days before the race due to public safety concerns, and a record seemed a hard stretch.
On an Easter Saturday morning with conditions great for running, a leading trio of 3 quickly formed at the forefront of the race. Kenyan born Frenchman Abraham Kiprotich, the fastest marathon runner in the field thanks to his 2:08:33 assumed control of the race together with Nedbank teammates Isaac Kipkorir and defending champion Justin Cheshire Kemboi. Behind them a large group of athletes formed which included no fewer than 4 previous Two Oceans Marathon winners. The first checkpoint through 14km saw Kiprotich split in 44:53, an average tempo of 3:13 per km and already 40 seconds ahead of record pace. The chasing bunch at this stage was already close to a min behind.
In the ladies race, Nedbank Kenya's Priscilla Lorchima took control of the early stages in what for her was also an ultra marathon debut. Around 30 secs behind, Steyn, Van Zyl and Lesotho's Mamorallo Tjoka formed a pack, content to bide their time. Up front, Kiprotich kept at it and by 21km, was out on his own, with defending champion Cheshire choosing to drop back to the main bunch as Kiprotich kept reeling out kilometers close to 3mins at some stages.
The climb up Ou Kaapse Weg started and Kiprotich went through the halfway mark in 1:31:14, well under record pace and a full 2:07 ahead of David Gatebe who took the chase bunch through which included Nedbank athletes Cheshire, Ethiopian Sintayehu Yinesu, Melly Kennedy, former winner Lungile Gongqa as well as Lindikhaya Mthangayi. It was not long before Yinesu broke from the pack in an attempt to reel in Kiprotich who at this stage was showing no sign of slowing down.
In the women's race, Lorchima was passed by the trio headed by Steyn as the ladies went through half way in 1:46:28, showing that already, there was no chance of a record. With the first 3 athletes in the colors of Nedbank, teammates Lorchima came through in 5th, 1:06 down followed by Polish athlete Dominika Stelmach and Ethiopian Salem Alebachew in 6th and 7th, already 4:25 down.
The long descent down the other side of Ou Kaapse Weg slowly began showing on the face of Kiprotich as his lead, at one stage close to 3 mins, began dwindling and Yinesu started to catch his first glimpse of the struggling Frenchman. As they went through the marathon mark, Yinesu went into the lead and for a brief moment Kiprotich stuck behind him but it was short lived and the race for Kiprotich was now run.
Yinesu powered ahead and went through 46km with a lead of just over 1:00 and looked set for victory in his debut. In the ladies race, it was still the Nedbank trio of Steyn, Van Zyl and Tjoka who were in complete control of the race. Every now and then Steyn would throw in a small surge to test her teammates but it was always met with answers from Van Zyl and Tjoka. It was only through 40km that the chinks in armor started to show with Van Zyl starting to drift off the pack. Going off the side of the road, Van Zyl was running into trouble, battling with stomach issues.
Yinesu crested the top of Southern Cross drive upfront but the fatigue was showing in the tiny Ethiopians face and the question now was how long he could stay in the lead. It didn't take long to see 3 times Comrades winner Bongmusa Mthembu suddenly appear in the background, and a struggling Yinesu lost his lead as they went through 51km with 5km to go. Mthembu never looked back as he went on to record his maiden victory in 3:08:40. Behind him, defending champion Kemboi hung on to finish 3rd in 3:11:23. "It was a very tough race for me but I am just glad that my body was strong enough to still stay on the podium," said Kemboi. "Together with my Nedbank teammates in Kenya, we prepared specially for the record so it was a pity to come here and see they changed the course. In Kenya we did long runs focusing on doing hills where they were on the race. I saw from the long climb it wasn't possible so I reduced to go back to the pack."
Behind him, Yinesu held on to finish 4th with former winner of Two Oceans Mabhutile Lebopo from Nedbank Running Club Lesotho finishing 5th. Mthandazo Qhina had a storming run to finish 6th with Kenyan Jesse Gichui 7th and 2017 winner Gongqa in 8th. All in all, the Nedbank Running Club had 6 men in the top 10.
Back in the women’s race, Steyn continued to test Tjoka’s strength, but every time she did, Tjoka would have an answer. The ding-dong battle continued between the 2 until Steyn through in one last surge as they made their way to Southern Cross drive. It was the final sting in the tail for Tjoka, as she had no answer for Steyn. Steyn powered up the climb and looked set to defend her title from last year. With her ever so smiling presence, Steyn got faster and faster as she made her way into the UCT grounds. High fiving the spectators over the final 400 meters, Steyn crossed the line in 3:31:28, an agonizing 52 seconds short of the record and the R1 million rand that would have come with it. “I’m so happy to defend my title and that was the main purpose for me,” said a smiling Steyn. “With 8km to go I did notice that I was on for a fast time and also contemplated going harder but my main focus is the Comrades Marathon in 7 weeks so I didn’t want to do any damage to my legs. I can come back for the record next year!”
Tjoka hung on to finish 2nd in 3:38:22, a time that would have been good enough for the win in many previous years with Van Zyl finishing on the podium in 3rd on her first ever attempt at the ultra. “It was really tough out there and I started running into problems from around 40km,” said Van Zyl afterwards. “I was battling with my stomach and had to go off the side of the road a few times. It’s good to have an ultra marathon to my name now, but I need some time to decide if I will do another one soon.”
Stelmach stayed in her 4th position throughout most of the race and finished in 3:50:11 with early leader Lorchima 8th in 3:58:24.
It was a wonderful day for the Nedbank running club that saw the team take 11 of the 20 available
gold medals in the 56km and the first 4 women across the line. Attention now turns to the upcoming Comrades Marathon in 7 weeks time. After finishing 2nd last year, Steyn wants to make amends this time round. With this scintillating performance over the weekend, expect some big things on Comrades day.
Top 10 Overall
1 Bongmusa MTHEMBU 03:08:40 RSA ARTHUR FORD AC
2 David GATEBE 03:10:30 RSA IMPALA MARATHON CLUB
3 Justin Kemboi CHESIRE 03:11:23 KEN NEDBANK KENYA
4 Sintayehu Legese YINESU 03:12:34 ETH NEDBANK RUNNING CLUB ETHIOPIA
5 Mabhutile LEBOPO 03:16:04 LSO NEDBANK RUNNING CLUB LESOTHO
6 Mthandazo QHINA 03:17:33 RSA NEDBANK RUNNING CLUB CPT
7 Jesse GICHUHI 03:18:18 KEN NEDBANK KENYA
8 Lungile GONGQA 03:18:56 RSA NEDBANK RUNNING CLUB CPT
9 Zachary ORNELAS 03:19:23 USA
10 Nkosinathi DUMA 03:19:35 RSA ARTHUR FORD AC
1 Gerda STEYN 03:31:29 RSA NEDBANK RUNNING CLUB CG
2 Mamorallo TJOKA 03:38:23 LSO NEDBANK RUNNING CLUB LESOTHO
3 Irvette VAN ZYL 03:41:32 RSA NEDBANK RUNNING CLUB CG
4 Dominika STELMACH 03:50:12 POL NEDBANK RC INTERNATIONAL
5 Jenna CHALLENOR 03:51:56 RSA MURRAY & ROBERTS RUNNING CLUB CG
6 Charne BOSMAN 03:52:15 RSA MURRAY & ROBERTS RUNNING CLUB CG
7 Loveness MADZIVA 03:56:37 ZIM MAXED ELITE INTERNATIONAL
8 Priscilla LORCHIMA 03:58:25 FRA NEDBANK KENYA
9 Kathryn VAN METER 03:58:45 RSA MASSMART AC CG
10 Ramadimetja BABILI 03:59:33 RSA MASSMART AC CG
1 Mabhutile LEBOPO 03:16:04 LSO NEDBANK RUNNING CLUB LESOTHO
2 Mthandazo QHINA 03:17:33 RSA NEDBANK RUNNING CLUB CPT
3 Lungile GONGQA 03:18:56 RSA NEDBANK RUNNING CLUB CPT
3 Mzukisi Klaas 4:06:52 NEDBANK RUNNING CLUB
1. Annatjie Botes 4:57:32 NEDBANK RUNNING CLUB SWD
1 Sintayehu Legese YINESU 03:12:34 – Nedbank Running Club Ethiopia
1 Irvette VAN ZYL 03:41:32 - Nedbank Running Club CGA
Open Team Club
NEDBANK RUNNING CLUB CPT: 13:28:56
1 Mthandazo QHINA 03:17:33
2 Lungile GONGQA 03:18:56
3 Lindikhaya MTHANGAYI 03:21:31
4 Siyabonga SAKWE 03:30
Top Western Province
1 Mthandazo QHINA 03:17:33
Top 10 Overall
1 Elroy GELANT 01:03:20 RSA BOXER SUPERSTORES ATHLETICS CLUB CG
2 Jobo KHATOANE 01:03:31 LSO MAXED ELITE LESOTHO
3 Stephen Lesego MOKOKA 01:03:37 RSA BOXER SUPERSTORES ATHLETICS CLUB GN
4 David MANJA 01:03:40 RSA NEDBANK DEVELOPMENT CLUB CENTRAL NORTH WEST
5 Melikhaya FRANS 01:04:11 RSA IKHAMVA
6 Philani Richard BUTHELEZI 01:04:13 RSA MURRAY & ROBERTS RUNNING CLUB GN
7 Precious MASHELE 01:04:33 RSA OLIFANTSFONTEIN ATHLETIC CLUB
8 Joel MMONE 01:05:08 RSA NEDBANK DEVELOPMENT CLUB CENTRAL NORTH WEST
9 Namakoe NKHASI 01:05:18 LSO NEDBANK RUNNING CLUB LESOTHO
10 Thabang MOSIAKO 01:05:22 RSA BOXER SUPERSTORES ATHLETICS CLUB CG
1 Helalia JOHANNES 01:10:30 NAM
2 Betha CHIKANGA 01:14:29 ZIM MAXED ELITE INTERNATIONAL
3 Fortunate CHIDZIVO 01:15:39 ZIM RETAIL CAPITAL LANGA INT
4 Caroline MHANDU 01:16:41 ZIM MAXED ELITE INTERNATIONAL
5 Rutendo NYAHORA 01:17:51 ZIM NEDBANK RUNNING CLUB ZIMBABWE
6 Lebo Dina PHALULA 01:18:20 RSA BOXER SUPERSTORES ATHLETICS CLUB CG
7 Patience MUROWE 01:19:03 ZIM NEDBANK RUNNING CLUB ZIMBABWE
8 Nobukhosi TSHUMA 01:19:23 ZIM NEDBANK RUNNING CLUB ZIMBABWE
9 Rudo MHONDERWA 01:20:18 ZIM NEDBANK RUNNING CLUB ZIMBABWE
10 Hanlie BOTHA 01:20:20 RSA EASYEQUITIES BORN 2 RUN BOR
40 to 49 - Male
1 Coolboy NGAMOLE 01:09:39 RSA NEDBANK DEVELOPMENT CLUB CNW
50 to 59 - Female
1 Orbertina KANYONGO 01:31:41 ZIM NEDBANK RUNNING CLUB CPT
60 to 69 - Female
1 Olga HOWARD 01:41:02 RSA NEDBANK RUNNING CLUB CPT