Strongest field ever assembled for Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km
February 10, 2022  

After an amazing first edition of the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km which saw both men’s and women’s 50km world records and numerous age group world bests set last year, this year’s event on 6 March is set to continue in record breaking form with one of the most competitive fields on South African soil.

This year’s event returns to Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality where athletes will complete the flat and fast 10 km loop five times in their quest to break the existing 50 km world records.

Both defending champions and world record holders Ketema Negasa and Irvette Van Zyl have announced that they are returning to the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality to not only defend their titles but run even faster. The pair who both run for the Nedbank running club are full of confidence heading into next month’s race but will face a much stronger field with not only South Africa’s best ultra-marathoners but also runners making their debuts and a strong international field. 

It was on debut last year that Negasa reigned supreme, and his victory has opened the doors with a strong East African presence in this year’s race. Joining Negasa from Ethiopia will be Nedbank running club teammates Worku Chekol and Danel Derese. With a marathon best of 2:10:09, Derese will be a man to watch whilst Chekol boasts a 2:17 marathon from the hot and humid Mumbai Marathon. 

Nedbank running club Kenya’s Justin Cheshire comes to the event with a good ultra-pedigree having won the Two Oceans Marathon and then going on to be the first Kenyan to ever record a top 10 Comrades finish. What is scary however is the talent that will be joining Cheshire. Eliud Kiptanui will line up with the fastest marathon time in the field with his 2:05:21 which was set at the Berlin Marathon. Stephen Chemlany who owns a silver medal from the 2014 Commonwealth Games will also be a dark horse to the event. His last marathon from 2019 is a crisp 2:06:22. Both athletes will be making their ultra-marathon debuts. 

The Nedbank running club pairing of Edward Mothibi and Jonas Makhele will be looking to make South Africans proud by keeping the men’s title and world record on home soil. In the last Comrades that was run, Mothibi was victorious on the day but it is his marathon improvement in the last 2 years that makes him come into this year’s event as a contender to win. Running 2:13:54 last year, Mothibi is set to improve on his 10th place finish from last year. Makhele ran the race of his life last year. Setting a world age group best, he also finished under the previous 50km world record however was 2nd across the line. Ntsindiso Mphakhati from the Entsika team also returns after a 3rd place podium finish last year. 
South African runners will also have an added incentive of performing well. Besides additional South African only prize money, Athletics South Africa President, James Moloi, announced that the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km will be used to select the national team for the World 100km championships. 

With such a stellar field lining up, stay tuned as we get closer to race day and announce more elite athletes who look to make the 2nd edition of the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km another world record breaking spectacle. "Since the country does not have a 100km race, ASA will use this race as one of the selection criteria for the national team to the 100km World Championships,” said Moloi. 

"The final national team will be made of six women and six men. A recommendation has been made to the ASA Board and we are awaiting the Board to made a decision on it. However, one thing is clear that the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers race will be one of the races we have identified to form part of the qualifying criteria.”

In the women’s race last year, Van Zyl started as a pacemaker, tasked to keep the pace at a world record tempo until 30km and then pull out, but as history has it, she felt good and continued to the finish line, crossing the tape victorious and under the previous World record time. 

"My preparation for the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km is going really well and I'm really excited to be able to race again," said Van Zyl. "I believe I am in better shape than last year when I broke the World record and I believe the record will be broken again. We just have to wait and see who does it!" 

Leading the charge of the challengers will be Nedbank RC International athlete Alexandra Morozova from Russia who is no stranger to South Africa. Morozova has finished 2nd, 3rd and 2nd in her 3 Comrades Marathon attempts and last year finished 4th in the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km. Morozova is in fine form having taken chunks off her marathon pb recently when she ran 2:32:44 at the Stockholm Marathon. 

Also making the trek to the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality will be Nedbank RC International teammate Caitriona Jennings who hails from Ireland. Jennings boasts a 2:36 marathon best and represented her country in the 2012 Olympic Games. No stranger to ultra-running, Jennings finished 3rd on her debut Comrades back in 2019 and will definitely be a force to be reckoned with. 

Amelework Bosho and Almaz Erba lead the Ethiopian contingent who will be looking to make a name for themselves. Bosho comes in with a 2:32:39 marathon PB from Valencia whilst Erba has run 2:39:47 in the very warm Rabat Marathon. Kenyan Lucy Lesempe heads into this year’s event looking to go one better than Nedbank RC Kenya’s Lilian Chemweno did last year when she finished 2nd. Such was the performance of Van Zyl’s new world record, Chemweno finished almost 3 minutes under the previous record but was only good enough for 2nd on the day. 

South African athlete and hometown favourite Ntombesintu Mfunzi will be using the local support to spur her on come race day. The always smiling Mfunzi took part in last year’s event however a pre-race injury saw her pull out after halfway. “My training has been going well under my new coach Xolani Mabhida and all roads will be leading to Nedbank Runified in March,” said Mfunzi after finishing 3rd at the Bluewater Bay 15km. 

Multiple National team representative Tanith Maxwell will be running her first Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km event and also lines up as one of the fastest marathon runners in the field. Her personal best of 2:32:33 was run on the fast Berlin Marathon. 

We will keep you updated as we get closer to race day when more elite athletes will be announced ahead of the 2nd running of the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km in Gqeberha which will be broadcast live on Supersport.