All roads lead to Gqeberha this weekend for Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km
March 2, 2022  

After a successful first event last year which saw two 50km world records and numerous age group best times being broken in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km returns this Sunday, bigger and better.

Before the starters pistol is fired at 06:00 on Sunday for the lady’s elite race start, the event came into the new year already setting records. World Athletics who govern the sport awarded the event with a purple elite label status, elevating it to be on par with some of the biggest international city marathons around the world. It was also the first and currently only ultra-marathon in the world to achieve this standard. 

“The awarding of this elite label to the event is a strong testimony to the incredible team that we have to make this event a success, our great sponsors and the amazing Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality,” says Nick Bester, race director of the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km. 

The event which is an invitation only elite race sees some of the world’s best athletes toe the line on a 10km loop course which the runners will have to negotiate 5 times. “We have assembled an even stronger field this year with a big international interest into the event and our defending champions who of course are the world record holders will be back as well,” said Bester. 

The Nedbank running club duo of Ketema Bekele Negasa from Ethiopia and South Africa’s Irvette Van Zyl ran away victorious last year as world record holders and will be looking to do the same come Sunday, although a little faster. “I’m really looking forward to the race day,” said Van Zyl after completing another tough session in her training plan. “I definitely feel stronger, and my times have been quicker going into Sunday’s race, so I feel a world record is definitely on the cards. We will just have to see who crosses the line first!”

Both Van Zyl and Negasa will face a strong challenge to the crown on Sunday morning. In the women’s race Van Zyl will face an East African onslaught as runners from the great rift valley of Kenya and the Bekoji mountains of Ethiopia look to make a name for themselves at the ultra-distance. The case is the same in the men’s race although the name of Stephen Mokoka appears on the start list. Mokoka is a multiple South African champion, and his pedigree speaks for itself. At the time of writing Mokoka was still unsure if he would run on Sunday or be taking part in an international marathon. 

To set the pace required for the world record, the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km will be led by official pacemakers who will lead the pack at world record pace. In the men’s race, local athlete Melikhaya Frans and Gladwin Mzazi will lead the way with Stella Marais fresh off her marathon victory in Cape Town, setting the pace for the women. Pacemakers are allowed to finish the race should they want to, and one only must look back at last year’s event where Van Zyl served as a pacemaker for the ladies’ race but continued on to set a world record.