Nedbank Running Club athletes excel at Durban International Marathon
May 10, 2022  

On a cool but windy Durban morning this past Sunday, Nedbank running club athletes dominated the Durban International Marathon which also included the South African Marathon championships. With R50 000 going to the victor, the racing was fast and furious upfront.

Isaac Mpofu from Nedbank RC Zimbabwe initiated the pace from the moment the starers pistol was fired, taking a group of 6 with him as they set out at a tempo projecting a 2:10 marathon finish. After missing out on a World champs’ qualifier by only 11 seconds in last years Cape Town Marathon where Mpofu ran 2:11:41, Mpofu came into the race confident of a good performance.

The halfway marked was reached in 1:04:58, well under the required sub 2:11:30 world champs’ qualifier which would not only be an automatic selection into this year’s championships in Oregon in July, but also qualify for next years championships in Budapest.

One by one the pack had runners drop off due to the pace being set until it was down to two, with South Africa’s Tumelo Motlagale on Mpofus shoulder. At 34km, Motlagale through in a surge which saw Mpofu drop back but the seasoned marathoner was biding his time and not wanting to overdo it with still some distance to run. “When Tumelo surged so hard, I told myself that it was too early,” said Mpofu. “My plan was to increase after 38km.”

And increase he did. Trailing just over 100 meters behind Motlagale, Mpofu started a surge from home and just before 39km, went into the lead. A fast final 3km saw Mpofu cross the line victorious in a personal best time of 2:10:24, a double world champs’ qualifier in tow.

Elation soon turned to anguish after it was announced just before the prize giving that Mpofu was being disqualified. Mpofu had only run with the official race number on the front of the vest and did not have a temporary license number on the back. With his race entry, a temporary license was not given to him and his coach when they collected their race number before the event.

An appeal was lodged straight after the announcement but was denied. “I am not even worried about the R50 000 prize money,” said a distraught Mpofu. “They can keep the money but don’t disqualify me and my time. All I want is my time to stand so that I can represent my country at the championships.” At the time of writing, it is believed that Mpofu’s coach and manager have escalated the matter further, with the hope of Mpofu’s time being reinstated.

In the women’s race, Nedbank RC teammates Shelmith Muriuki and Gete Galato were unchallenged from the word go, as the pair cruised through the halfway mark in 1:16:50, already a minute ahead of their nearest challenger. Galato looked the more comfortable of the two, with a tired looking Muriuki hot off the Nedbank Breaking Barriers 50km where she was 2nd and the Two Oceans 56km where she was 4th.

The marathon though is a learning experience, and the experienced Muriuki found another gear just before 30km where Galato started to drift back. Although the pace did slow drastically towards the finish, Muriuki remained unchallenged, crossing the line, arms in the air in a time of 2:37:54. Galato held on for 2nd, crossing the line in 2:41:00. Behind them, the race for the South African championships was hotting up with Nedbank RC’s Stella Marais in the provincial colours of Athletics Gauteng North running only her 3rd marathon but crossing the line 2nd in the championships in a time of 2:46:30.

“I am really glad that is over as I battled in the second half of the race,” said a tired Marais afterwards. “My aim was to run quicker than my pb of 2:38:22 and was comfortable to do it even through halfway but when the wind picked up my legs started to hurt. I am still so happy though because this is my first national championships medal on the road.”

In the accompanying 10km, Nedbank running club teammates Wellington Varevi and Moses Tarakinyu who was fresh off his recent win at the Two Oceans Half Marathon finished 2nd and 3rd respectively in 28:59 and 29:10.