But plenty of South African competition for Summerstrand’s national half-marathon run
Last year’s South African half-marathon champions Edwin Koech and Sheila Chesang will be back to defend their titles at Pollok Beach, Summerstrand, on Saturday.
The Kenyans will form part of a stellar lineup for one of South Africa’s marquee events, with domestic athletes dead set on breaking their dominance.
Both runners set course records last year, with Koech clocking a time of 1h 1min 16sec, and Chesang 1:10:58. They will again be the duo to beat on Saturday.
But South African runners like Stephen Mokoka, who came second, 2015 winner Lucky Mohale and 2014 champion Elroy Gelant have also confirmed their par ticipation.
On the home front, Port Elizabeth stars Melikhaya Frans and Ntombesinuthu Mfunzi will also be contenders. Athletes will be hoping for less wind than last year to ensure record- breaking times once more on the fast 21.1km route. Race director Mike Mbambani said: “As many as 15 of the top 20 male finishers from 2016, and 15 of the top 20 women finishers, have already been entered by their provinces.
“The top women athletes include 2015 runner-up Lebogang Phalula and 2014 winner Mapaseka Makhanya, [both] of Central Gauteng.” Gauteng North team manager Wynand Breytenbach is disappointed that one of his top women athletes, Irvette van Zyl, has pulled out due to injury.
Despite the setback, Breytenbach said the team was looking forward to competing in Port Elizabeth. “The race is well organised and the route is fantastic, flat and fast,” he said.
Central Gauteng team manager Tracey McKay said: “We are fielding a very strong team this year. “Gladwin Mzazi is running well, and Derocious Makhubalo ran an excellent race in Gaborone recently.
“Our female runners, Lebogang Phalula, Cornelia Joubert and Christine Kalmer, are looking forward to a fast race on a superb course.
“Our runners are excited about the chance of winning a car too.” With prize money of R500 000, the third annual 21.1km NMB SA Championships have attracted top runners from around the country and from Kenya and Ethiopia.
The male and female winners will pocket R50 000 each and the top EPA finishers will receive an R8 000 bonus. The cherry on the top for all participants in both the half-marathon and 5km fun run is that one of them will drive away in a brand new car after a lucky draw.
The 21.1km route, credited as the fastest in South Africa, will start and end at Pollok Beach and a full rolling road closure from 5.30am will ensure a safe run and minimum inconvenience for the public.
The 21.1km road race starts at 8am and the 5km fun run at 7.30am.
Vehicles will gain access to the start from Eighth Avenue and from Second Avenue into the Bird Rock parking area on the sea side until 7am on race day.
Online and pre-entries at sports shops close this afternoon. Late entries and registration will take place from 2pm to 8pm on Friday and from 5.30am at the Summerstrand Surf Lifesaving Club on Saturday.