Mashele claims first national half marathon title
A blistering turn of pace in the final 500m saw Precious Mashele dethrone reigning champion Stephen Mokoka to win his first national title in the Nelson Mandela Bay Half Marathon on Saturday morning.
Mashele took the crown home after crossing the line in 1 min, 01.17 secs at the event which incorporated the SA Half Marathon Championships in Gqeberha in the first elite road race in SA since the Covid-19 pandemic shut the sport down from March 2020.
In the women’s race, Kenya’s Brillian Kipkoech made it two wins out of two on SA soil when she won in a fast 1:07.32.
After a slow start, with a bunch of 20 athletes going through 10km 29:50, defending champion Stephen Mokoka surged ahead after the 15km mark taking Mashele with him as well as new kid on the block Mbuleli Mathanga and Kenya’s Felix Kibitok, the fastest man in the field.
With just under 2km left, Mashele clawed his way back and passed Mokoka with 500m to go, an attack to which the former champion had no answer.
The second half was a much faster affair as Mokoka ended second while up and coming KZNA athlete Mbuleli Mathanga took six seconds off his personal best to finish third.
The Kenyan, in only her second visit to SA, was favourite to win along with Namibia’s Helalia Johannes.
Kipkoech entered the race with a personal best time of 66:56 and Johannes with a 68:10.
The duo lived up to their billing, setting a furious pace from the gun, however, the pace became too hot, even for Johannes as she wilted under the relentless pressure of Kipkoech.
Diminutive Ethiopian Alemaddis Eyayu Sisay was able to stay with the smooth running Kenyan, but even she had to give way as Kipkoech broke away with 4km to go.
Kipkoech broke the tape in 1:07.32, her third best time ever for the 21km distance while Sisay finished some 32 seconds later in 68:04 — setting a new personal best over the distance.
In the battle for the national title, Glenrose Xaba repeated her success from 2019 crossing the line as the first South African woman over the line.
Both Mashele and Kipkoech pocketed R112,500 for their efforts and earned valuable World Label points as the NMB Half Marathon is a World Athletics Label Race.
Men: 1. Precious Mashele 1:01.17 (SA Champion); 2. Stephen Mokoka 1:01:25; 3. Mbuleli Mathanga 1:01.25; 4. Felix Kibitok 1:01.27; 5. Adam Lipshitz 1:01.30.
Women: 1. Brillian Kipkoech 1:07.32; 2. Alemaddis Eyayu Sisay 1:08.03; 3. Tadu Nare 1:09.08; 4. Helalia Johannes 1:09.25; 5. Glenrose Xaba 1:09.29 (SA Champion).
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