Press Release

Mokoka Wins Third Sanlam Cape Town Marathon

18 Oct 2022 09:47
Jean-Loup Fenaux

Cape Town, 16 October 2022) – Defending champion Stephen Mokoka once again showed why he is South Africa’s premier marathoner as he claimed a third win in the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon.

The Olympian and multiple SA Champion broke the tape in 2:09:58, three seconds faster than his winning 2:10:01 last year, and the fourth-fastest winning time in the race’s history. Second position went to Ethiopian Derseh Kindie Kassie in 2:11:26, with his countryman Dagnachew Adere Maru outsprinting Kenya’s Raymond Kipchumba Choge to take third place, 2:11:52 to 2:11:55

In the women’s race, Meseret Dinke Meleka of Ethiopia took line honours in 2:24:02, smashing the 2:25:44 record (run in 2021 by Lydia Simiyu), and also breaking her personal best (PB) of 2:25:12. Second over the line was Kenyan Tecla Kirongo in 2:27:56 – also setting a new PB (her previous best was 2:28:22) – with another Kenyan, Judith Cherono, taking third in 2:30:32. The first South African to finish was Stella Marais, clocking 2:38:34 to claim eighth position.

The event featured an elite wheelchair race for the first time, with the athletes setting off 15 minutes before the elite field and adding great excitement to the spirit of the day. The men’s race was dominated by American Aaron Pike. After initially breaking away from the rest of the pack with South Africa’s Ernst van Dyk, the American pulled clear to win in 1:40:15, just under four minutes clear of his great friend and rival, who came home in 1:44:02. Third place went to Mexico’s Martin Velasco Soria in 1:46:43. The women’s wheelchair race came down to a thrilling sprint finish, with Brazil’s Vanessa Cristina De Souza having to dig deep to win in 1:57:48, just one second ahead of Noemi Alphonse of Mauritius (1:57:49). Third place was claimed by British veteran Shelly Woods in 1:46:43

Mokoka Completes his Hattrick

In the elite race, the leading men ran conservatively in the first half of the race, passing halfway in 1:05:36, with Stephen Mokoka biding his time near the front of the lead pack until the 32km mark. He then made his move and steadily increased his lead over the last 10km – he was 21 seconds clear of second-placed Kassie at 35km, and just over a minute clear at 40km. He says, “This was a tough, tough course. Normally at 25km you start enjoying a marathon, but at 28km today, we climbed that hill in District Six and it got really hard for a while, but overall I really enjoyed the race. I really hope this race does become an Abbott World Marathon Majors race, and I hope that government, corporates and runners all get involved to make it happen.”

Mokoka set a 50km World Record earlier this year in Gqeberha, and that mark was broken just a few weeks before the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. When asked what today’s win means to him, compared to other wins and records, Mokoka says, “I am delighted to win in Cape Town for a third time. I have won races overseas, too, but this is still special. Records are meant to be broken, but titles stay forever, and this win means more to me than just running a fast time. It’s also about the memories of our runs.”

Second-placed Derseh Kindie Kassie says that he had an incredible race, really enjoying all the support along the route from spectators, and even though he tried to keep up with Mokoka, he had to bend the knee to the South African. “Up to 32km the group was alternating positions a lot, so it was an exciting race, but when Stephen broke away, I had to accept that I am the underdog here. Stephen has run and won here before, he knows the route much better, where to run the shortest route and where to push the pace, and eventually I had to give up trying to catch him.”

To put the exciting sprint for third place in the men’s race into perspective, one has to take into account that around halfway, Danachew Adere Maru was struggling with cramps. “It was my debut marathon, and I suffered cramps at around 21km, so I am thankful that I recovered and came through to take third place. I am very satisfied and proud of my race.”

Meseret Lives Up to Favourite Tag

A leading pack of eight runners dominated the first half of the women’s elite race, with six Ethiopians and two Kenyans out front, led by Meseret Dinke Meleka. She came into the race as the fastest marathoner in the field according to PB, and used her pace and strength to constantly throw in little surges to break the other runners. By the time the group reached halfway, in 1:12:11, it had been whittled down to five runners, and then Meleka blew the race wide open as she surged clear. By 30km, she was more than two minutes ahead of the next runner, extending the gap to three-and-a-half minutes by 40km. Her winning margin was eventually three minutes 54 seconds.

“I enjoyed the race thoroughly, but unfortunately I had to do it by myself. When you run by yourself it is so difficult to control your pacing, but I managed. Of course, I am incredibly happy that I ran a personal best, and even more happy about the R100,000 bonus for a new record!” says Meleka, but adds, “I am partially fulfilled, because I was planning to do even better. If everything had been perfect, I had hoped to run a 2:20 or 2:21. The course was a little tougher than other international races, but I was running within myself, and felt confident that I could keep a consistent pace till the end.”

For her part, second-placed Tecla Kirongo says, “I am also very happy with my personal best, and I really like it here in Cape Town. I think I want to remain here!” Her countrywoman, third-placed Judith Cherono, also says that she enjoyed the race. “The route was good, the weather was good, and the support was good. I enjoyed my run, even though the course was tough at times.”

Pike Dominates Inaugural Wheelchair Race

The men’s wheelchair race was all about one man, Aaron Pike, but he admitted that the new hilly section of the course in District Six proved a huge challenge on the way to winning the race. “I wasn’t expecting this to be so tough – it’s right up there with the New York Marathon – but it’s got technical sections, climbs, downs, fast flats, a bit of everything. But that climb was a bear! That was the steepest climb in all the Majors. It wasn’t long, but it was brutal, and I had to rest my arms after that.”

He adds that he enjoyed having local hero Ernst Van Dyk alongside him in the early parts of the race. “Ernst knows the route so well and he was helping me with advice, warning me what was coming up, but once I broke away I was still OK, because the quality of your roads is so good here. I’ve raced all over the planet, and outside of Tokyo and Berlin, this was the next best course I have raced.”

Having helped design the course and organise the wheelchair race, Ernst van Dyk echoes Pike’s comments about the great race experience. “We have the ability to host fantastic events here in Cape Town, so why not a Majors race? We can make this a showcase event for the Abbott World Marathon Majors. My personal highlight was seeing a photograph of Aaron and I going over the highway, and in the background is a building with a mural of Madiba and Archbishop Tutu. That will stay with me forever.”

In terms of his own race, he says, “I tried to stick with Aaron, but he was too strong and made me eat his dust, so I decided to stay within myself. I actually took time to look around and take the course and the experience in, and I made a lot of mental notes about how we can do some fine-tuning to the course next year.”

Third-placed Martin Velasco Soria describes his race as a wonderful experience. “I feel fantastic today, even though this was one of the most difficult courses I have raced, and I am really grateful for the opportunity to race here. It was challenging, but really enjoyable, and I have been incredibly impressed with everything organised here, including a chaperone for us to help us with everything. I have never experienced that before.”

Sprint Finish in Women’s Wheelchair Race

The small but spirited women’s wheelchair field played a huge role in the spectacle of the event, and experienced marathoner Vanessa De Souza says she had quite a battle on her hands to take the win. “I saw Noemi’s ability when climbing that hill at 28km, and it wasn’t until about 36km that I felt I could catch her. I had to use all my energy to close the gap and then win the sprint! I felt happiness for my new friend Noemi at the finish, and I’m looking forward to racing her at more races. This was one of the hardest marathon courses I’ve done, but that also made it great preparation for the New York Marathon in November, and I hope to race here again.”

Second-placed Noemi Alphonse agrees about that hill in District Six: “I think we all feel the same thing about that hill at 28km. I train on hilly roads in Mauritius, so climbing is my strong point, but that hill was hard! I am just happy that I could finish strongly in a sprint with Vanessa, because she is such an experienced racer. I have been beaten on the line before, and I just think it is not my time yet, but my time will come.”

Another wheelchair racer with nothing but praise for the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon is Brit Shelly Woods, who took third in the women’s race. “It felt like we went right round that mountain – we’d go up a bit and down, and there the mountain was again!” she jokes. “Seriously, though, while it’s probably one of the toughest marathons I have done, it’s a beautiful route that really showcases the city, and South Africa.”

The Sanlam Cape Town Marathon was the main event in a jam-packed weekend of running action. Saturday saw the running of the’46km Sanlam Cape Town Trail Marathon and 22km Trail Run, as well as the 5km and 10km Sanlam Cape Town Peace Runs. That was followed by the marathon on Sunday, with the main event attracting over 12,000 entries and the combined weekend’s events seeing some 25,000 athletes being part of the action.

The event offered a substantial prize-purse totalling R1,751,500, with the men’s and women’s winners each taking home R250,000 each, with R125,000 for second place and R60,000 for third. There was also a R100,000 bonus incentive on offer for a new record. The prize money for the wheelchair races saw the first man and woman earn themselves R50,000 each, while second and third took home R25,000 and R12,500 respectively.

“The event was a great success,” reflects Sanlam Cape Town Marathon Race Director, Renee Jordaan. “The City’s support was outstanding, with virtually every service department fully mobilised to help runners successfully navigate the course. We also thank residents for their patience while the roads were closed, and for their enthusiastic support. Many of our runners have commented on the fantastic roadside support and said it felt like a true Cape Town party.”

Adds Sanlam’s Head of Brand, Mariska Oosthuizen, “What a weekend – huge congratulations to all the runners and spectators! True to this year’s theme, champions across the African continent have united in force. This year is particularly special as we made history as an Abbott World Marathon Majors Candidate race – the first on the African continent.

It has truly been an astounding success and we thank our partners – the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon race organisers – for their tireless energy and vision in making it so. Thank you to everyone who took part this year.”