by AKANI CHAUKE
JOHANNESBURG – WITH several contenders enjoying the form of their lives after attaining personal bests, this weekend’s Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) Half Marathon is anticipated to be a tightly contested affair.
The race scheduled for the coastal city of Qgeberha, formerly Port Elizabeth on Saturday, marks a return to road running after more than year of inactivity because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Records have been set at some smaller events.
Most of the spotlight in Qgeberha will be on Gerda Steyn, a clear-cut favourite weeks after she smashed a 25-year-old South African record when she clocked 2 hours 25 minutes and 28 seconds at the Xiamen Sienna Tuscany Elite Marathon in Sienna, Italy on April 11.
This was 83 seconds faster than her marathon best and 67 seconds off the record of 2:26:35 set by legendary runner, Colleen de Reuck, at the Berlin Marathon in Germany in 1996.
The performance in Italy has won her a berth in the Tokyo, Japan Olympics in July-August.
Steyn has also posted personal bests in the 5km, 10km and Half Marathon.
She is a 2019 Comrades Marathon champion and two-times Two Oceans Marathon champion.
The in-form Glenrose Xaba is set to provide stern competition to the Olympics-bound athlete.
Xaba is still basking in the glory of setting her personal best of 69 min 26sec set at the World Half Marathon Championships in October 2020.
A fortnight ago, she finished a 5 000m run at 15 min 55,25 sec.
Competition in the NMB Half Marathon men’s race is set to be more intense with no less than three aspirants having clocked their personal bests.
Mbuleli Mathanga will be inspired by his recent 10 000m personal best of 28 min 3,45 sec.
Adam Lipshitz has set a new 10 000m personal best of 28 min 27,72 sec.
Multiple South Africa 10km champion, Precious Mashele, is also in form, having running personal bests of 13 min 27,57 sec in the 5 000m and 27 min 55,87 in the 10 000m.
Stephen Mokoka, the defending champion, cannot be underestimated
Michael Mbambani, the NMB Half Marathon director, said, “Qgeberha has found itself in a sweet spot and is able to put on this race which will hopefully lead to more elite races coming back to the circuit.”
– CAJ News