PHALULA TO MAKE MARATHON DEBUT

 
Updated: July 21, 2015

In-form Lebo Phalula defends her title at the Port Elizabeth leg of the Spar Women’s Grand Prix 10km series in May

Lebo Phalula will compete over the classic 42km distance for the first time at the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon in September, organisers have confirmed, as some of South Africa’s most promising road runners prepare to turn out at the IAAF Silver Label event.
The 31-year-old distance runner, who clocked a half-marathon personal best of 1:13:16 in Hamburg in April last year, will hope to take advantage of the flatter, faster new route for the second edition of the relaunched race in the Mother City.
“I think Lebo has the potential to run a fast marathon, so we’re excited to have her running her debut,” Cape Town Marathon ambassador Elana Meyer said after the first group of elite athletes were unveiled on Tuesday.
Fellow South African Nolene Conrad will compete in her second 42km race, and her first on home soil, in search of an improved performance after the 29-year-old school teacher struggled to a relatively disappointing 2:54:59 debut in Hannover in April last year.
Former SA marathon champion Cornelia Joubert and Zintle Xiniwe, who was the first SA woman home in last year’s race when she clinched the national title, will also be in the line-up.
Meyer said the international women’s field would be announced closer to the race.
In the men’s event, like Conrad, 26-year-old Gladwin Mzazi will be eager to produce a better performance after he crossed the finish line in 2:17:43 on his marathon debut in Fukuoka in December.
“Gladwin is one of the most promising marathon runners in the country, and after running his debut last year he’ll be better prepared,” Meyer said.
Joining Mzazi in the domestic line-up are the likes of Xolisa Tyali and veteran Hendrick Ramaala.
The first few elite international men were also unveiled, including Will Kibor of Kenya, who won the race last year in 2:10:45, Ethiopian Dereje Debele, who holds the Dusseldorf Marathon course record of 2:07:48, and 2013 Prague Marathon winner Nicholas Kemboi of Qatar.
Meanwhile, the 10km race, to be held alongside the marathon through the streets of Cape Town, is expected to be dominated by local athletes.
Stephen Mokoka and Elroy Gelant were confirmed for the men’s event on Tuesday, while Phalula’s twin sister, Lebogang, will face tough opposition from versatile compatriot Mapaseka Makhanya and Durbanite Jenna Challenor, who is expected to make her comeback from a knee injury.
“We received IAAF Silver Label status after last year’s race and now we’re building towards the dream of making this a Gold Label marathon,” Meyer said.
“We will have at least five Gold Label runners from five different countries because that is part of the requirements if we want that status.
“There are only 30 Gold Label races in the world, and to get up there we have to knock another race out, so it’s not easy, but we believe we can reach our goal.”
Having made adjustments to the course, and with a world-class elite field gearing up for the race, the organisers are hoping for faster times with fewer turns and undulations.
The race records set last year by Kibor (2:10:45) and Meseret Biru of Ethiopia (2:30:57) were the fastest on SA soil in more than 23 years, but Meyer believed this season’s elite field could go even quicker.
“Last year was a challenge because it was the first one and we had no track record,” she said.
“The route has been revised, and I think it is at least a minute quicker than last year, so we’d really like to see a sub-2:10 for the men’s winner and a sub-2:30 from the women.”