SA ELITE GEARED UP FOR 21KM CHAMPS

 
Updated: July 24, 2015

Gladwin Mzazi (left) and Stephen Mokoka, seen here celebrating their one-two finish at the 2013 World Student Games, are among the favourites for the national half-marathon title (photo credit: www.africanathletics.org)

The country’s top road runners will lock horns on Saturday, with the SA elite turning out at the Jumbo ASA Half-Marathon Championships in Port Elizabeth.
Stephen Mokoka, who is in preparation for the 10 000m event at next month’s World Championships in Beijing, and Lusapho April, building up to an international city marathon later this year, are expected to spearhead the men’s field.
“I’ve been building an endurance base for the 10 000m, and I only really started speedwork this week,” Mokoka, a multiple national 21km champion, said on Friday.
“This will be one of my last long runs before Beijing and then I’ll drop down in distance and focus on sharpening up.”
With the World Half-Marathon Championships scheduled to be held in Cardiff next year, Mokoka said his main goal was to book his place in the team.
“I’m hoping to finish in the top three, or maybe the top five. I don’t know how many people they will select but that’s the only reason I’m running.
“I really want to run the world champs, otherwise I might have given this race a miss and concentrated on training.”
April has not yet revealed where he will line up for his next 42km race, but the former Hannover Marathon winner will skip the World Championships in order to target a fast time elsewhere and avoid the pollution in Beijing for health reasons.
The Eastern Cape native said he was confident of putting up a fight against an impressive line-up in Port Elizabeth that is also expected to include Gladwin Mzazi.
“Preparations are going well, and I’m feeling relaxed,” April said.
“I just hope the weather plays along, though it’s not looking good at the moment. I’m hoping for a good race.”
Meanwhile, in the women’s event, twin sisters Lebo and Lebogang Phalula should be the athletes to watch, with some of the country’s top ladies in the process of bouncing back from injury.
Rene Kalmer and Mapaseka Makhanya will both take part, but both admitted they were not in their best shape.
“I’ve been battling with a nerve in my hip which makes my whole leg go lame. It has been frustrating,” Kalmer said.
“I’ve had treatment and it’s feeling better, but this weekend will be a good test.”
A multiple national champion on the road, who defended her national 21km title in 2013 but gave the race a miss last year, Kalmer was pleased to be back.
“The SA Championships is always something special and last year I didn’t run any of them so I’m looking forward to competing again.”
Makhanya was also eager to gauge her fitness level, but she was not optimistic about her chances for victory, after recovering from an Achilles injury she picked up when she clocked a marathon personal best of 2:31:02 in Hannover in April.
“I’m not in competitive shape. I’ve had an injury since the marathon, and I’ve run only one 10km race in the Spar Grand Prix series, which didn’t go well.”
While she hoped to be included for the national team in Cardiff, Makhanya did not expect to be challenging for a place in the squad at the trials.
She confirmed she had requested a medical exemption from ASA if she did not place high enough in Port Elizabeth, hoping she would be considered for the squad if she proved her fitness in the build-up to the event.
While the start lists had not been released on the eve of the race, marathon runners Cornelia Joubert and Nolene Conrad are likely to put up a challenge for podium places if they are in the field.