At 10 minutes and one second past 9am on a perfect spring Sunday‚ Asefa Negewo slowed to a walk‚ crossed himself‚ strolled another hundred metres‚ crossed himself a couple more times‚ stopped‚ turned around to face the way from whence he had come‚ took off his shoes‚ and waited for the second man home in the Cape Town Marathon.
The Ethiopian had earned the right to take things easy like Sunday morning by winning the race for the second year running.
A minute and five seconds after he crossed the line he welcomed his compatriot‚ Ketema Negasa‚ with open‚ albeit sweaty‚ arms.
“Nobody challenged me and I was able to run at my own pace‚” Negewo said.
Last year‚ he won in a record time of 2:08:41. What slowed him down this time?
“Last year the weather was perfect and the pacemaker was doing a good job and going the right pace‚” Negewo said with an interpreter’s help.
“The pacemakers last year went in front and we saw them and followed them. This year we didn’t see them — they were fluctuating‚ going up and down.
“The weather also held me back; after 15 or 21 kilometres there was a wind.”
Problems with the pacesetters — Henry Kiplagat and Desmond Mokgobu — weren’t the only organisational challenges the event faced.
Reports from the road said the lead bike in the 10 kilometre race took a wrong turn and guided the field astray‚ resulting in the route being shortened by approximately 200 metres.
Another Ethiopian‚ Betelhem Cherenet‚ fought off the attentions of Namibia’s Helalia Johannes to win the women’s marathon by a scant eight seconds.
Johannes led at halfway and‚ wouldn’t you know it‚ she was a pacesetter.
The first South African to earn the applause of the small but enthusiastic crowd that had gathered at the finish in Greenpoint was Elroy Gelant‚ the Olympic 5000 metre runner who had taken on‚ and conquered‚ his first marathon to claim fifth place.