Asefa Mengstu Negewu came back to the marathon that launched him onto the international stage in 2016 and destroyed a quality field to successfully defend his Sanlam Cape Town Marathon title in almost perfect weather conditions.
Running in a lead pack of six athletes that included Ketema Bekele Negasa, race favourite Laban Mutai, Duncan Maiyo and South Africa’s Xolisa Tyali, Negewu went through 10km in 30:18, some 13 seconds behind pacemaker Henry Kiplagat.
“Defending my title was important to me. I am really happy to be able to defend my title as this race put me on the map”, said Negewu. “I was hoping for a faster time, I wanted to break my course record (2:08.42) but there was a bit of wind between 11 and 18 kilometres which slowed us down, and the guys didn’t want to work together. So if things go well I would like to come back next year and try and win the race for the third time and break my course record.”
Second was countryman Ketema Negessa (2:11.06) with Duncan Maiyo of Kenya taking third (2:11.26)
Elroy Gelant in his debut marathon, was the best of the South Africans. Running a conservative race, Gelant stayed off the leaders until the 30km mark before he tried to close the gap. In the end though running in no man’s land for a longer period of time cost him and slowed down in the latter stages of the race. Nevertheless his 2:12.49 was good enough for fifth overall.
The women’s race saw some drama as pacemaker Helalia Johannes went out at a blistering pace, dropping the main protagonists by the halfway mark, reached in 1:15.22. Strung out behind her were all the race favourites, some 38 seconds adrift. Running comfortably in that chase pack were Meserey Asefan, Betelhem Moges, Fantu Jimma and Agnes Kiprop among others. South Africa’s Irvette van Zyl was content to sit roughly a minute further down.
By 35km it was clear that, pacemaking duties fulfilled, Johannes was going for the win and when she saw the finish line two kilometres out, she must have thought that the win was hers. But literally within less than a kilometre to go, she was caught by Betelhem Moges who went on to win in 2:30.22, Johannes coming through six seconds adrift (2:30.28) and Agnes Kiprop third in 2:31.00.
“I was looking for 2:27 or faster, but the pace between 10km and 25km was a bit slow, so I lost some time there”, said Moges. When asked if she was worried about the pacemaker being so far ahead, Moges was a bit surprised that Johannes had stayed in the race for so long. “I was expecting her to pull out and was not aware that she was so far ahead, so I was surprised when I saw her in front of me. But I saw she was struggling and so I surged and caught her.”
Gelant’s fifth place means he was the first South African home and earned him a R100 000 bonus to go with the R25 000 for fifth. Irvette van Zyl's ninth earned her R12 000 plus the R100 000 bonus.
Lungie Gonqa earned the provincial men's title, with the race incorporating the Western Province Championships, finishing 17th overall in 2:24.31, and Ulrica Stander secured the women's crown by taking 14th in 2:54.08.
"There is no doubt now that the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon has established itself on the global stage. We have IAAF Gold Label Status and have seen times that we are not used to in South Africa. This can only be good for South African Road Running as the standard can only improve from here," said race ambassador Elana van Zyl – Meyer.
The Sanlam Cape Town Marathon boasted a mass field of just under 8000 entrants, cementing its position among the continent's most popular road running events.
"It is incredible how quickly the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon has grown, with its IAAF Gold Label Status making it the only Marathon in Africa able to claim such a pedigree. It is phenomenal. And the results show. A winning time of 2:10.01 is a massive achievement and we are extremely proud of what has been achieved in such a short time. None of this could have been achieved without all of our partners, and we are extremely grateful to them,” said race director Janet Welham.