Asefa Mengstu Negewo came back to the marathon that launched him onto the international stage in 2016 and destroyed a quality field to successfully defend his title at the SANLAM Cape Town Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday (17).
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, Negewo went through 10 kilometres in 30:18, some 13 seconds behind pace maker Henry Kiplagat.
Kiplagat proceeded to pour on the pace and by halfway had extended his lead to 34 seconds over the chasing pack. Kiplagat went through to the half marathon mark in 1:04:29 with the pack clocking 1:05:03.
By 30 kilometres, the pack was chasing down Kiplagat and had whittled his lead down to nine seconds with Negewo driving the bus. At 35-k, the 32-year-old Ethiopian threw down the gauntlet and pulled away from his rivals to cross the line in 2:10:01.
“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 Negewo. “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 30-kilometres mark before he tried to close the gap. In the end though running in man’s land for a longer period of time cost him and he slowed down in the latter stages. Nevertheless his 2:12:49 was good enough for fifth overall.
WOMEN’S RACE - MOGES WAITS UNTIL LAST KILOMETRE
The women’s race saw some drama as pace maker 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 amongst others. South Africa’s Irvette van Zyl, content to sit roughly a minute further down.
By 35 kilometres it was clear that, pacemaking duties fulfilled, Helalia 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 with 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 and 10km and 25km was a bit slow, so I lost some time there,” said Moges. When asked if she was worried about the pace maker 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.”
The race boasted a mass field of just under 8000 entrants, cementing its position among the continent's most popular road running events.
The 10km titles went to South Africans Lesiba Precious Mashele and Glenrose Xaba. Mashele took the men's race in 28:32 to win by 12 seconds while Xaba clocked a lifetime best 33:24 in the women's. Both raced to the national cross country titles earlier in the month.