Though he was unable to maintain a blistering pace, gradually falling further behind the leaders in the second half, Stephen Mokoka was rewarded for a brave run by setting a new SA 15km record at the World Half-Marathon Championships in Cardiff on Saturday.
At one point it seemed Mokoka would threaten Hendrick Ramaala’s 19-year-year national 21km record of 1:00:07 after he charged through 10km in 28:21.
He could not hold the high intensity up front but fought to the end to finish 10th in 1:01:27.
He received some consolation after clocking a 42:44 split at 15km, which will better his own national standard over the distance by five seconds, provided it is ratified by officials.
Mbongeni Ngxazozo was the only other member of the five-man SA team to finish among the top 50, securing 37th position in 1:04:51.
Defending champion Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya, who recovered from an early fall to control the race, secured victory in 59:10. He crossed the line 47 seconds outside the world half-marathon record held by Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadesse.
In the women’s race, Nolene Conrad also stuck with a fast early pace, and she looked on target for a personal best after hitting the 10km mark in 33:59.
She too faded, however, in cold and wet conditions, settling for 37th position in 1:13:45.
Lebogang Phalula took a more conservative approach and was the next SA athlete across the line in 1:14:21, with marathon specialist Cornelia Joubert ending 42nd, two seconds further back.
Peres Jechirchir of Kenya won the race in 1:07:31