Global and national marks could tumble on Sunday, with a strong local line-up preparing to square off against a trio of world-class East Africans at the second edition of the FNB OneRun 12km road race in Cape Town.
Stephen Mokoka and Elroy Gelant would spearhead the domestic challenge, organisers confirmed on Tuesday, with the likes of Olympic marathon hopeful Sibusiso Nzima and Joel Mmone also hoping to produce a challenge on the fast, flat course through the Mother City.
Mokoka missed out on last year’s inaugural race when he opted instead to tackle the 10km Great Manchester Run in England, setting a national record of 27:38.
In his absence, Gelant had finished fifth overall in 34:51, after losing touch with the leaders in the second half as Kenyan Emmanuel Bett edged compatriot Daniel Salel on the line to win a hard-fought sprint in the latter stages. Both athletes finished in 33:32, just one second outside compatriot Joseph Kimani’s 18-year-old world best.
Bett and Salel were confirmed in the field last month, along with Ugandan Timothy Toroitich, who earned bottom spot on the podium last year.
In the women’s race, organisers said Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot would not return to defend her title this weekend, after the four-time world champion won the inaugural contest in 38:32.
With the title holder missing, in-form Irvette van Zyl was set to face a combined onslaught from fellow Olympic marathon qualifier Lebo Phalula, who finished third last year in 39:21, and twin sister Lebogang Phalula.
Though the siblings were again expected to put up a fight near the front, Van Zyl remained undefeated on the domestic circuit this year and was considered the pre-race favourite in an elite field of SA athletes including sisters Christine and Rene Kalmer, and fellow marathon runner Mapaseka Makhanya.
Aside from the R40 000 cash prizes on offer for the men’s and women’s winners, R10 000 would be up for grabs to the first SA athletes to break the 28-year-old SA men’s 12km best of 34:23, held by Matthews Motshwarateu, or the 38:49 national women’s mark set by Elana Meyer in San Francisco in 1999.
While times over the unofficial 12km distance could only be considered world and national bests, splits would be taken at the 10km mark to monitor potential records over the official distance en route to the finish.