Both winners admitted they were not satisfied with their times, after letting the pacesetters go and relying on late surges, as Ethiopian athletes dominated the first IAAF Gold Label road race to be held in Africa by storming to a double victory at the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon.
With nobody attempting to stick with Kenyan pacer Henry Kiplagat, who ran on his own out front for most of the race, defending champion Asefa Mengstu Negewo sat back in the chase group and produced a late surge to win a hard-fought men’s contest.
He finished in 2:10:01, and though he was more than a minute outside the event record he set last year, he was well clear of his countryman Ketema Bekele Negasa who settled for second in 2:11:06.
Former track specialist Elroy Gelant was the first South African home, taking fifth place on his 42km debut in 2:12:49.
“I’m happy to win but I wanted to break the record,” Mengstu said.
“The pacemaker ran too fast, and then I was in doubt about whether to follow because I thought he might blow at around 25km or 30km, so I decided to stay with the other guys.”
In the women’s race, Betelhem Moges Cherenet racked up another victory for Ethiopia in 2:30:22.
Pacesetter Helalia Johannes of Namibia, who had led from the start, held on to grab the runner-up spot just six seconds behind the winner.
“I wanted to run 2:27, so I’m not very happy with the time I got here,” Moges said, “When I saw she was the pacemaker, I thought she was going to drop out, but then I thought ‘no, I must catch this one now’, so I sprinted.”
In her first marathon of the year, after recovering from injury, Irvette van Zyl took ninth place in 2:36:46 as the first South African across the line.