Kenyan athletes Edwin Koech and Celestine Chepchirchir earned hard-fought victories on Sunday, while Elroy Gelant led the South African charge by producing a gutsy fight against a strong international field at the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon.
Though the elite men went through halfway in 1:03:46, on target to break the race record of 2:08:31 set by Stephen Mokoka last year, the lead group slipped off the pace in the second half.
Locked in a tight battle with countryman Daniel Muteti, Koech waited until the closing stages of the 42km contest to launch a thunderous kick for the line, which he crossed in 2:09:20.
Muteti grabbed second place in 2:09:25 and Mohamed Ziani of Morocco was rewarded for his tenacity, taking third position just four seconds further back (2:09:29).
Gelant held on to take fourth spot in 2:10:31, ripping more than two minutes off his personal best in his second attempt at the classic distance, as he achieved the qualifying standard of 2:11:30 for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
With the race incorporating the SA Marathon Championships, Sibusiso Nzima did well to finish 10th overall in 2:13:41, and Melikhaya Frans was the third South African man, ending 11th in 2:14:57 and clipping 43 seconds off his career best.
In the women’s race, Chepchirchir coasted to victory in 2:26:44, slicing nearly three minutes off the course record set by Namibian athlete Helalia Johannes last year.
Chepchirchir held off a powerful Ethiopian onslaught, finishing nearly a minute clear of her nearest challenger, Nurit Yimam, who clocked 2:27:40.
Despite struggling in the second half on her marathon debut, Capetonian Annie Bothma was the first SA woman home, taking 11th position in 2:41:44.
Marathon specialist Cornelia Joubert finished 12th in 2:43:21 and Lebo Phalula was 13th in 2:50:04.
Showcasing the depth of the IAAF Gold Label race, six men ran under 2:12:00 and four women dipped under 2:30:00, with the event establishing its place as the highest profile road race in Africa.
Earlier, in the 10km race, in-form local star Precious Mashele won the men’s battle in 28:35 and Fortunate Chidzivo of Zimbabwe took the women’s contest in 32:26.