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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'After the 50km my body was stronger than ever' - All eyes on evergreen Mokoka at Cape Town Marathon

With a host of invited international top runners including two 2:06 athletes and one 2:04 man, Stephen Mokoka will have to be at his best to defend his Sanlam Cape Town Marathon title. The Ethiopian trio of Adane Kebede Gebre (2:06:54), Haile Zewdu (2:06:31) and World Championships silver medalist Yemane Tsegay (2:04:48) will have their eyes on Mokoka's course record of 2:08:32. But after running a lifetime best 2:06:42 at the Osaka Marathon in February and running his first ever 27 minute 10km on South African soil at the Absa RUN YOUR CITY DURBAN 10K in July, the 38-year-old is arguably in the marathon form of his life.

"I've been in a marathon programme for some time now. These days because of the age I take 5 months to prepare for a marathon," said the man who also ran the third fastest half marathon of his career when he clocked 1:00:29 for 11th place at the recent World Road Running Championships. "I believe my body after the Nedbank Runified 50km was stronger than ever and I hope I get faster now," explained the man who set a 50km World Record when asked about his 2022 foray into the ultra distances and it's impact on his improved marathon running in 2023.

Mokoka celebrates a record third victory at the 2022 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. Photo Credit: Sanlam Cape Town Marathon.

While Mokoka will be favoured to claimed a record fourth title in The Mother City on Sunday 15 October, the women's race is a bit more difficult to call. Although 2021 champion and course record holder (2:25:44) Lydia Simiyu is back, her 2023 form is somewhat of a mystery after having taken a year off from racing. The Kenyan will also have to stave off the challenge from the Ethiopian pari of Tsige Haileslase (2:22:10) and Melesech Tsegaye (2:24:47) who are the fastest women in the field. Keep an eye out for Selam Gebra of the Nedbank Running Club who claimed second place in the 2023 SPAR Grand Prix.

Training alongside Tadu Nare who won the SPAR Grand Prix and took an impressive fifth place at last weekend's Chicago Marathon, Gebre says she has benefited from the experience of her celebrated compatriot. "Tadu as my training partner, she always give advice especially on my weakness. She said I have to run my own pace to get fast time. The reason I decided to run Cape Town is to get fast time," she told #TheTopRunner "I love it there. I ran a lot of half marathons and 10km races as part of my preparation. My target is to run under my current PB of 2:30:30."

Gebre won the SPAR Women's Challenge Jozi 10km race in early October as part pf her preparation for the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. Photo Credit: Reg Caldecott.

Aside from the exciting lineup of elite athletes, the 2023 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon has also attracted thousands of social runners. This year 18 000 entered the 42,2km race which is an increase of 40% on the 13 000 that took part last year. The race starts and finishes in Greenpoint and takes place on Sunday 15 October at 6am.

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