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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'I am not worried about the time, but I will be more focused on winning' - Mashele ahead of NMB 21km

After defeating the national record holder (59:36) Stephen Mokoka to win last year's race in 1:01.17, Precious Mashele will start as the favourite when some of the country's finest line up for the Nelson Mandela Bay Half Marathon on Saturday morning. Doubling as the Athletics South Africa (ASA) 21km championships, the race has become a highlight on the annual road running calendar. And with 13-time SA Champion Mokoka expected to return to the city where he set a 50km world record in March, Mashele will be a marked man in Gqberha.

"We are all set and ready for the half marathon," he told race organisers ahead of his highly anticipated duel against Mokoka. "My training partners have been helping me to push the pace in training. At Zoo Lake, we are like a family," said the man who trains at the famous Johannesburg park alongside fellow Olympian Desmond Mokgobu and University Sports South Africa 5000m champion Maxime Chaumeton under the guidance of 2004 New York Marathon Champion Hendrick Ramaala.

Mashele stops his watch after defeating Stephen Mokoka by seven seconds to win the 2021 Nelson Mandela Bay Half Marathon title. Photo Credit: Werner Hills.

Adding spice to the already hot encounter will be the presence of in-form local hero Melikhaya Frans, who like Mokoka will use the race as part of his preparations for the World Championships Marathon in July. Frans' training partner Thabang Mosiako is also in the race having showed promising shape during the last 9 months, while Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon 21km champion Moses Tarakinyu will also be in the lineup after his triumph in The Mother City in April. Not forgetting sub 61 minute half marathoner Collen Mulaudzi and Mokgobu who has already won three 21km races in 2022.

But even with the top class field assembled, Mashele is less worried about his opposition and more about winning this weekend in order to elevate a season where he has already defended his national 5 000m title despite battling injury. "I was not 100% fit at the ASA Senior Track and Field Championships in Cape Town last month, but my teammates have helped me to regain my fitness," said the Boxer Athletic Club man who ran a 1:00:00 half marathon personal best in Poland last October.

Puma Ambassador Mashele enjoying a hard tempo run with teammates Nicholas Seoposengwe, Kabelo Seboko and Jacob Malefo at Zoo Lake in Johannesburg. Photo Credit: Precious Mashele.

"My coach and I have a plan going into the race. I plan to use the ASA Half Marathon Championships as part of my preparations for the World Athletics Championships in the US in July. I got a wild card to the World Championships and qualified to run the 5,000m in America," explained the 31-year-old Limpopo-born top runner.

With the plan clear and the field stacked, the man who represented the country in the 5000m at last year's Olympic Games feels he is physically ready to produce his best effort at World Athletics Elite Label Road Race at Pollock Beach on the 4th of June. "I am not worried about the time, but I will be more focused on winning. I think the body is now OK," he said.

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