'I have no words' - Motlagale crowned SA Champion at dramatic Durban International Marathon
Tumelo Motlagaleis South Africa's new Marathon Champion after he won the Durban International Marathon in a time of 2:11:15 in Durban yesterday. Initially Zimbabwean Isaac Mpofu had destroyed the field when he produced a scintillating run of 2:10:04 to win the race. But drama unfolded as Mpofu was later disqualified for wearing only one license number. According to the rules, all athletes are supposed to have two licenses, one on the front and another on the back. That amateurish mistake by Mpofu and his management team led by Craig Fry means the athlete lost out on the R50 000 winning prize as Motlagale was elevated to the overall winner.
Motlagale who hails from Zeerust in North West set his new personal best over the 42km distance bettering his previous best time of 2:12:40 set last year at the Cape Town Marathon. Speaking to the media on the finish line, Motlagale was over the moon after claiming his first national title.
"I have no words. I’m still letting it sink in and trying to enjoy my performance today. I felt good from the start, and even when the guys started picking up the pace there was no cramping which I usually feel in a marathon. I felt really good all the way,” he said.
Motlagale's achievement has lifted his spirits after a difficult last six years. In 2016 he had a bad injury which forced him into an operation that sidelined him for nearly three years without competing. His father Adam, who is also his coach stuck with him through bad times.
"In 2016, I suffered a knee injury. I went through the process and did the operation. It was tough because many thought I have quit or retired from sport. But my father was with me through the whole process till I started competing again in 2020. So I dedicate this victory to my father and to my family too. Without them, I wouldn't be this far in life. Today I managed to qualify for World Championship which was the plan. I'm hoping to make the team as it would be the first time I'm going to represent my country," he explained.
The 35-year-old Boxer Athletics Club athlete has put himself in pole position to represent the country at the World Championships in the USA in July. His time is inside the required 2:11:30 over the marathon distance. Even more remarkable is that Motlagale almost didn't make it to Durban to run after his province Athletics Central North West didn't have the funds to send him to the marathon championships in KwaZulu Natal. Boxer Athletic Club came to his rescue putting their athlete on a bus which saw him arrive in Durban on Saturday morning.