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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'I still have the desire' - Nkoka outguns youngsters to win Fortress Running Series Sterkspruit 21km

“I still have the desire,” that was Lebenya Nkoka’s emphatic answer when asked about if he still has what it takes to improve on his times and challenge the younger up and coming runners. The man who celebrates his 41st birthday on October 19, was speaking shorty after winning yesterday’s Fortress Running Series 21km race in the small Eastern Cape town of Sterkspruit. The hamlet which is nestled in the shadow of the Maluti Mountains borders Lesotho and therefore saw a number of top runners from that country including Nkoka coming out to compete.

“I ran well. It was a tough course but we usually train in the mountains so I’m used to these kinds of courses. I had been aiming to run the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon but now that the race is close I realise that I am not quite ready yet and will rather run another marathon towards the end of the year. The year is definitely not over yet for me,” he told #TheTopRunner after crossing the finish line in 1:07:13 as Mopenyane Lebelo took second and Khoarahlane Seutloali (1:07:30) was third (1:08:49).

Nkoka starts to fly away from Khoarahlane on one of the downhill sections. The race which starts close to the Telle Bridge boarder post between South Africa and Lesotho is run at over 1400m above sea level. Photo Credit: Tumelo Mabua.

Despite a glittering career which saw him win the Soweto and Two Oceans Marathons, the man who represented Lesotho at the 2022 Commonwealth Games says he still has unfinished business. With a 2:12:20 marathon best which was set in Bloemfontein back in 2016, the Maxed Elite athlete believes that his is due for improvement and can challenge the 2:08 mark given the right conditions in the right race.

“Definitely. I can do it,” he said without hesitation. “I still have the desire and I think I can do it. For now my legs are still going forward and I still feel good,” he smiled.

The race also gave the opportunity for several schools to enter their learners in the 5km event. Photo Credit: Tumelo Mabua.

The women’s 21km race at what was the third stop in a series of four races hosted by Ismo Athletic Club and powered Fortress Retail Real Estate at their malls and shopping centres in the rural and peri-urban areas of South Africa from Venda, to Evaton was won by Lesotho’s Mathakane Lestie in 1:24:18 as Maxed Elite claimed victory in both the men's and women's half marathon events. Kamohelo Mofolo was excellent value for his 29:20 to win the men’s 10km, while Moipone Paneng won the women’s 10km.

The final Fortress Running Series race of 2023 takes place at the Flamwood Walk in Klerksdorp on 19 November.

Tshepiso Khati delivers post-race aerobics entertainment. Photo Credit: Tumelo Mabua.

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