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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'I still need to work on my marathon' - Mokoka eyes 2:06 after winning Nedbank Runified 50km in WR

Updated: Mar 8, 2022

Stephen Mokoka's one man show during yesterday's Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km underlined his status as THE best South African distance runner of his generation. To go along with an African 10 000m gold medal, five medals at the World University games and 13 national titles, the 37-year old is now also a world record holder. Tshipi proved that he is indeed a man of steel when he broke the 50km world record on his ultramarathon debut in a wonderful solo effort that saw him cross the finish line 2:40:13, which was more than four minutes ahead of second-placed Tete Dijana in 2:44:09, with defending Comrades Marathon champion Edward Mothibi in third (2:45:27).

"The most important thing is that we've got a different plan with my coach for this year because we are working on the World Championships. So we had to up the mileage a bit to see what would happen if we up the mileage a bit in the first half of the season and then in the second half we try to push a bit faster. So I did not know what to expect and Edward guided me because he's an experienced guy with this longer stuff. It was just a question of would I be able to survive," he told #TheTopRunner after his historic victory.

Mokoka spent the first half of the race at the back of the lead bunch but then surged to the front to take control of the race after 35km with a 2:57km to break-up the pack. Melikhaya Frans paced the men to 35km, while Dijana and Mothibi would end up second and third respectively. Photo Credit: Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km/Tobias Ginsberg.

But you would be warned against anointing the three-time Olympian as the next global ultra marathon sensation because his answer also betrays the thinking of a man who is not yet completely done with the standard marathon distance yet. As the holder of a 2:07:40 marathon personal best, the SA Half Marathon record holder (59:36) is now just over a minute outside the national marathon record of 2:06:33 which was set by the legendary Gert Thys at the 1999 Tokyo International Marathon.

Suggesting that yesterday's amazing run was just a highly profitable experiment (he pocketed R330 000 for his efforts) Mokoka says he has unfinished business over 42,2km before he can call himself an ultra marathon specialist. "I still have a long way to go. I still have one or two more Olympics if I'm lucky and two more World Champs. I still need to work on my marathon. Me and my coach had a ten year plan to run 2:06 in 2020 - we were eyeing the national record at that time, but it didn't work out. I won't disclose when is it that I'm going to try the national record for marathon but it's still on because the plan started last year and if I can improve my marathon time then I'll be happy," he revealed.

van Zyl leading before Bosho and Muriuki took over the lead. Photo Credit: Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km/Tobias Ginsberg.

In the women's race Irvette van Zyl put in a gritty performance to hang for a third place (3:13:22). The Nedbank Running Club athlete had been aiming her own Women's only World Record which was set last year during the same race in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality. Instead it was Ethiopia's Amelework Fikadu Bosho who guts it out on the 5 lap 10km course after the departure of pacemaker Stella Marais, to win in 03:04:58 - just 34 seconds outside van Zyl's mark. Kenya's Shelmith Muriuki (3:08:29) was second.

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