'It's very nice to see young guys coming through' - Mokoka as he wins Sanlam Cape Town Marathon
Stephen Mokoka underlined his status the best South African distance runner of his generation when he cruised to victory in yesterday's Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. Mokoka ran a controlled race in wet conditions to breast the tape in 2:10:01 ahead of Ethiopia's Gebru Redahgne in second (2:10:17) and Tebello Ramakongoana of Lesotho in third. In winning his sixth marathon in sixteen starts, the 36-year old not only made up for the disappointment of failing to finish the Olympic Marathon in August but also helped to usher in a new generation of marathon runners who look up to him as their idol.
"I just ran behind the bunch," Ramakongoana told journalists as he shivered in the press conference shortly after running an impressive personal best of 2:10:24. "I told Stephen that he is my role model so I was motivated by running with him," explained the athlete who has spent most of his career running and training in South Africa.
"Before he said I'm his role model, I looked around and there were like five or six guys and I said to him 'my brother you're having a good race,'" was Mokoka's response to The Excel Running Club athlete's declaration. "I don't know him, but just the way he looked I could tell he was feeling good. I went to him and told him you are having a good race - good luck. That was at the 32km mark. That's when he told me that I am his role model and I said if I am your role model what are you doing here? You are beating me, but I am your role model," he laughed.
There was a similar outpouring of emotion from Eastern Province top runner Melikhaya Frans who shared a long embrace with the three-time Olympian after crossing the line in sixth in a new personal best clocking of 2:11:28 - two seconds within the World Championships and Commonwealth Games qualification mark. Mokoka says he was happy to help these less experienced athletes during the race.
"Melikhaya's coach (Mike Mbambani) asked me to help him during the race. He's a gutsy runner to be honest. He's a brave runner because even when I had to make a surge I told him and when we got to the 32km mark he reminded me that it was time for the surge. So seeing him coming through and running a PB - it's massive!" said Mokoka.
In guiding younger up-and-coming runners, the national half marathon record holder (59:36) is sharing the knowledge that he received from the likes of Hendrick Ramaala who held that record before him. "It's very hard to compete with young boys. It's only experience that matters, especially in marathons. It's those things that I learned through the process when I was running with Hendrick. But seeing young guys coming through it's very hard for me when I race with them, but it's very nice to see young guys coming through," he concluded.