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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'It was a very well organised race' - World Athletics praises NMB Half Marathon

World Athletics has praised the NMB Half Marathon for staging a world class event. The event which holds the coveted World Athletics Elite Label road race status, took place along Marine Drive on Pollock Beach in Gqberha on Saturday morning as a top ranking World Athletics official watched Lesotho's Namakoe Nkhasi (1:00:00) win the men's race, while Ftaw Zerey of Ethiopia won the women's race (1:06:57).

Impressed by the fast times and quality of the race from his vantage point in the lead car, World Athletics Road Running Manager Alessio Punzi gave the race the thumbs up. "Part of my job is making sure the regulations set out are respected so I also have a bit of an obligation to check the race course to see that things are done in the right way. It was very well organised and the performances of the athletes were up there especially in the women's race. But even in the men's race, to run 61 minutes flat without pacemakers is nothing to take lightly. The scenery is pretty spectacular and the race course was fast."

The NMB Half Marathon is a World Athletics Elite Label Road Race. Photo Credit: NMB Half Marathon.

That fast course organised under the auspices of Eastern Province Athletics delivered personal bests and records galore. The men's winner Namakoe Nkhasi's new mark is also a new national 21km record. In taking second place in 1:07:49, 41-year-old Helalia Johannes earned herself a new Namibian national record as well as a world best in the 40-45 age category. Her compatriot Daniel Paulus set a new men's national record (1:01:10) when he out-sprinted Precious Mashele for third place. Lesotho's Neheng Khatala was sixth in the women's race in a new personal best national record time of 1:09:57 to eclipse the previous mark held by Mamorallo Tjoka by all of 49 seconds.

And because the 21km race also doubled as the Athletics South Africa (ASA) half marathon championships, athletes travelled from around the country to take part which left Punzi feeling like he had been at a major championship event anywhere on the globe. "15 out of 17 ASA provinces were here; all of them with full provincial kits and support personnel, so it really felt like a proper championships," he said.

Race Director Michael Mbambani speaking during the prize giving as he is flanked by MC Alec Riddle. Photo Credit: Richard Pearce Photography.

That compliment from the sport's highest office will come as a feather in the cap of race director Michael Mbambani who first dreamed of host a world class event in The Friendly City a decade ago. Since it was first staged in 2014, the event which has enjoyed unqualified support from the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality has been chosen by the sports mother body in the country to double as the ASA Champs for the last six consecutive runnings.

“We continue to take learnings from our previous editions and build on every point to not only give the runners an opportunity to run a fast event but ensure that all procedures and rules have been adhered to in order for our race to meet World Athletics standards and offer a world class event to take part in,” said Mbambani.

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