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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'It was my first time' - Nkhabutlane celebrated for excellent pacing at Sanlam Cape Town Marathon

Updated: Oct 18

Where the pacemaking in the men's race was not up to the standard of a race bidding to become a World Marathon Major, the opposite is true for the women's race at the 2023 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. Tsige Haileslase and Melesech Beyene survived the windy conditions as they both dipped under the Olympic qualification standard of 2:26:50. Haileslase won the race in 2:24:17 just fifteen seconds outside the previous course record, while Beyene was second in 2:26:22 and Shewarge Amare claimed third (2:27:26) to ensure an Ethiopian sweep of the podium. And that was all thanks to the superb pacing work done by Motlokoa Nkhabutlane.

Nkhabutlane pacing Haileslase through the streets of Cape Town. Photo Credit: Thami KaQoma.

"I'm so happy to have paced the leading women," said Nkhabutlane in conversation with #TheTopRunner moments after the 42,2km race run on a warm and blustery day in The Mother City. "It's my first time pacing women and I'm proud of myself, especially because of the time that she ran," explained the man who is the holder of Lesotho's national marathon record thanks to the 2:09:47 he ran to take ninth position at the 2017 Paris Marathon.

Assisted by his Phantane Athletic Club teammate Tsepang Motjolopane, Nkhabutalne paced Haileslasie from start to finish, encouraging her and adjusting the pace accordingly when she battle bouts of cramp. While it was Nkhabutlane's first official outing as a pacer at a gold label status race of this magnitude, his compatriot Motjolopane did come into the race with some experience after pacing Gerda Steyn during some of her training sessions. Nkhabutlane revealed that even though he was meant to stop earlier, he ended up taking Haileslasie all the way to the finish line.

Motjolopane pacing Setyn during some of her 2022 training sessions in KwaZulu-Natal. Photo Credit: Supplied.

"I was actually supposed to run until the 37km mark, but because I'm also training for my own marathon later this year, I decided to finish the race and treat it as a long run. It's a difficult job. It's very tough because the women run their own pace and I'm used to racing against the men which is a different pace. But at the end of the day, I was pleasantly surprised by how well I did," said the Adidas top runner.

Nkhabutlane and Haileslase pose for a photo after a successful race. Photo Credit: Supplied.

With the expected dominance of the invited East African athletes, the first South African home was 31-year-old Nontokozo Mkhize. The Black Diamond Athletic Club top runner claimed ninth position as she finished in 2:40:40 to eclipse her previous lifetime best of 2:40:52 which was set at the Durban International Marathon in February.

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