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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

Melikhaya Frans wins NMB Motherwell Freedom 10km as WC Marathon preparation continues

For one who has been pigeonholed as a marathon athlete, Melikhaya Frans is showing more and more that he can mix it up with the best over the shorter distances too. In just the last year alone, the 32-year old has set four personal bests over 5000m, 10km, 12km and 15km. His 13:44.09 over twelve and a half laps of the Nelson Mandela Bay University track in February eclipsed the great Makhosonke Fika's pervious mark of 13:50, for a new Eastern Province Athletics (EPA) record. And he's done it again with another strong 10km run in his hometown.

"It feels good to race at home, which eliminates the travelling,"he told #TheTopRunner after winning Saturday's wet Nelson Mandela Bay Motherwell Freedom 10km run in 28:39, just 7 seconds outside the course record. The event is the brainchild of Michael Mbambani, coach and founder of Ikhamva Athletics Club, who with the support of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, organised the very first Freedom Run on 2 April, 2011 growing the participants from 176 entries then to 1200 three years ago. The race was back on the calendar in 2022, after Covid-19 forced the cancellation of the much-loved event in 2020 and 2021.

Melikhaya Frans celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the Nelson Mandela Bay Freedom 10km run on Saturday. Photo Credit: TaniaZ Photography.

In defending the title he won back in 2019, the national 30km record holder (1:30:54) became only the second man to win two races following course record (28:32) holder Namakoe Nkhasi's back-to-back victories in 2017 and 2018. And because his mentor and coach is also the race organiser, Frans was always determined to win on the fast and flat course. "The plan was to go from the start, hence I did 2:36 on the first kilometre. After 3km I had a comfortable lead," he explained after cruising to a commanding 77 second win over runner-up Matthews Leeto of the Nedbank Running Club to grab the R7000 winners purse.

But perhaps more important than victory is the confidence that Frans and his team will take from besting speedsters such as former SA 1500m champion Folavio Sehohle who finished in third place (29:48). It means that their plan to get the Ikhamva Athletics Club top runner ready for the World Championships in Oregon in July is on schedule.

All smiles. Frans pictured with his coach and mentor Mike Mbambani and his son. Photo Credit: TaniaZ Photography.

"I feel happy and I can see the progress on my marathon training. My coach is working on my preparations very well, but we are midway our training. We will now go to Cape Town for the Absa RUN YOUR CITY CAPE TOWN 10K on the 15th of May," said the man who set a new 42,2km lifetime best of 2:11:28 at last year's Sanlam Cape Town Marathon in order to book his ticket to represent South Africa in the United States.

Nwabisa Mjoli and Michelle Enslin of CHC-SA Construction after dominating the women's race. Photo Credit: TaniaZ Photography.

In the women's race, Nwabisa Mjoli won (35:16) by over two minutes from Ntombesintu Mfunzi (37:50) who also finished as the first veteran. Winner of the inaugural NMB Motherwell Freedom 10km run George Ntshiliza was the first man over forty years old to cross the finishing line at the Raymond Mhlaba Sport Centre in 32:16 to underline his status as one of the stronger veteran men still running in the country.

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