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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

Mokoka to run Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km as van Zyl looks to defend title

If Nick Bester gets his way and sees a new 50km world record tomorrow then it could be Stephen Mokoka that does it for him. One of the country's most loved distance athletes landed in Gqeberha yesterday to take part in the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km race as he makes his first foray into ultra distance running. But having won last year's Sanlam Cape Town Marathon at a canter and armed with a 2:07:40 marathon personal best Mokoka is a good bet to go beyond the 2:42:07 that Ethiopia's Ketema Bekele Negasa's 2:42:07 ran in 2021 and grab R280 000 for winning the race in a new world record time.

Mokoka is known to do 50km long runs in training and should be ready to tackle his first official ultra marathon race. Photo Credit: Sponge Group.

"Last year when I was standing here we were all speculating about what would happen and I was confident that we would break one World Record but not two," he told a room full of journalists and athletes yesterday who have converged on the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality for what could be an historic event. "I'm confident and I’m going to stick my neck out like last year - we are going to break the world record," the Nedbank Running Club boss announced to a round of applause.

At 37 years old, it is perhaps the right time for the three-time Olympian to make his first foray into the ultra distances. "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 said after winning in Cape Town last October.

Mokoka and Frans in action during last year's Sanlam Cape Town Marathon where Mokoka helped Frans to run 2:11:28 and qualify for the World Championships. Photo Credit: Sanlam Cape Town Marathon.

Even better news for the man affectionately known as Tshipi is that Melikhaya Frans has been enlisted to do the pacemaking duties for tomorrow's World Athletics Elite Label event. Frans who recently set a new Eastern Province Athletics (EPA) 5000m record 13:44.09 is in fine form and enjoys a good relationship with Mokoka after the former assisted him to qualify for the World Championships in Oregon later this year.

In the women's race Irvette van Zyl who crossed the finish line at 3:04:23 to be the first South African female to break the Women’s (only) 50 km WA World Record, is back to defend her title. "I'm feeling quite excited and nervous at the same time. I'm really excited that the time has come to run and hopefully I can run faster than last year," she concluded.

Irvette van Zyl was only meant to pace last year's Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km race to 30km with Gerda Steyn. But she felt so good that she went on to win the race in record time. Photo Credit: Nedbank Runified.

The Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50 km ultramarathon will be broadcasted live on SuperSport channel 209 and Grandstand. Download the free FinishTime app called SportSplits Tracker to follow athletes and the race in general:

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