Mphakathi shines as Ethiopians dominate Soweto Marathon
Ntsindiso Mphakathi and Adele Broodryk spoke with one voice when they suggested that organisers of the Soweto Marathon should consider adding incentives for the first South Africans. Yesterday's race through the country's largest township was dominated by foreign athletes as the Ethiopian trio of the Nedbank Running Club swept the women's podium, while their compatriots Daba Ifa Debele (2:18:58) and Gadisa Bekele Gutama (2:19:27) took first and second, while Lesotho's Tsepo Ramashamole (2:20:21) was third in the men's race.
Mphakathi was the first South African man home in 2:21:21, just over 90 seconds ahead of his Entsika Athletics Club teammate Desmond Mokgobu as multiple former winner Sintayehu Legese Yinesu was fourth (2:20:42). Living and training in Soweto under the guidance of his coach Hendrick Ramaala, Mphakathi knows the race well having taken third in the 2017 edition of the race and eighth in 2019. He believes that adding incentives for local athletes as is the case at races such as the Comrades Marathon could act as motivation for South African athletes.
"I think that could give athletes confidence," said Mphakathi during the post-race press conference where he was seated alongside Broodryk. "The reason is that we are not too many [South African athletes], we are few. So most of the athletes go elsewhere to run where they perform well in races. But when it comes to Central Gauteng races in particular we are getting a challenge with visitors. So if at least the athletes that are based around here can get used to running these local races like Soweto because there is something in it for them, then I think that can be much better."
Broodryk agreed. The Murray and Roberts Running Club star used her third place finish at the Comrades Marathon as an example of how incentives for finishing as the first South African could motivate athletes.
"In the absence of Irvette van Zyl who was always our first lady and also proudly South African, it was always going to be tough. We always welcome the international athletes because they just lift the game for us so that we can push our boundaries. But if I can just bring it back to myself at Comrades this year, when I fell into the third position after leading the race and the two international athletes passed me that's what kept me going. Knowing that I will be recognized as the first South African lady to enter the stadium. So I think if we can put that up to acknowledge the first South Africans or first three that will push the athletes to give their best."