National records under threat again at NMB Half Marathon as organizers gear up for world class race
With a number of national records having been set at the race since it was first run back in 2014, The Nelson Mandela Bay Half Marathon has built a reputation as one of the fastest 21km courses on the African continent. Last year alone, four national records fell as Lesotho's Namakoe Nkhasi (1:01:01) and Neheng Khathala (1:09:57) bettered the Mountain Kingdom's men's and women's records respectively, while Daniel Paulus (1:01:10) and Helalia Johannes (1:07:49) did the same for Namibia.
Race Director Mike Mbambani says that because the race holds the coveted World Athletics Elite Label status, they have a responsibility to deliver a world class event. "With the support of our title sponsors, the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, we are expecting around 1500 local, national and international elite athletes to gather in Gqeberha – our City of action. We have a very strong LOC behind the scenes, it is always good to do things by the book. This makes my life easy as Race Director."
This time around Khathala enters the race on the back of what has already been a very busy 2023 season. This month alone, the University of the North West athlete started by dominating the University Sports South Africa (USSA) Track and Field Championships with victory in the 5000m, 10 000m and half marathon. Then on the 14th of May running she took third place (32:13) at the Absa RUN YOUR CITY CAPE TOWN 10K, just seven seconds outside her personal best.
The Hollywood Athletic Club top runner believes that she can improve on her best 2022 NMB Half Marathon clocking which would mean yet another national record. "This year I’m hoping to run under 69. It’s my greatest desire - If I can see myself running under 69 I’ll be very, very happy. I really want to achieve that."
And with the best half marathon route in the country and generally excellent weather conditions in The Friendly City at that time of year (June 3), it is little surprise that the NMB Half Marathon will once again incorporate the ASA Half Marathon Championships. Homeboy Melikhaya Frans who took the title ahead of Precious Mashele and Stephen Mokoka last year when he smashed his lifetime best by over a minute (1:01:03), will be on the start line once again as will Mashele.
Athletics South Africa resident James Moloi says the decision to make the NMB Half Marathon a national championship event is an easy one because of the high quality of the race. “We must applaud the organisers of the Nelson Mandela Bay Half Marathon which incorporates the ASA Half Marathon Championships for being one of the best organised races of the 21.1km distance not only in the country but in the world.”