'We stand a chance' - Mokoka upbeat about Sanlam Cape Town Marathon's bid to become a Major
"You know with marathons it’s tough because you only get two opportunities per year." Those were Stephen Mokoka’s words shortly after finishing second at the 2023 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon yesterday. As a three-time winner and defending champion, the 38-year-old started the 42,2km race as one of the favourites. But after a slow start which saw the leading men pass the halfway mark in a pedestrian 1:07:02, the second half of the race delivered a thrilling sprint finish where the South African was bested by Ethiopia’s Adane Kebede Gebre who broke the tape in 2:11:28 as Mokoka finished five seconds adrift, while Kenya’s Bernard Kipkorir took third (2:11:51). Despite failing to win a record fourth Cape Town Marathon title, Mokoka was satisfied with his performance.
"I'm grateful," he told journalists who had gathered to quiz him during the post-race press conference. “I’ve had six weeks of busy life because my coach and I wanted to achieve certain things. I’m grateful that I’m in a podium position and I’m also grateful that the South African team to the half marathon Championships two weeks ago got a bronze medal. I always say if it’s not your day, it’s not your day. Today was Adane’s day. He ran well."
That runner-up finish means that the multiple SA Champion will end his 2023 season without winning a single race. It’s a surprising statistic for a man who came within nine seconds of breaking the long-standing SA Marathon Record when he produced 2:06:42 at the Osaka Marathon in February. The 3-time winner of the Shanghai Marathon says he is happy with his 2023 results even if he didn’t manage to cross the finish line first this season.
"I remember on Saturday after our long run at UJ, me and my training partners were having a chat and I told them that I haven’t won a race this year. I even told Namakoe that you have won a race so you are better than me - Cape Town is my last chance. Unfortunately I didn’t get it but I got fifth in Osaka and here I got second. So at least I’m moving in the right direction. I’m grateful because I have a good support structure. Nike is taking care of me, Boxer is taking care of me and also the Sponge Group," explained the Boxer Athletic Club top runner.
Having survived the blustery conditions on what turned out to be a warm day in The Mother City, the man who paced the Sydney Marathon last month had time to reflect on the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon’s bid to be included in the Abbot World Marathon Majors alongside the likes of the TCS New York Marathon, The London Marathon, The Tokyo Marathon, The Boston Marathon, The Chicago Marathon and The Berlin Marathon. Mokoka believes that South Africa has all the right ingredients to have one of it’s races added to that illustrious list, but having tased what Sydney has to offer he says we can learn much from the Australians who are also bidding for a set at the big marathon table.
“We stand a chance. The wheelchair athletes spoke well about the way they were treated and how the logistics and everything was on point. The team is doing great. I’ve been to Sydney and I can say the government is involved. So I think that the Department of Sports and Recreation in South Africa should also get involved because this is not going to be only for sports people. The tourism industry will benefit. If we can get a marathon major then it’s going to play a significant role in terms of growth and the economy. There are certain things that need to be done," he said.