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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'You need to commit' - Mokoka ready to run and says local guys can run sub 61 at NMB Half Marathon

After skipping the Absa RUN YOUR CITY CAPE TOWN 10K two weeks ago, Stephen Mokoka says he is ready to take on the NMB Half Marathon. The prestigious 21km race, which also doubles as the ASA Half Marathon Championships takes place on a lightening fast course in Gqeberha on 3 June. And after finishing in fifth place last year (1:01:14), the national half marathon record holder (59:36) says he has a job to do this time around.

"This year is a bit different because I remember last year at this time, I was struggling a bit and didn't have the right form," he told #TheTopRunner. "But when I look at my shape this year, it looks different. I'm told that there will be a few foreign athletes that are coming so I hope that we get good weather so that we can run very, very quick compared to last year."

Mokoka wins yet another national half marathon title in the colours of Athletics Gauteng North (AGN), when he won the 2019 NMB Half Marathon in 1:00:57. Photo Credit: NMB Half Marathon.

The foreign athletes that the man affectionately known as Tshipi talks about include some dangerous East Africans in the form of Kenya's Kipkemoi Kiprono who is a 2:06:45 marathoner and Ethiopia's Dinkalem Ayele who clocked 1:00:29 in Buenos Aires last August. Mokoka hopes that the visiting athletes will make the pace honest saying that the current generation of South African distance running stars have shown this year in particular that they have what it takes to run fast on home soil.

"The young guys have showed that they are in form, especially the generation of Precious (Mashele), Collen (Mulaudzi), Thabang (Mosiako) and even Elroy (Gelant) has shown that he is coming back strong. All the sub 29 minute 10km times that we saw in the Absa RUN YOUR CITY in Gqeberha and Cape Town show that our guys are in good shape," said the man who won his first national half marathon title back in 2008.

HOMETOWN HERO: Eastern Province Athletics (EPA) top runner Melikhaya Frans on the way to winning his first national title when he finished second (1:01:03) behind Lesotho's Namakoe Nkhasi (1:01:01) at the 2022 NMB Half Marathon. Photo Credit: NMB Half Marathon.

And as the only South African athlete to produce two sub 61 minute 21km clockings on home soil (one of which came in a thrilling battle against Gelant in 2019 when the latter took second place in 1:01:01 just four seconds behind him), Mokoka says the approach on race day is what will determine the finishing time. His advice is for anyone with designs on a spot in the SA Team to the World Half Marathon Championships later this year, is to go out hard from the first kilometre.

"There are a lot of guys that just ran 59's from the same generation that is doing well in south Africa, so I believe that if the guys can just commit the time will come. I like the way they ran the Absa RUN YOUR CITY GQEBERHA whereby when Daniel (Ebenyo) went hard then Precious followed and Thabang followed and eventually everyone ran very well. So if they can do the same thing and go 29 flat through 10km then we can see 60 minutes. It's about working together. The title is very important but if you're trying to get into the squad where you'll be exposed to a 58 minute pace you need to commit and see what level are you at."

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