1 April 2014
The South African men’s team shone at the IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships on the weekend in Copenhagen, producing the country’s best result in more than a decade.
Stephen Mokoka finished in a strong 12th place, lopping 11 seconds off his previous best time to finish in 1:00:46, which was the fastest time by a South African since Hendrick Ramaala in 2003 and 39 seconds off Ramaala’s national record, which he set in the World Half Marathon Championships of 1997, when he finished fourth.
‘I knew we were running well’
“Around 16km, I was on my own, but the guys were not far away. I knew we were all running well,” Mokoka said afterwards.
“I believe this is the best any team of my generation have done. All three of the guys did PBs (personal bests).”
Elroy Galant placed 13th in 1:01:09 and Lusapho April 15th in 1:01:15, which meant South Africa narrowly missed out on a team medal, finishing in fourth place, which was their best result since 2002 when they also finished fourth. They were just 25 seconds behind third placed Ethiopia.
‘I’m very happy’
“I’m very happy,” Gelant smiled after smashing his previous best time by a huge minute and 50 seconds. “I have to thank Stephen and Lusapho. They kept me in control.
“When the surging started, Stephen told us to stay controlled [and] let the guys come back later.”
Overall, the 2014 team’s performance was more consistent than that of the 2002 team, which achieved the same team placing. On that occasion Shadrack Hoff finished sixth, Ramaala 15th and Josia Thugwane 30th.
Victory went to Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamworor in a world leading time of 59 minutes and seven seconds. However, the Kenyans did not win the team title, having to settle for second behind Eritrea, who placed athletes in second, fourth and fifth places.
It was a story of Kenyan domination in the women’s race, with the first five finishers all being from Kenya. Gladys Cherono took the win in 1:07:29.
“Our coach told us to run as we talk and that’s what we did, but when I looked around at 18km no one had the energy, so I decided to risk going for the win,” she said after the race.
First South African
Rene Kalmer was the first of the South African women to cross the finishing line in 27th place in 1:11:53, which was her fastest time for two years.
“It wasn’t disastrous, but I was hoping for better,” she admitted. “I wanted to stick to my 3:20 pace, and I lost some time in the last five kilometres, running on my own.”
‘Over the moon’
Jenna Challenor finished in 47th place in a personal best of 1:14:20. “I’m over the moon. It was the most amazing experience. I couldn’t have asked for a better (debut international) race,” she said happily.
Cornelia Joubert finished in 66th place in 1:17:10, which was a season’s best for her.
Kenya won the team title, with Ethiopia in second and Japan in third. South Africa placed tenth.