Celebrating Mandela

Young Pietermaritzburg runner Ndumiso Sokhela was thrilled with his marathon debut in Sunday’s seventh Mandela Day Marathon which was dominated by East African athletes.

Running in the colours of Arthur Ford Athletics Club, the extremely enthusiastic KwaCaluza-born entrant crossed the finish line in a surprisingly good ninth place at the Nelson Mandela Capture Site in Howick, where the late international icon was arrested on August 5, 1962.

Sokhela came home in two hours, 33 minutes and 25 seconds, with Sintayehu Yinesu of Ethiopia winning this standard 42,2 km marathon in 2:28,05.

Sokhela trains with three-time Comrades Marathon winner Bongmusa Mthembu, who was also at the historic event on Sunday, giving support to the thousands of runners taking part.

The 23-year-old Sokhela would have been a lot closer to fellow provincial runner Syabonga Nkonde, who was the first South African man home in taking fifth place in 2:32,28, had it not been for minor cramping in the final kilometres.

Nonetheless, he was proud of his performance and credited his senior teammates and coach Xolani Mabhida, who helped him along the undulating route of the race that started at 6 am at Manaye Hall in Edendale.

That was where Madiba made his last public speech before being detained, at the All-In-Africa conference on March 25, 1961. “I’m very happy with how I did today. I knew I’d finish in the top 10 because of the way I trained.

“It was my first marathon and I think my team came through big for me,’’ said a beaming but visibly tired Sokhela.

Overall, Nedbank athletes dominated, with Ethiopian Yinesu winning on his first attempt. Yinesu was followed by team-mate Mabuthile Lebopo from Lesotho in 2:29,11 and Kenya’s Mark Oyugu in 2:31,03.

After the event, which had one of the largest fields ever seen in the country, Sokhela said he hoped to get better from here on.

“I’m very fortunate to have guys such as Mthembu in my team, who most athletes look up to. I learn a lot from them and they all kept telling me to keep going. I know I can only get better from here on,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, Kenyan Loice Jebet won the women’s section of the race and Ethiopia’s Selom Alebachew came second in 2:53,21. Makhosi Mhlongo from Boxer Athletics Club was the first South African and KwaZulu-Natal woman home, in fourth place in 3:04,07.

Hammarsdale’s Ntokozo Mkhize, also from Arthur Ford Athletics club, finished seventh in 3:19,22 in a hard-fought battle. She said parts of the race had been quite challenging.

“This was the toughest marathon I’ve ever run, the hills. I think about five kilometres before the finish, I was giving up and I would have finished somewhere in the top four had I not stopped. But luckily my team-mates came and told me to keep going,’’ she said.

This year’s event, which is one of the Comrades Marathon qualifying races, was run in particular celebration of Mandela’s centenary year.

SELECTED RESULTS

OPEN MEN 42,2 km:

1. Sintayehu Yinesu 2:28:05

2. Mabuthilie Lebopo 2:29:11

3. Mark Oyugu 2:31:03

4. Justin Chesire 2:31:07

5. Syabonga Nkonde 2:32:28

Men 40 to 49:

1. Mabuthile Lebopo 2:29:11

2. Herbert Mokgala 2:47:36

3. Mosekamane Nape 2:49:27

Men 50 to 59:

1. Tumi Malefetsane 2:57:57

2. Raymond Nkwanyana 2:59:48

3. Reginald Ngobese 3:01:34

Men 60 plus

1. Anthony Nyabanyaba 3:45:59

2. Mfundiso Mvunguse 3:55:06

3. Lekhu Molefe 3:56:54

OPEN WOMEN:

1. Loice Jebet 3:50:00

2. Selom Alebachew 2:53:21

3. Tsega G. Reta 3:03:24

4. Loveness Madziva 3:11:48

5. Ntokozo Mkhize 3:19:22

Women 40 to 49:

1. Thato Sesheme3:40:55

2. Aloyisa Khantsi 4:07:09

3. Welile Mdunge 4:11:16

Women 50 to 59:

1. Zamlekile Rasmeni 3:54:29

2. Bongani Ngema 4:06:20

3. Vivienne O Carroll 4:18:10

Women 60 to 69:

1. Pat Freeman 5:19:56

2. Grace Sikakane 5:42:17

3. Rasheeda Kadar 5:46:48

Half Marathon

Open men:

1. Bernard Bii 62:23

2. Jobo Khatoane 62:24

3. Leroy Gelant 62:47

Open women 21,1 km:

1. Mamorallo Tjoka 78:46

2. Nolene Conrad 78:56

3. Jenet Mbhele 79:29

Open Men 10 km run:

1. Precious Mashele 30:32

2. Desmond Mokgobu 30:36

3. Badboy Toka 30:39

Open women 10 km run:

1. Portia Ngwenya 37:16

2. Nobuhle Tshuma 37:45

3. Thobile Mkhize 37:47