Athletes out to break new ground
Starting conservatively, Lebopo progressed over 25km to win the race in 2 hours 19 minutes and 50 seconds. Lebopo recaptured the Soweto marathon title he first won in 2004.
“This year’s Soweto was a real challenge for me and Tsotsang Maine (the defending champion). On the night before the race we ate food that did not go down well with us. This caused stomach pains that slowed us in the opening 15km of the race, Lebopo revealed.
“After training so hard for several months for this race, it is hard to just give up on the day of the race just because of stomach pain. So Maine and I started cautiously. By 15km I begun feeling better and increased my pace.
“Unfortunately Maine felt the going too hard and dropped out of the race at 25km. This placed a lot of pressure on me as I was left alone to defend Lesotho’s pride.”
At 30km Lebopo drew level with South Africa’s Jabulani Khoza as the two ran shoulder to shoulder for a kilometre. Once Lebopo threw down the gauntlet at 32 km, it was clear that the others resigned to vying for the minor positions. Lebopo went onto to recapture the title he won in 2004 in 2:19:10.
A bronze medallist at the Southern Africa Half Marathon Championships in Maputo Mozambique in September, Lebopo has a clear picture of what he wants to do next. “My goal is to improve my personal best (2:16) in the marathon at the South Africa Marathon Championships next February,” he says.
Defending champion the 21 year old Mamorolla Tjoka came into the race as favourite to win the women’s race. “I started conservatively because I did not know this new route.
Once we were past Diepkloof especially ‘heart break hill’ at 14km I felt more comfortable. Previously we used to pass this section at 38km and it really was tough.
“Leballo was my only serious challenge as she had beaten me in shorter races this year. So I held back and when I noticed her struggling at 30km, I made my move knowing I would win this time,” said Tjoka.
She retained her title in a time of 2:47:00. Gloria Baeba was a distant second in 2:52:11. Zimbabwean Margaret Mahohoma (2:55:16), Louisa Leballo (2:55:56) and Tessa Burrell (2:55:56) followed.