Johannesburg - Given the big gap between the South African marathon runners and those from Kenya and Ethiopia, it would not be fair to expect our local runners to get anywhere near the podium at the IAAF World Championships in London today.
Desmond Mokgobu, Lusapho April and Sibusiso Nzima will carry the flag for the men’s marathon team, while Mapaseka Makhanya and compatriot Jena Challenor will represent the women.
A lot still needs to be done to bring the South African marathon runners up to speed with the rest of the world. For example, Mzansi athletes don’t train as a group and almost always underperform at major international events.
For the first time in the history of the IAAF 42.2km marathon event, both the male and female events will take place on the same day. The start and finish are scheduled for the iconic landmark, the London Tower Bridge. The course heads west along Victory Embankment towards another iconic landmark, Parliament, then back alongside the edge of the River Thames, bringing in further attractive sights, including St Paul’s Cathedral, the Guildhall and the Bank of England.
It’s a beautiful route on which the best runners in the world will be on hand to showcase their God-given talent. The medal ceremony will take place outside the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, also a first for the championships.
The men’s marathon will start at 11.55am, while the women’s event starts at 2pm.
April, who is the most experienced of the trio, started his own training back home. Nzima and Mokgobu, who are chasing a top-20 finish, are trained by legendary marathoner Hendrick Ramaala at Joburg’s Zoo Lake. Back at home, Ramaala also admitted that Mzansi athletes must not be pressured into winning or attempting to break into the top 20 as they were not ready to take on the world.
Ramaala wants Athletics South Africa (ASA) to dig deep into their pockets and bring big-name athletes and coaches to lend a helping hand as a way to narrow the gap.
Before the athletes departed for Britain earlier in the week, he said: “We must not put too much pressure on our male and female runners. To do well, they must first have many training camps and get more races. Currently, we are not anywhere near the 2:08 or 2:09 times, but, in time, we will get there. We have to get a group of Kenyans and Ethiopians to train with.”
In London, Nzima, who was at the Rio Olympic Games in Brazil last year, said he wanted to secure himself a top-20 finish.
“We did all the training with Ramaala at Zoo Lake. We just have to implement what we have learnt. We are ready for the marathon, but we want to use this stage as a learning curve,” said Nzima.
Mokgobu also said their objective was to learn. He said he wanted to run a 2:09 and he was happy about the London weather.
“We had a training camp and the weather is not bad. I just want to push hard and not disappoint.”
Makhanya is equally excited to represent the women and she is eyeing a top-25 finish.
“I missed out on the 2015 champs in China and want to have a good race,” Makhanya said.