Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 162 October 2023 | Page 21

Images : Guntis Berzins for World Athletics , Lauris Viksner for World Athletics , Marta Gorczynska for World Athletics


missed water bottle … that perhaps cost Thabang Mosiako a podium position in the men ’ s half marathon at the recent World Road Running Championships in Riga , Latvia . He was up with the leaders until the final waterpoint , but could only watch as the Kenyan trio at the front of the race slowly pulled away . “ I was going for a podium , but missing that bottle cost me . I needed that extra energy in my legs when the Kenyans went , and it wasn ’ t there ,” says Thabang with a hint of disappointment in his voice .
Kenyan Sabastian Sawe went on to claim the World Title in 59:10 , followed by compatriots Daniel Ebenyo ( 59:14 ) and Samwel Mailu ( 59:19 ), with Ethiopia ’ s Jemal Yimer Mekonnen fourth in 59:22 . Next over the line was Frenchman Jimmy Gressier in 59:46 , followed by Thabang in sixth place , with a still scintillating 59:52 . This took 37 seconds off his previous best of 1:00:29 , posted at the SA Half Marathon Champs in Gqeberha in June , and made him just the third South African athlete ever to dip under 60 minutes for the half marathon .
Only Hendrick Ramaala and Stephen Mokoka have gone faster than Thabang over 21.1km , but Hendrick ’ s times of 59:20 and 59:42 were both posted on ‘ assisted courses ’ that are not recordeligible , so Stephen ’ s 59:36 ( official SA Record ) and 59:51 are the only two
‘ legal ’ times ahead of Thabang ’ s new best . Thabang thus has the fifthfastest time ever by a South African , but the third-fastest legal time .
Reason to Celebrate
While initially disappointed at missing out on an individual medal in Riga , Thabang
Team SA takes bronze in the men ’ s 21km – our first medal at these championships since 1999
was soon smiling again , as his outstanding sixth place was followed by Stephen in 11th with 1:00:29 , and Elroy Gelant taking 13th place in a PB 1:00:56 , turning the clock back to improve his 2019 PB by five seconds at the age of 37 ! Precious Mashele was our fourth runner in , crossing the line 19th in 1:01:13 , and when the top three SA athletes ’ times were added together for the team competition result , SA found themselves in the bronze medal position , behind Kenya and Ethiopia .
This is South Africa ’ s first medal in the 21.1km team competition since claiming the gold medal in both 1998 and 1999 , having also taken team silver in 1997 . Meanwhile , in the women ’ s half marathon team competition , the South Africans finished a tantalising 11 seconds short of the bronze medal , which would have been a first ever team medal for our women at these championships , and given the country an unprecedented SA double podium finish .
Getting back to Thabang , his first sub-60 , coupled with his first two sub-28 times for 10km earlier this year , have made the pundits start speculating how much faster the 28-year-old could still get over these distances … and what he could do if he decides to move up to the marathon sometime in the near future . And that is very much on the cards , says Thabang . “ My dream is to become the Olympic Marathon Champion , and I will ultimately be focusing on the marathon . Who knows , I may just surprise a few people next year and run a marathon .”
For now , though , Thabang says that he and his coach , Mike Mbambani have not yet finalised his 2024 plans , and he also says that he will not take anything for granted , that he will continue to work hard and take it one day at a time . This is not just an admirably humble attitude from this world class talent , it is also the result of coming close to losing everything back in 2018 …
The South Africans were always in the mix in the half marathon in Riga