Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 163 November 2023 | Page 34


Viva Soweto , Viva South Africa

The 28 th edition of the ever-popular African Bank Soweto Marathon took to the streets of SA ’ s most famous township on Sunday 5 November , with over 21,000 runners once again warmly welcomed and supported by the community of Soweto , and there was a welcome local flavour on the top step of the podium . – BY SEAN FALCONER with SOWETO MARATHON TRUST

Going into the 2023 edition of the African Bank Soweto Marathon , local supporters would have been forgiven for thinking that the chances of a local winner emerging from the pack were small . After all , the last time a South African male runner had taken line honours in The People ’ s Race was way back in 2011 , when Michael Mazibuko was first home . Also , former three-time winner of the women ’ s race from 2017-2019 , Irvette van Zyl , was perhaps not yet back to top form after missing the first half of the year with a leg injury . However , about two and a half hours after the starter ’ s gun was fired , South Africa was able to celebrate two wins from two in this iconic marathon , and the suspension of the recent international domination of the race .

In the men ’ s race , it was Ntsindiso Mphakathi who crossed the line in 2:19:13 to claim the first local win in 12 years , finishing a comfortable 39 seconds clear of second-placed Daba Ifa Debele of
Ntsindiso Mphakathi on his way to winning the men ’ s marathon
Ethiopia ( 2:19:52 ). He was the winner of the Prince Mangosuthu Ultra-marathon in April , and finished fifth overall and first South African in last year ’ s Soweto Marathon . After the race , he said , “ I ’ m very happy with this first position . I ’ ve been trying since 2013 to win the race , and I think I ’ m one of the better runners on a tough course like Soweto , but I ’ ve been patient , and that ’ s why I am so happy with this win .”
In the women ’ s race , Van Zyl continued her remarkable return to racing as she claimed her fourth Soweto victory in 2:34:16 , and by a comfortable margin , too – nearly two minutes – over Ethiopia ’ s Selam Fente Gebre ( 2:36:04 ). The defending women ’ s champion , Ethiopia ’ s Chaltu Bedo Negashu , was fourth . Van Zyl described it as a sweet victory : “ The competition was really tough today , probably the toughest since I have been running Soweto . I had three other women with me up till Vilakazi Street , and I tried to slow down , to let them do a bit of the work in setting the pace , but they didn ’ t want to do that . I knew Vilakazi Street is a long climb , and the last 10km are brutal , where we would all suffer , so I made a break and it paid off .”
Waking Up Soweto
With three distances on offer , the first of three start guns went off at 5:30am , unleashing the marathon runners into the quiet streets of Soweto . The nearly 6000-strong field was in great spirits , and probably woke up the few Sowetans still enjoying a Sunday sleep-in , but soon the majority of residents were lining the streets to spur on the eager athletes as they traversed the Gauteng township on a cool summer morning .
At 6am sharp , the gun was fired to start the half marathon , and 30 minutes later it was the turn of the more than 7000 runners and walkers in the 10km . With a spring in their step , no doubt boosted by the Springboks ’ Rugby World Cup triumph one week
Irvette van Zyl made it four wins in her favourite marathon
prior , runners and spectators came from far and wide to celebrate The People ’ s Race . There had been a few issues during registration , notably with the incorrect number of race T-shirts being delivered – which the Soweto Marathon Trust has pledged to sort out – but for most entrants , the focus was on having as much fun on the run as possible .
In the half marathon , first home was Lesotho ’ s Kamohelo Mofolo in 1:08:04 , followed by Tiisetso Mokhoma in 1:08:28 . Line honours in the women ’ s half marathon went to Rutendo Nyahora of Zimbabwe , who took the win in 1:18:15 , with Lebo Phalula second in 1:18:58 . In the 10km men ’ s race , first over the line was Tebello Ramakogoana in 29:21 , followed by Desmond Mokgobu in 31:04 . The women ’ s 10km race was dominated by Cacisile Sosibo of Boxer , who finished well ahead of second-placed Nwabisa Mjoli ( 37:37 ). Sosibo did well to post this win , considering
Images : Tobias Ginsberg , Action Photo
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