Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 166 March 2024 | Page 47



Every year in February , around 4000 runners dig deep into their reserves to tackle Joburg ’ s Toughest Half , the Pirates 21K Powered by Medshield . Now in its 46th year , this iconic race has earned its stripes , and lives up to its name , by taking the crazies who enter up Northcliff Hill , a route with around 450m of elevation-gain , affectionately known as ‘ Over The Mountain .’ This year , the weather played ball as Pirates Road Running President , and one of the founding fathers of the Pirates Road Running , Geoff Davies , honked the horn on Sunday 18 February to set a near-record field off through leafy Greenside , into Linden and Northcliff .

Race conditions were great for those in front , and Irvette van Zyl ( Hollywood ) whose race record stood for 10 years before British triathlete Emma Pallant- Browne ( PeaK Performance ) smashed it last year , came back this year to reclaim the title in style . Van Zyl was leading from early on , widening the gap at the top of Northcliff Hill to capture the ‘ Queen of the Mountain ’ award , and while Pallant pulled out all the stops to still finished in 1:21:27 , close to her record 1:21:07 of last year , Van Zyl managed to take just over three minutes off the record as she crossed the line in 1:18:00 . Third was Mathakane Letsie of Maxed Elite Lesotho ( 1:25:07 ).
The men ’ s event was also by no means a one-horse race , with winner Onalenne Khonkhonbe finishing a minute shy of the record in a time of 1:08:29 , just over one minute ahead of Maxed Elite Lesotho ’ s Lebenya Nkoka ( 1:09:33 ), while last year ’ s winner , Elvis Tau ( Maxed Elite ) was third in 1:10:48 . Khonkhonbe also claimed the ‘ King of the Mountain ’ title and prize money , as he was the first male runner to reach the top of Northcliff Hill . Running legend and three-time Comrades winner Bongmusa Mthembu ( Arthur Ford ) was also in the field and finished in a respectable 11th place , in a time of 1:16:23 .
As the temperature rose , so did the ‘ gees ,’ with Hot102.7fm adding to the well-known Pirates race-day vibes , while celebrity host Simon Parkinson flew the station ’ s flag by finishing the race and providing listeners with a ‘ running commentary .’ It was a cracker of a day , with more than 250 Pirates Road Running volunteers putting their heads , skulls and crossbones together to organise yet another memorable ‘ Over The Mountain ’ for Joburg ’ s toughest runners .
Images : SMacPix
For full results by Peak Timing , click this link .