Overcast skies and ideal temperatures greeted the 6000 runners who were released by cannon blast for Sunday’s Witness Medi-help Maritzburg Marathon, which saw two new event records and a mass of personal bests for the runners throughout the field.
Save Orion’s Clement Motlokoa Nkhabutlane was amongst the quintet who moved swiftly into the lead as the field crossed the Duzi bridge from the start from the new venue of Golden Horse.
The fierce early tempo, saw marathon contender Munya Jari, drop back from fourth to a more conservative pace better suited to the double lap distance, Mkhabutlane Letsekaung Sekounyela, and Matekase Lefatsa steamed towards the City Hall.
Heading up past the Imperial Hotel, the 32-year-old athlete opened his lead to over 200m and it was clear that not only was victory his, but that he would post the best 21km time in the history of the event.
After the climb through the highest point an even-paced time would have resulted in a 66 minute finish, but the overall drop of the final 7km saw the Save Orion man gain back his mojo to charge through the finish in 1:04:34, beating the previous event best held by Munya Jari of 1:05:54.
Nkhabtulane will be heading to the Paris marathon in April with the hope of recording a marathon time that will put him in consideration for the London 2018 World Championships in August.
Sekounyela and Lefatsa hung on for second and third in 1:05:50 and 1:05:53 respectfully.
The ladies race was won Nwabisa Mjoli in 1:25:41, with Boxers Maya Lawrie second and first in her age group in 1:27:39, and Michelle de Montille the third and final runner under the 1 hour 30 minute barrier with a 1:28:56.
Nedbanks Jari was first of the marathoners through half way and looked to be on his target.
“All I want today is a 2:18 time, so I have the London, (world championship) qualification” said the Zimbabwean who has a personal best of 2:14 set in last years OR Tambo Marathon in Free State.
It all looked to be coming together as he maintained momentum into the city centre and under the original Comrades Marathon start outside the City Hall.
However, the constant slow poison climb of Alexander Road and the extension through to Oribi Road took its toll as Jari lost his spring and power, allowing an uncannily fast Thobile Mbolekwa to surge into the lead with 6km remaining.
The previous E.G. Strider has a marathon best of 2:24 set on the tough Hero Marathon route in 2012, but has not raced a marathon since his 2:30 in 2013, and was now rocketing down towards the Golden Horse at a rate of knots, and defying all expectations, to break the tape in 2:25:00.
Jari faded badly to finish 5th in 2:31:03, while Temo Rampukuo picked his way through to take second in 2:25:59, and Thulani Duma closed the podium in 2:26:25.
Previous Comrades champion, Bongmusa Mthmebu ran below par for a 2:30:34.
The second “best-event time” of the day came in the ladies marathon from Lesotho’s Moleboheng Mafata who slashed over two minutes off Grace de Oliveira’s long standing best event time of 2:54:29, set in her hay-day as a Comrades runner.
The 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games 800m runner was well clear of the competition when she broke the tape in 2:52:21, but nine minutes off her best set in Cape Town in 2008.
It was the ideal way for Mafata, who secured Save Orion their second victory of the day, to celebrate her 32nd birthday at the end of next week.
Janie Grundling (Boxer) and Fikile Mbuthuma were never really in contention, but finished second and third just failing to break the three-hour barrier in 3:01:23 and 3:03:12 respectively.
1 Thobile Mbolekwa 2:25:00, 2 Temo Rampukuo 2:25:59, 3 Thulani Duma 2:26:25, 4 Bongmusa Mthmebu 2:30:34, 5 Munyaradzi Jari 2:31:03, 6 Thuso Mosiea 2:32:46, 7 Augostines Bokaako 2:33:36, 8 Philani Ngcobo 2:35:10, 9 Thelumusa Sibiya 2:35:48, 9 Nhlanhla Tshabalala 2:36:55
1 Moleboheng Mafata (LES) 2:52:21, 2 Janie Grundling 3:01:23, 3 Fikile Mbuthuma 3:03:12, 4 Lisa Collett 3:06:20, 5 Kirsten Williams 3:11:18, 6 Candyce Hall 3:13:13, 7 Ashleigh White 3:13:22, 8Dawn Nunes 3:19:00, 9 Andile Sibiya 3:19:04, 10 Nonsikelelo Mbambo 3:21:14
1 Motlokoa Mkhabutlane 1:04:34, 2 Letsekaung Sekounyela 1:05:50, 3 Matekase Lefatsa 1:05:53, 4 Mholi Jali 1:07:48, 5 Siphiwe Mdlela 1:08:13, 6 Thulani Mdletshe 1:08:41, 7 Nkosinathi Duma 1:08:55, 8 Eric Ngubane 1:09:14, Donal Kgosimang 1:13:28, Mlondi Benedict 1:13:28
1 Nwabisa Mjoli 1:25:41, 2 Maya Lawrie 1:27:39, 3 Michelle de Montille 1:28:56, 4 Xoli Madida 1:30:06, 5 Kholiswa Sontsele 1:30:32, 6 Shani Silver 1:30:49, 7 Nomcebo Mthethwa 1:32;25, 8 Danielle Adlam 1:33:22, 9 Nokukhanya Memela 1:34:13, 10 Melody Olivier 1:35:27
10km (not ratified)
1 Ayanda Mncube 29:45, 2 Thobani Changwe 29:55, 3 Mziwenkosi Mjaja 30:18, 4 Anele Dlamini 30:29, 5 Ndumiso Sokhela 30:33, 6 Lindokuhle Sithole 30:41, 7 Nkosikhona Mhlakwana 30:50, 8 Bhekani Sithole 30:53, 9 Zama Mnbiyata 30:57, 10 Buti Mokoena 31:05
1 Sebzeni Thomas 34:13, 2 Loveness Madziva 34:42, 3 Makhasazone Mhlongo 35:56, 4 Puseletso Dladla 37:33, 5 Makatisi Mokubelete 37:44, 6 Bathobile Mkhize 37:48, 7 Thobile Mkhize 38:03, 8 Slindile Chili 38:44, 9 Zisandele Mkhize 40:21, 10 Sinenhlanhla Ndlovu 41:08