Last weekend’s Cape Town marathon was described as a “great success” by race director Renée Jordaan in her first year as a contender for the Abbott World Marathon Major. On the road, defending champion Stephen Mokoka went two for two after a spectacular run of 2:09:58.
It was the Cape Town Marathon’s first year in its three-year audition to be considered a World Marathon Major (WMM) and placed with Boston, London, New York, Tokyo, Chicago and Berlin as the elite marathons of the planet.
Details of the application process are not shared publicly, but they are strict criteria that cover all aspects of the race and are assessed over a three-year period.
To become a WMM, there must be the highest level of quality and organization throughout the application period.
“The city’s support has been outstanding, with virtually every service department fully mobilized to help runners successfully navigate the course,” Jordaan said.
“We also thank residents for their patience during the road closures and for their enthusiastic support. Many of our riders commented on the fantastic road support and said it felt like a real Cape Town party.
Cape Town is in the running to become the seventh WMM and has therefore made some changes this year from previous editions of the marathon, including adjustments to the route – which includes traversing tourist destinations such as District Six – and the added a wheelchair section to the race.
The men’s wheelchair race was dominated by American Aaron Pike. After breaking away from the rest of the field with South African Ernst van Dyk, the American won in 1:40:15, just under four minutes ahead of Van Dyk, who returned to the house in 1:44:02.
“I didn’t expect it to be so difficult – it’s right there with the New York Marathon – but there are technical sections, uphills, downhills, fast flats, a bit of everything” , Pike said.
But this ascent [at District Six] was a bear. It was the steepest climb of all the majors. It wasn’t long but it was brutal, and I had to rest my arms after that.
Having helped design the course and organize the wheelchair race, Van Dyk echoed Pike’s comments.
“We have the ability to put on fantastic events here in Cape Town, so why not a major race? We can make this event a showcase for the Abbott World Marathon Majors,” Van Dyk said.
“My personal highlight was seeing a photo of Aaron and I crossing the highway, and in the background is a building with a mural of Madiba and Archbishop Tutu. It will stay with me forever.
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Mokoka goes back to back
In the elite race, the leading men raced cautiously in the first half of the race, passing the halfway point in 1:05:36, Mokoka biding his time near the front of the leading pack until the 32 km mark.
He then made his move and steadily increased his lead over the final 10km – he was 21 seconds ahead of second-placed Derseh Kindie Kassie of Ethiopia at 35km, and just over a minute at 40km .
“It was a difficult and challenging course. Normally at 25km you start to enjoy a marathon, but at 28km today we climbed this hill in District Six and it got really tough for a while. But overall I really enjoyed the race,” said Mokoka.
“I really hope this race becomes an Abbott World Marathon Majors race, and I hope government, business and runners all get involved to make that happen.”
The Olympian and multiple SA champion set a 50km world record earlier this year in Gqeberha – that mark was broken just weeks before the Cape Town marathon.
“I am delighted to win in Cape Town for the third time. I’ve also won races abroad, but it’s still special. Records are made to be broken, but titles stay forever, and this win means more to me than just running a fast time. It is also about the memories of our races,” added Mokoka.
Meseret Dinke Meleka sets a record
In the women’s section of the elite marathon, Ethiopia’s Meseret Dinke Meleka had the label of favorite hanging over her shoulders.
But she was more than able to carry it to the finish line when her quick strides took her to a first-place finish of 2:24:02, breaking the record of 2:25:44 set in 2021 by Lydia Simiyu.
Meleka left the leading group 30km into the race with a two-minute gap between her and second place and never looked back.
His winning margin was three minutes and 54 seconds.
“I really liked the race, but unfortunately I had to do it myself. When you run alone it’s so hard to control your pace, but I managed it,” Meleka said.
“I’m partly satisfied, because I was planning to do even better. If everything had been perfect, I had hoped to run a 2h20 or 2h21. The course was a little more difficult than other international races, but I was running to myself and was confident that I could keep a steady pace until the end. DM