Defending champion will not be part of the High Altitude Summer Marathon when it explodes into life in Mokhotlong on 6 December
Last year’s winner of the High Altitude Summer Marathon, Mabuthile Lebopo, would not defend his title next month but hopes local athletes walk away with first prizes in every section of the multi-category event.
Lebopo (39) told the Lesotho Times this week that it was important for all the titles to remain in Lesotho to prove locals’ pedigree and expressed confidence his compatriots would do the country proud when the race explodes into life on 6 December in Mokhotlong.
“Unfortunately, I will not take part in this year’s competition as I’m resting and not in good shape to run,” Lebopo said on Tuesday.
The veteran runner, who pocketed the M100 000 first prize money last year, however, warned that his fellow athletes would have to be at their best to beat a large contingent of top runners expected from countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya.
“The race was very tough in 2013 as we had some Ethiopians who were very competitive, but at the end, my experience made the difference and I won the (42.2 kilometre) marathon,” Lebopo said.
According to a member of the race’s organising committee, Thabiso Moqhali, registration for the marathon, which also includes 21.1km and 10km races, closes tomorrow. A total of over 115 000 runners had registered for the marathon by Tuesday, according to Moqhali, who won the 1998 Commonwealth Games marathon.
“Everything is in place for next weekend’s race and registration for athletes is closing on Friday, 28 November. We are expecting registration to continue even on the deadline day as some of our top runners, whom we expect to take part, are yet to come forward.”
Moqhali confirmed among the top local runners yet to register is Mamoroallo Tjoka, who came second to Asefa Chelitu Bogela of Ethiopia in the female category last year.
Since its introduction as the Mokhotlong City Marathon in 2003 and covering 32.2 km, the race has since become Lesotho’s premier marathon whose purse has increasingly attracted top, foreign athletes. Runners-up and second runners-up take home M60 000 and M30000, respectively, while there are also prizes for every athlete who finishes in the top 10.
The race’s organisers state on their website: “The marathon is a very challenging event even for the most seasoned marathon runner, and yet at the same time, affords an invigorating course for the keen athlete.
“The course, which takes the runners through picturesque villages and amazing mountain views, is done on flat asphalt and gravel roads. It is marked by steep ascents and descents. The roads do not require special footwear. There will be a drink station approximately every five kilometres serving bottled water. Electrolyte drinks and bananas will also be served at selected drink stations.
“For runners with other nutritional requirements, personal provisions can be placed at selected drink stations. A team of specialised medical doctors and officials will be in attendance for the duration of the marathon. The selected team will have undisputed authority to exclude runners who, according to their judgement, should not continue running.”
A well-prepared runner, the organisers add, should complete the marathon in three hours “but this needs careful planning as every part of the course requires a different strategy because of the topography. Even though we start the race early, 06h00, most runners will experience the sun and heat as they run. It is recommended to wear light/light-coloured running gear during the race. The greatest challenge at such a high altitude for athletes not accustomed to the altitude is breathing.”