Lesotho Amateur Athletics Association Public Relations Officer, Sejanamane Maphathe, is expecting local athletes to reclaim their position as top long-distance runners by dominating Sunday’s Soweto Marathon.
After dominating South African races over the years, Lesotho athletes have since lost their midas touch and are no longer pre-race favourites the way they used to be in the past.
However, Maphathe believes the upcoming South African race, whose winner takes home M100 000, would see local runners reclaiming lost glory through the likes of Lebenya Nkoka, Mamoroallo Tjoka, Nkhabutlane Motlokoa and Mabuthile Lebopo.
Maphathe on Tuesday confirmed a host of local runners, including former winners Tjoka, Nkoka and Lebopo, are set to contest the 2014 Soweto Marathon on 2 November. Tjoka has won the race a record seven times—in 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012—earning the nickname Queen of Soweto Marathon in the process.
“It is going to be very tough because our runners have lost their dominance of South African races to East Africans and even the South Africans themselves, but I believe we can reclaim our position because of our illustrious history in the Soweto race,” Maphathe said.
“Not only that, I have seen that our runners are working very hard to assert themselves once again after a poor showing in other South African races in recent months.”
However, Maphathe is worried fatigue could work against Tjoka (30), who has already taken part in three marathons so far this year and is also prone to injury.
“Mamoroallo is that kind of athlete who needs some rest to be at her best. However, she is a top athlete who has been in this situation before and will go all out to defend her title since the race did not take place last year,” said Maphathe.
“Our athletes know that runners from Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya and South Africa have been dominating recent races and need to double their efforts to be at the top again.
“This time we go to Soweto with a mixture of experienced and young athletes and I’m confident something good will come from this healthy mix.”
According to Maphathe, the athletes have to dominate “from the word go” to do well come Sunday.
“That has been their weakness of late—relaxing at the start and hoping to cover lost ground later in the race. But for them to do well, they have to dominate from the word go, and maintain their position at the top.”
Nkoka, who won the Soweto marathon in 2010, told the Lesotho Times that he has been working hard to fly his country’s flag high once again.
“I have been there before and I know what it takes and hopefully all will work well for me in this year’s competition,” he said.