It is that time of the year again when all roads lead to Mokhotlong for the annual High Altitude Summer Marathon.
This competition has grown from strength to strength and is now one of the biggest races in southern Africa, attracting top athletes from as far afield as East Africa.
This is all because of the M100 000 first prize that makes the race as big as South Africa’s Soweto Marathon which also attracts top athletes from across the African continent.
Yet as far as locals are concerned, it is a bit worrying that our top athletes will not be running in Mokhotlong on 6 December, including last year’s winner in the male category, Mabuthile Lebopo.
There is no doubt that Lebopo’s experience would have been vital in the race, not only for him but also many of our young athletes who draw inspiration from the veteran runner.
It would really be nice if our athletes dominate and win top honours in Mokhotlong, as they would be running before their own supporters.
Like he has said in his recent interviews, Lebopo believes his experience was key when he claimed the race last year ahead of Ethiopians, who are always a threat as far as marathons are concerned.
The country’s ‘Marathon Queen’, Mamoroallo Tjoka, could only manage second place last year and she has not been at her best in 2014. It therefore looks like it’s going to be a rarely quiet year for her without a major title.
I have to say, I’m really worried that our long-distance runners are losing their dominance to East Africans, especially those from Ethiopia and Kenya.
With Nkhabutloane Motlokoa, who recently finished in second position in the Soweto marathon, having ruled himself out of Saturdays race in Mokhotlong, it looks like we are going to pin our hopes on young runners such as Ramolefi Motsieloa, to do us proud.
It is surely going to be a tough affair to stop the Ethiopians and Kenyans from hogging the headlines in the biggest race of the Mountain Kingdom.
Like I have said before, I still feel the Lesotho Amateur Athletics Association has a lot of work ahead of them to make sure that we have the next Tjoka as well as Lebopo, as age is no longer on the two runners’ side.
The fact that our top runners have missed important races this year due to fatigue and injuries, tells it all—that they are fast approaching the end of their illustrious careers.
We need young and fresh athletes capable of continuing where the likes of Tjoka and Lebopo would have left, and continue doing us proud on the international stage, the way it has been over the years.
The fact that Tjoka has won the Soweto Marathon seven times, while in the male category, apart from Lebopo, we have the likes of Moeketsi Mosuthli and Tsotang Maine also winning the competition, means this nation is an athletics powerhouse, and we would want it continue that way.
These runners and others I have not mentioned here, have been great ambassadors of this country and it is time they are appreciated for what they have done for their homeland.
I also feel because they have been there before and experienced how it feels like to win big races, it is only fair that this country can utilise them in the development of younger athletes.
Good luck to all local runners and hope the titles remain in the Mountain Kingdom because it would really be sad should foreigners emerge victorious from the race—the same way Tjoka could only manage second place in 2013 while Ethiopia’s Asefa Chelitu Bogela took the ladies’ title home.