Top long-distance runner, Motlokoa Nkhabutlane , believes local athletes could regain their dominance of South African races after coming second in the Soweto Marathon last Sunday.
Nkhabutlane was beaten to the title by Sintayehu Legese Yinesu of Ethiopia, who pocketed the winner’s prize of M100 000, while he took home M50 000.
The 31-year-old runner told the Lesotho Times a day after the 42.2 kilometre race that local athletes now have a better understanding of their East African counterparts, hence five of them managed to get into the top 10 on Sunday. Teboho Sello, Ramolefi Motsieloa, Matela Makhetha and Tsotang Maine ended the event in third, fourth, sixth and eighth positions respectively, to cap a good day at the office for the Lesotho contingent.
“I think the hilly route got the better of me on Sunday otherwise I would have won the race,” Nkhabutlane said.
“The Ethiopian guy who won the event appeared better prepared for the route because he seemed to gain momentum when I was struggling, especially towards the end.”
However, Nkhabutlane says he is proud of his performance and those of his countrymen.
“There was a big improvement from all of us and I think it is because we now understand the Kenyans and Ethiopians better. In the past when we used to dominate South African races, they were not coming to these marathons and you have to understand that unlike us, they participate in bigger races across the globe, and are better conditioned to handle such competitions.
“But if we could also get a chance to run races such as the Boston, London and New York marathons, I think our performance could improve tremendously,” said Nkhabutlane, who also appealed to the Lesotho Amateur Athletics Association and government to assist local athletes realise such dreams.
“We need to be part of these big races, in addition to taking part in South African marathons. With regular competitions against the best runners in the world, we can only get better.
“Again, I think if we could be provided with coaches to bring a bit of expertise to our preparations, our performances would improve a lot.
“If you take me as an example, I always train on my own without the benefit of an expert, so I believe if I had someone to give me professional advice, I would be a far much better athlete.”