With last year’s winners setting their sights elsewhere, new champions will be crowned at the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon on Sunday, along with new national champions.
Local star Stephen Mokoka, who won the 2018 men’s race in 2:08:31, and Namibian athlete Helalia Johannes, who took the women’s contest in 2:29:28, had both committed to the marathon races at the upcoming IAAF World Championships in Doha.
In the absence of Mokoka, in-form athlete Elroy Gelant was hoping to put up a fight at the IAAF Gold Label event, in only his second appearance over the 42km distance.
Gelant finished fifth on his marathon debut in Cape Town in 2017, completing the race in a respectable time of 2:12:49.
He was sidelined for a period last year after having a hernia operation, but the 33-year-old athlete burst back into form this season, taking second place behind Mokoka at the SA Half-Marathon Championships in Port Elizabeth in July in a personal best 1:01:01.
He hoped to capitalise on his fine shape in the Mother City this weekend by achieving the qualifying standard of 2:11:30 for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
“Last time around I just wanted to get familiar with the marathon and I stuck with the second bunch going into the race,” Gelant said on Friday.
“This time around it will be totally different because I’m trying to go for a sub-2:09.”
Gelant was up against a field which featured seven men who had previously run under 2:09:00, spearheaded by former Paris Marathon winner Peter Kimeli of Kenya, who held a personal best of 2:05:38.
In the battle for the national crown, with the race again hosting the SA Marathon Championships, Gelant’s strongest challenge could come from experienced countryman Lusapho April.
While the SA men were expected to put up a fight, the local women’s contingent were more likely to struggle, with seven foreign women in the field having gone under 2:30:00 in their careers.
With national champion Nolene Conrad sidelined by injury for much of this season, twin sisters Lebo and Lebogang Phalula were tipped to lead the charge in the battle for the SA women’s crown.