Johannesburg – Fresh off a personal best set at the Cape Town Marathon 10km a week ago, Lesotho’s Namakoe Nkhasi brushed aside the challenge of three Olympians to win the inaugural FNB Joburg 10K CITYRUN yesterday.
Around 11 000 participants celebrated Heritage Day by running through the streets of the Johannesburg city centre.
The 23-year-old, Nkhasi, crossed the finish line at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown in a blistering 29:48 ahead of Kenya’s Edwin Koech (30:07). Sibusiso Nzima (30:10) claimed the final spot on the podium.
The race was billed as the showdown between Olympian arch rivals Stephen Mokoka, Elroy Gelant and Nzima. Mokoka participated in the 10 000 meters in Rio in August, whilst Gelant reached the finals of the 5000 and Nzima represented South Africa in the marathon in Rio.
However yesterday it was Nkhasi who had too much firepower on the day.
“When we started to climb just before the 5km mark I could see that the guys were not strong enough to go with me so I pushed from there. Only Edwin (Koech) was able to stay with me. I knew I was strong after my PB last week (28:28) so when we turned up Rissik and Joubert street I surged again and Edwin was not able to go with me,” said Nkhasi said.
As expected the front running Nzima – who finished second in Cape Town behind Namakoe – went straight to the front, pushing the pace. Within 2km the lead pack had been whittled down to 10 men including Nzima, still driving the bus, Mokoka, Gelant, Namakoe, Koech, Joel Mmone and Phillimon Mathiba.
The ladies race as expected was between the twins Lebo and Lebogang Phalula and Zimbabwe’s Rutendo Nyahora. In the end it was the strength of Lebogang Phalula that was the deciding factor.
The 32 year-old had completed her debut Marathon a week earlier, finishing 3rd in Cape Town in 2:38 and there were concerns that the race would still be in her legs. However it was clear that the hard work needed to train for a marathon played into her favour as she had a 6 second lead over her sister and Nyahora at 5km (17:36).
By 7.5km the gap was substantial. Lebogang went through the three-quarter mark in 27:11 and made full use of the final 2km of downhill racing to win in 35:33.
“When I saw Lebo and Rutendo driving hard in the beginning, I just sat,” said Lebogang.
“When we started to climb before the 5km mark I saw that they were struggling. I knew that I was stronger than them on the hills and it was then that I started to push.”
“I am really happy to win here today as both my sister and Rutendo beat me over 10km after they ran their marathon, so this was good,” she added
Both the men and women’s winners walked off with a winner’s cheque of R20 000 each.
Results: FNB Joburg 10K CITYRUN
Top 10 Men
1 Namakoe Nkhasi 00:29:48, 2 Edwin Koech 00:30:07, 3 Sibusiso Nzima 00:30:10, 4 Phillimon Mathiba 00:30:30, 5 Joel Mmone 00:30:32, 6 Elroy Gelant 00:30:52, 7 Stephen Mokoka 00:30:53, 8 Gladwin Mzazi 00:31:00, 9 Jonas Makhele 00:31:02, 10 Collen Mulaudzi 00:31:08
Top 10 Women
1 Lebogang Phalula 00:35:33, 2 Rutendo Nyahora 00:35:59, 3 Glenrose Xaba 00:36:07, 4 Lebo Phalula 00:36:31, 5 Ikesa Moletsane 00:36:36, 6 Andrea Steyn 00:36:41, 7 Maria Shai 00:37:14, 8 Yolande Maclean 00:38:12, 9 Fortunate Chidvizo 00:38:41, 10 Kataza Shipalana 00:38:53