Two Oceans Marathon champion Lungile Gongqa returned home to enjoy a victory in his first attempt at the Cape Peninsula Marathon between Green Point and Simon’s Town on Sunday morning, while Cape Town veteran Ulrica Stander outlasted her KPMG teammate from Johannesburg, René Kalmer, to defend her title in the women’s competition.
Nedbank professional athlete Gongqa spends much of his time training in the thinner air of the highveld in Johannesburg, having recently traded coaches and training camps from that of Hendrick Ramaala to Zongamele Dubheni.
But he needed a solid training marathon in preparation for the Oceans next month, and raced to victory in two hours 21 minutes and 58 seconds (2:21.58).
Hout Bay runner Anda Lubelwana held on to take second position – just over a minute behind Gongqa and one up on last year, when he gained the bottom rung on the podium.
“I was aiming to run around 2:25 to see if I was on track for Two Oceans, but the conditions were perfect and I was feeling strong, so was pleased to go under 2:22,” Gongqa explained.
Former Protea half-marathoner Lindikhaya Mthangayi made his presence felt in the first half, forming part of the lead trio with Gongqa and Lubelwana through halfway.
Mthangayi was first to fall behind after 32km as the runners passed through Fish Hoek, leaving the Nedbank and KPMG runners to match strides through Glencairn.
Without appearing to change his stride-length, Gongqa increased the pace at 37km, and within a few paces was on his own, leading the field through Simon’s Town and on to the finish line to take victory.
The Johannesburg-based Kalmer sisters, René and Christine, made a surprise appearance at the start line, creating additional interest in the women’s race.
But the younger Christine was forced out of the race before halfway, victim of a gastric stomach condition.
Older sister René, back in running following surgery for a hip injury and the birth of her daughter 11 months ago, took the field through halfway in 1:25, with Stander no more than 20 metres behind in second.
Stellenbosch marathoner Danette Smith was running easily in third position, 30 seconds back.
Stander drew level with Kalmer soon after halfway, and when she maintained her pace in the final quarter, Kalmer was unable to respond, leaving the Cape Town runner to clinch the title by over two minutes in her personal best marathon time of 2:53.06.
Nolene Conrad took out her frustrations on her surprising omission from the Commonwealth Games marathon team by racing to an impressive victory in the half-marathon, winning by five minutes over Zintle Xiniwe in 1:13.05 – just 11 seconds outside her previous best and signalling her good form ahead of the World Half-Marathon Championships in Valencia, Spain, next month.