By Chamu Wilson –
The third edition of the annual Free State O.R. Tambo Marathon dished out a mixed bag of thrills and spills as athletes competed for a chance to ascend the podium for the honours earlier today (Sunday 25 Nov) at the Free State Stadium.
The men’s 42.2Km marathon, the highlight of the event, produced probably the biggest upset as the winner was disqualified resulting in the second-placed athlete taking the glory. Zimbabwean runner, Rabson Chigara, thought he had struck gold when he crossed the line first in a time of 2hrs 24mins only to be disqualified on the basis that he did not have a temporary licence as was the requirement for all foreign athletes taking part in the race.
“I’m very disappointed because I prepared well for the race and managed to win it but I have been disqualified. I have a permanent licence since I run for Black Diamond club of Johannesburg and I didn’t know that I had to get another licence for this race,” said Chigara.
Mamakoe Nkhasi of Lesotho who had come second in a time of 2h 26min 03sec then took the gold while his countryman, Kabelo Lesia (2h 26m 22sec), took silver. South Africa’s Lucky Mohale, running under the Boxer stable, took bronze in a time 2h 27m 01sec.
In the women’s 42.2 Km race, Zimbabwean, Loveness Madziva, running in the Nedbank colours, took the gold medal in a time of 2h 59m 13sec with Johannesburg’s Lizzy Babili coming second in 3h 03min 52sec with Silindile Chili from Ethekwini coming third in 3h 05m 40sec.
A veteran in her own right having already won three other marathons this year, the 28 year Madziva said it took her three months to prepare for this race.
“I came here prepared for this race because I trained very hard for it. It was a bit challenging though because the heat was too much but I’m grateful that I managed to maintain my pace to the end,” she said.
Second-placed Babili was over the moon for taking silver.
“I’m very happy. I would have wanted to win gold but I’m still excited about my performance today,” she said.
For their efforts, the first placed runner (both male and female) pocketed cheques of R80 000, with R60 000 and R40 000 going to the second and third runners respectively.
The men’s half-marathon senior category was won by Puseletso Mofokeng of North West University who crossed the line in a time of 1h 08m 40sec with Godfrey Ramokane of Eskom coming second in 1h 09m 20sec. Third place went to Johannes Kekane with a time of 1h 10m.
The Free State MEC for Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation, Mathabo Leeto, said she was happy with the level of competition at this year’s edition of the O. R. Tambo Marathon.
“We are delighted at the progress of the O.R. Tambo Marathon since its inauguration in 2016. The vision was to come up with a race that can compete with other marathons in the country and this is still our wish. We will address the challenge of finances that saw us cutting the prize money from the top 10 that we used to give to the top three that we awarded this year. We are grateful to Old Mutual for the sponsorship and we hope to look for more sponsorship next year so that this marathon remains attractive to top athletes,” said Leeto.