ONE of Lesotho’s top long-distance runners, Lebenya Nkoka, has welcomed the return of the 42.2 Soweto Marathon following its cancellation last year.
Nkoka won the South African race in 2010, taking home the first prize of M100 000, and also coming third the following year, but failing to make a top-10 finish in 2012.
After the 2013 edition of the event was cancelled due to financial constraints, local marathoners were left devastated as South African races have become their biggest source of income.
According to Nkoka (31), he had already started preparing for the 2 November race and was hoping to repeat his 2010 heroics and bring home the top prize.
“I am so happy that the race is back this year; I have been hard at training preparing myself to win it again as I did in 2010,” Nkoka said, adding winning the race was largely based on thorough preparations, hence his early preparations.
“This is one of the biggest races that Basotho athletes always look forward to. We are known for dominating the race and this should not change this time around. It is always a challenge to compete in the Soweto Marathon, but the secret to success in such high-profile races is preparing adequately, and this is exactly what I am doing. My aim is to win the race because I would then be seeded when entering other bigger races such as the Comrades and Two Oceans marathons.”
Nkoka further said he was banking on his experience to prevail in the race.
“I have been competing in this race for many years now and believe my experience is going to come in handy this time around. I now know the curves and other challenges that come with the race, so I am really looking at claiming the title.”
His main challenge, Nkoka said, should come from Kenyans and Ethiopians, who have traditionally dominated international marathons and are also now taking part in South African races, which they hardly did in the past.
Meanwhile, the Queen of Soweto Marathon, ‘Mamoroallo Tjoka told the Sunday Express she would not be defending her title this year, after winning the race a record seven times.
Tjoka said she had already planned to compete in the High Altitude Summer Marathon, scheduled for Mokhotlong in December, hence her decision not to take part in the South African race.
“I am happy that the race is back but unfortunately, I will not be part of it this year because I had already planned to go to the High Altitude Marathon,” Tjoka said.
Tjoka said she felt taking part in the South African race would disrupt her schedule, and ambition to clinch the High Altitude race.
“I have competed in several races this year already and will not be fit enough to run both the Soweto and High Altitude marathons.”