Melikhaya Sithuba won the Old Mutual Buffs Marathon in an impressive two hours 19 minutes 13 seconds.
Sithuba, who now runs in the colours of Nedbank Eastern Province, led from the gun to the tape, with only Mzolisi Makhanda able to see his heels in the first third of the race. The 27 year old broke through half way in just under one hour eight minutes, and powered up the dreaded Willasdale hill leaving victory unquestioned.
“I’m very happy with my time. Last year I was injured and missed Two Oceans and Comrades. This year I’m back and focused on earning a top ten in Comrades,” said the effervescent winner.
Sithuba finished 9th in the 2009 Two Oceans and ran to 12th and 11th positions in Comrades 2008 and 2009 respectively.
“I felt strong on the hills at the end. I’ll rest now then go back to my training hill and prepare for the up Comrades. I know I can put Eastern Cape into the Gold medals in May.”
Makhanda stuck to the task, but lost more ground over the final eight kilometres to finish almost 700 metres adrift in two hours 20 minutes and 43 seconds.
Correctional Services runner Zingisile Marikeni spent much of the race in the lower half of the top ten, gamely awaiting the hills of the final third. As over-exuberant runners ahead paid the price on the steep climb, Marikeni picked them off one by one to claw his way into third position in 2:31:09.
The Old Mutual Buffs Marathon is an assisted course which run correctly delivers fast time as an over-joyed Thembinkosi Mdyogolo was quick to point out. “It’s a great race I ran a 2:37:44 which is almost 13 minutes faster than the fast time I ran for the province in the SA Championships in George two weeks ago,” said the Nedbank runner who finished sixth and first in the 40 to 49 category.
Suzette Botha was part of a large contingent from Kwa Zulu Natal and took the ladies race by storm. After a relatively easy first two kilometres the tall slim Eskom athlete left her peers and the majority of the men in her wake on her way to a two hours 49 minute and 59 second victory.
“I have struggled with injury in the past year, and use the downhill Pinetown 25km as a test for this race. I was pleased with my result there and thought I might be able to improve on my previous best here,” said the talented mother of two who has previously covered the Buffs Marathon in 2:48.
Botha added the 35-39 age group award to her trophy haul.
Xoliswa Bici was a distant second over 20 minutes adrift but had her hands full in a dice with East London’s Sharon Wood who eventually settled for the final podium position in 3:14:33 only 21 seconds behind the Hlazo runner.
Woods had the consolation of being the first in the 40-49 category.
Amongst the large field was Carl Higgins of San Diego USA, who used the race as the final leg in his bid to run seven marathons on seven continents. “I’ve run big events such as Paris which was my European leg, and small events such as Antarctica, which only has 200 runners, but I chose the Buffs to complete the challenge because of the atmosphere, and scenery.”
1 Melikhaya Sithuba Nedbank EP 2:19:13, 2 Mzolisi Makhanda Nedbank EP 2:20:43, 3 Zingisile Marikeni Corr Serv 2:30:29, 4 Thabiso Mohapi Nedbank FS 2:33:55, 5 Mzukisi Kebeni RealGijimas 2:35:28
35-39 1 Zingisile Marikeni Corr Serv 2:30:29
40-49 1 Thembinkosi Mdyogolo Nedbank EP 2:37:44
50-59 Desmore Oppel Durbanville 2:55:18
60+ Mashoga Mokone Nedbank FS 3:17:14
1 Suzette Botha Eskom KZN 2:49:59, 2 Xoliswa Bici Hlazo 3:14:12, 3 Sharon Wood East London 3:14:33, 4 Vanessa Zimmerman Kearsney Strider 3:16:08, 5 Andrea Ranger Old Selbournian 3:27:11.
35-39 Suzette Botha Eskom KZN 2:49:59
40-49 Sharon Wood East London 3:14:33
50-59 Judith Grove Hilton Harries 3:46:06
60+ Wilemein Smits Nedbank FS 4:28:04