George Ntshilizia powered through the final kilometres to wrest back the Old Mutual two oceans marathon crown for South Africa on Saturday morning.

A trio of Johnstone Kemboi, Ludwick Mamabola and Shadrack Mudimbu led the 9000 strong fiekld through the half way in one hour 33 minutes and 47 seconds with Ntshiliza way off the pace in 34th.

Kemboi was overhauled by Toyota’s Michael Mazibuko after cresting the long twisting Champman’s Peak climb and pulled away, but it was too much too soon and shortly after the marathon mark which was passed in 2:19:42, Zimbabwean Mike Fokorini stride into the lead as Mazibuko stepped off the road.

Although Mazibuko returned to the fray, the Lesotho challenge started to impact led by Motlhokoa Nkhabutlane who used the Constantia Nek climb to close his one-minute deficit at the marathon mark. The 25 year old Mr Price runner looked comfortable as he strode down Rhodes Drive, but the steeper descent past Kirstenbosch took its toll.

“ I was thinking that I was going to win the race when I was on the Constantia climb. I told myself the race was already finished, but at 52km I was so tired that I knew I had to just face the pain,” said  Nkhabutlane who visibly slowed over the final three kilometres.

Unaware of his position Ntshiliza focused on passing one runner ahead, carving his way from sixth position at Kirstenbosch top gate through to the start of Chet’s hill on Union Avenue where he could see his Lesotho quarry.  With 800 metres remaining the pair were shoulder to shoulder with the South African twisting between the cones in order to shake the little man from the mountain kingdom.

Cresting the final climb Ntshiliza pulled away to become the first South Africa winner since Bethuel Netshifhefhe in 2007, crossing the line in three hours eight minutes and 31 seconds. With Nkhabutlane only 18 seconds adrift it was the closest finish of the past decade and the ninth fastest in the 42 year history of the race.

Tsotang Maine was a further 30 seconds off the pace for the final podium place, with double Comrades champion Stephen Muzhingi filling fifth and achieving his goal of lowering his 2010 time by 50 seconds to three hours nine minutes and 40 seconds. “It went exactly to plan. All I want to do is to improve with each race. If I am improving then I can not complain no matter where I finish,” said the pragmatic Bluff Meats athlete who will be attempting to win his first Up Run on 29 May.

With Fokorini holding on for seventh and Henry Moyo repeating his gold medal in eighth, four South Africans squeezed into the top ten which was closed by Vusi Malobola from the Bonita’s club in three hours 12 minutes and 55 seconds.

In unquestionably the strongest women’s field in the history of the race, the domination of the Nurgalieva twins was put under scrutiny  on the climb up Chapman’s peak.

Oleysa was out front with Two Oceans debutant Nina Podnesbesnova as the approached the crest of Chapman’s.

“ I heard her breathing hard. I thought this is my chance and pushed over the top (of Chapmans), trying to get away,” said Oleysa who unusually was running without her twin who was having a bad day.

The Nedbank novice closed and took the lead on the 5km descent into Hout Bay, but lost it again through the graveyard section heading towards the Constantia climb.

With her energy levels flagging Podnesbesnova was caught on Constantia Nek by Elena who had worked through her bad patch and was now securing her customary top two position.  The mid-race challenge saw Oleysa go through the marathon mark in 2 hours 37 minutes and 38 seconds which set the foundation for a three hour 33 minute and58 second victory, the second fastest ladies time in the history of the race and fastest on this particular course.

“ I was not thinking about the record. I feel it will require a faster marathoner than me to finish in that time on this course. My focus was on securing my third win in the Two Oceans,” said Oleysa.

“At 33km I thought that my race was over today. I was in the sort of pain I experienced at 10km in the 2005 Comrades. I just thought if I could manage 80km in 2005, then I must endure only 23km to finish today,” related Elena who finished in 3:37:54. “ I was so happy when I caught Nina: I knew I was going to be able to hold my second place.”

Podnesbesnova  was passed by early leader Mamoralla Tjoka and 2003 Champion Simone Staicu but was able to hang onto fifth position in a credible debut time of 3:43:56.

Once again Bonita’s Farwa Mentoor was the first South African home in eighth place in 3:52:05, but was chased down by Riana van Neikerk in her first big race of the season filling ninth and Joanna Thomas taking 3:54:55 to close the top ten and secure victory as the first in the 40-49 age category.

Leave a Reply