They came, they took part, they conquered and returned to their country with R200 000 in their pockets.
This is the amazing story of two Ethiopian marathon runners – Sintayehi Legese Yinesu (28) and Meseret Mengistu Biru (26) – who each pocketed R100 000 after respectively clinching victory in the men’s and women’s categories of the 42,2km race of the new-look Soweto Marathon on Sunday.
Yinesu finished the race in 2 hours 17 minutes, while Biru made it in 2 hours 36 minutes.
The sensational way in which the duo cruised to victory was all the marathon needed to relaunch itself after it was briefly put off course by internal wrangling in Athletics South Africa.
The 2012 champion, Shadrack Kemboi of Kenya, also took part but failed to place in the top three positions, such was the intensity of the competition.
“The Soweto Marathon is back with a bang,” elated Soweto Marathon Director and Organiser Banele Sindane exclaimed. “And it’s here to stay.”
“Our aim is to grow the race so it can be counted among the best in the world. Already, the race has made a name for itself.”
Earlier – at 6am to be exact – there was a sense of anticipation and excitement as Johannesburg Executive Mayor Mpho Parks Tau signalled the start of the marathon at the Nasrec Exhibition Centre outside Soweto.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura was one of the celebrities at the starting point to take part in the marathon.
More than 20 000 runners took part in this year’s marathon, which was divided into three: 42,2km race, 21,1km race and 10km race.
The weather, which can be a spoil sport sometimes, also did not disappoint. It was a mild and glorious day, perfect for running.
Yinesu and Biru were not the only foreigners who dominated the marathon. In the main men’s race, Lesotho nationals Tebogo Sello and Motlokoa Nkhabutlane took second and third positions respectively. In the women’s main race, it was Isabella Jepchumba of Kenya who came second.
But South Africans were not to be completely outdone. Joel Moni gallantly clinched victory in the 21,1km men’s race, while Xoliswa Ntshali came second. The women’s version of the race was won by Mapaseka Makhanya.
Both Galant and Makhanya won R10 000 each for their remarkable efforts.
Desmond Mokgobu outran and outpaced his challengers to win the 10km men’s race, pocketing R5 000 in prize-money in the process. Lebogang won the women’s race and also received R5 000 for her efforts.
Johannesburg’s municipal-owned entities such as JMPD and the Emergency Management Services were on hand to make the marathon an incident-free and memorable event.
Mayor Tau fully supports the marathon as it eloquently speaks to the City’s Healthy Lifestyle Programme, which encourages Johannesburg residents to engage in physical activities such as running, walking and cycling to improve their health and enhance the city’s life expectancy.
Sponsors such as Nike, Nedbank, Coca-Cola and the National Lottery contributed to the success of this year’s edition of the marathon.
Thousands line up for Soweto Marathon