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Zimbabwean men make their mark on Soweto Marathon

Mark Ouma for IAAF

5 November 2000 – Johannesburg – Zimbabwe’s Honest Mutsakani ended South Africa’s domination of the men’s title at the Old Mutual Soweto Marathon in Johannesburg today.

Veteran Zimbabwean Nicholas Nyengerayi set the pace in the opening stages of the race covering 5km in 15:40, 10km in 31:57 and 15km in 48:52 minutes before being caught and swallowed by the main leading group of 20 athletes after the half way mark.

Issac Sindani, Frans Chauke and defending champion Joshua Peterson took charge of the race for 5km - the only time the race was lead by South Africans. Mutsakani and compatriot Elijah Mutandaro surged with a split of 15:34 over five kilometres from 25km to open up a lead group.

By 30km the contenders for the title where down to eight athletes: Zimbabweans Mutsakani, Mutandaro and veteran Morgan Sithole, and South Africa’s Peterson, Jacob Mazibuko, Moses Rachaka, Nicky Masombuka, and Butiki Jantjies. Peterson became the first casualty in the lead group pulling out of the race due to a hamstring injury.

Mutsakani, Mutandaro surged again at 32 km. This time no one took up the challenge as the pair opened up a gap. Mutandaro steadily began to fall off the pace after 35 km. The effects of winning last Sunday’s Southern Africa Half Marathon championships in Gaborone, Botswana clearly taking its toll.

With no challenger in sight over the last four kilometres, Mutsakani coasted home to became the first non-South African to win the men’s title since the inaugural Soweto marathon in 1993. Although he failed to break Zithulele Sinqe’s course record of 2:18:03, his winning time of 2:18:28 was enough to erase his previous career best of 2:19:41. The runner up Masombuka came second with 2:20:10, Mazibuko third in 2:20:19 and Rachaka fourth with 2:21:20.

"The pace was quite fast for the first 25 kilometres. After that the guys seemed to slow down. After 30m km, l realised l had a good chance of winning. I was not afraid of Peterson even though he was the defending champion and the All Africa Games champion. I only know the names of some of these athletes. I do not know what they look like. So l ran my own race.

"I have been training very hard in Harare, with three sessions a day. I wanted to finish in the top ten so that l could go back with some decent prize money to support my family. The victory has been a great bonus," said Mutsakani who will return home 21,000 South African Rands richer after tax deductions.

This year’s Soweto marathon is Zimbabwe’s most successful appearance on an international road event. Although he fizzled after leading in the early stages of the race Nyengerayi held on to win the veterans’ category of the race. Freddy Kashiri won the men’s masters’ category, while Samukeliso Moyo won the women’s 15km race.

After retaining the women’s title in a slow time of 2:56.47, Sarah Mahlangu challenged the race organisers to improve the quality of the women’s field in future races. "Although l easily won the race, l am not all together satisfied as l had no serious challenge throughout the race. I really wish other South African women runners would work hard so as to give me a strong challenge in this race.

Mahlangu has been victorious in four of the five Soweto marathons since 1996. In 1998, she was runner up to Lesotho’s Angelina Sephooa, who this year took time off to have a baby.

"I really think the race organisers should invite some ladies from other African countries to give me some serious challenge. I am unable to run fast times when there is no challenge," said Mahlangu.

"Sarah is right. We need this kind of response from our athletes. We will in future look at inviting international athletes to help develop the quality of South Africa’s women marathon runners," said Leonard Chuene, the Athletics South Africa President.

He was full of praise for the six-member Zimbabwean men’s contingent that made its mark at the race. "Our greatest achievement today is that athletes from other African countries have begun taking our race seriously.

"We always read about the Kenyans and Ethiopians sweeping most of the prizes in races in Europe and America, but we have not seen Africans supporting one another in races here on the continent. Today Zimbabwean athletes have made Africans feel proud of themselves. This is good as it contributes to the African Renaissance," said Chuene who is also Africa’s Representative on the IAAF Council.


Note: All Athletes are South Africans unless stated otherwise.


1. Honest Mutsakani (Zimbabwe) 2:18:28
2. Nicky Masombuka 2:20:10
3. Jacob Mazibuko 2:20:19
4. Moses Rachaka 2:21:20
5. Elijah Mutandiro (Zimbabwe) 2:22:28
6. Patrick Mahlaya 2:22:37
7. September Morake 2:22:47
8. Butiki Jatjies 2:23:21
9. Morgan Sithole (Zimbabwe) 2:23:58
10. Samuel Molokomme 2:25:11


1. Sarah Mahlangu 2:56:47
2. Riana van Rensburg 3:00:13
3. Linah Mhlongo 3:00:45