Asefa Negewo of Ethiopia wins the 2016 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon (Roger Sedres) © Copyright
Preview Cape Town, South Africa

Defending champion Negewo faces stern test at Cape Town Marathon

Asefa Negewo made history in 2016 when he won the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon in a South African all-comers’ record of 2:08:41. The Ethiopian returns to the IAAF Gold Label road race on Sunday (17) to defend his title, but will face tough opposition.

Negewo doesn’t have the fastest PB of this year’s field. That honour belongs to Kenya’s Laban Mutai, who ran 2:08:01 on his marathon debut in Cologne in 2012. The 32-year-old has won three of the 10 marathons he has competed in, including his most recent outing at the distance, the Ljubljana Marathon last October in 2:09:16.

Negewo’s win in 2016 was his best marathon performance to date. The 32-year-old is a relative novice over 26.2 miles, having competed in only four marathons to date. But knowing the route should give him an advantage over most of the other contenders.

Ethiopia’s Seboka Nigusse is the next fastest in the field with a 2:09:14 PB run in Amsterdam in 2015, while Duncan Maiyo’s best of 2:09:25 came in 2016 at Eindhoven.

The debut of national 5000m record-holder Elroy Gelant will be of particular interest to South African fans. Gelant, who was the pacemaker for the first 30 kilometres of last year’s race, is the fastest in the field over 5000m, 10,000m, 10km and the half marathon and many believe the 31-year-old is making the move to the marathon at just the right time.

The women’s field is arguably the strongest ever assembled for the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon and is led by Agnes Jepkemboi Kiprop. The Kenyan, who clocked her PB of 2:23:54 six years ago, ran a season’s best of 2:29:54 to finish fourth in Dongying earlier this year. But the 37-year-old will need to draw on all of her experience to withstand the challenge of Betelhem Moges.

The 26-year-old Ethiopian is a former winner in Amsterdam and Beijing and has a PB of 2:24:29, set in Dubai in 2015. Her best this year is 2:33:48, set when finishing runner-up in Hong Kong back in February.

With a 2:26:14 marathon best, Ethiopia’s Fantu Jimma is also expected to contend for top honours. The 30-year-old has contested 16 marathons to date, making it on to the podium in six of those, but she is yet to win a race over the classic distance.

Germany’s Lisa Hahner ran her PB of 2:28:39 in Frankfurt in 2015. This will be her first marathon since the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, where she crossed the line holding hands with her twin sister Anna.

Irvette van Zyl leads the South African challenge. The 30-year-old ran her PB of 2:31:26 in London in 2013 and came within a minute of that mark in the British capital last year.

“Last year we had the fastest time on South African soil with Negewo running that superb 2:08:41,” said 1992 Olympic 10,000m silver medallist Elana Meyer, an ambassador of the race. “This year, we have been able to assemble a field that could go even faster than that.

“I’m also excited that Elroy Gelant chose to make his debut at the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. It shows how much we have grown,” she added. “And what a women’s field. If we do not see a time faster than 2:30 for the women and a new event record, I would be very surprised.”

About 20,000 runners are expected to take part in the marathon and its associated races on Sunday.

Organisers for the IAAF