South Africa’s Stephen Mokoka emerged victorious from a three-man battle to take his third title in four years at the Shanghai International Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday (30).
Enjoying a solitary lead in the last seven kilometres, the 31-year-old Mokoka clocked 2:10:18 to take a commanding victory. Although his time was 2:38 shy of his personal best of 2:07:40 when he finished second here last year and was the slowest winning mark since 2012, Mokoka was satisfied with his performance.
“It is my third time winning here. So I am very happy even if the time is not very fast,” he said. “I hope next year I will be able to come here again.”
It is the sixth consecutive year that Mokoka has competed in Shanghai. After third and fourth place finishes in 2011 and 2012 respectively, the South African took consecutive victories in 2013 and 2014. However, he was outraced last year by Kenya’s Paul Lonyangata, who set the course record of 2:07:14, and had to settle for the runner-up spot.
The victory made Mokoka the second man to collect three wins in the race’s 21-year history. Ethiopia’s Gashaw Asfaw also achieved the feat with three victories in a row from 2008 to 2010.
Running under cloudy conditions with the temperature ranging from 13C to 18C, a leading group of three men, including Mokoka, Kenya’s Asbel Kipsang and Ethiopia’s Abdi Fufa, paced the race from the 15km mark in 46:01, and hit 20km in 1:00:39 and 30km in 1:32:15.
Soon after the 30km mark, Fufa was the first to fall back while Kipsang managed to keep up with Mokoka for another five kilometers before the South African pulled away to forge ahead for the win.
“We went very slowly at 30km so I just decided to speed up and pace the race. I took the lead in the last 7 kilometres,” said Mokoka. “The last half of the race was very difficult because it was hot but the first half was very good. The weather was OK but it became warmer and warmer in the last half.”
The 23-year-old Kipsang, who registered a PB of 2:07:30 at the 2016 Seoul Marathon in May, finished second in 2:11:16.
Fufa, 22, took third place in 2:13:30 in what was only his second race over the distance. He clocked 2:11:22 in his marathon debut seven months ago when he finished fifth at the Barcelona Marathon.
Dereje survives late race assault
In the women’s race Roza Dereje of Ethiopia held off a strong challenge from Kenya’s Margaret Agai in the last hundred metres to take the title with a career best.
It was the second victory for Dereje in 29 days. She set a course record and lifetime best of 2:31:16 in Odense, Denmark on 2 October. In Shanghai she trimmed nearly five minutes from her PB to win in 2:26:18.
A pack of nine lead the race through the midway point, but was whittled down to three by 35 kilometres, with just Agai and Wude Ayalew of Ethiopia matching Dereje’s pace. When the trio reached the 40-kilometre mark, Dereje pulled away.
With a clear advantage, Dereje apparently slowed down without noticing that Agai was narrowing the gap. When she was eventually caught by the Kenyan a few hundred metres from the finish, Dereje looked stunned but did not lose her rhythm. Instead, she sped up again and didn’t lower her guard until crossing the line.
“In the last kilometre I thought I would win for sure. So when the other runner came by, I told myself I was winning and I would not let it go. So I just went and pushed the race. I was determined to win,” said Dereje, who was competing in Shanghai for the first time.
Agai finished two seconds back in 2:26:20, 2:52 shy of her PB set in 2013 when winning the Daegu Marathon.
The 29-year-old Ayalew, the 10,000m bronze medallist at the 2009 World Championships, finished third in a PB of 2:27:08.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF