‘Big Guns’ in Southern African road running set to turn out in Cape Town this weekend for the 28th OUTsurance Gun Run

by Stephen Granger

The count-down has begun for the 2022 OUTsurance Gun Run. Only hours remain before the Gun Run 15km Trail Run gets underway on Table Mountain (Saturday 17 September) as a prelude to the ‘big shot’ racing over 10km and the half marathon on Sunday morning in what promises to be a rich weekend festival of running.

2018 Gun Run participants run through Green Point Urban Park near the finish of the half marathon. Photo – Stephen Granger

Additional events have been added to the traditional programme and no fewer than five events – the 15km Trail, 5km Fun Run and 5km Pet Walk tomorrow (Saturday 17 September) and the Half Marathon and 10km on Sunday – make up the ‘festival weekend of running’, which has its origins back in the early 90’s when the firing of Cape Town’s Noon Day Gun signaled the cut-off for the Gun Run Half Marathon.

From the start the Gun Run has become known as a top-quality half marathon (with an equally impressive 10km added a decade later) but has also thrived on popularity, with its associated activations and promotions attracting casts of thousands to join in the fun.

Warren Petterson wins the inaugural Gun Run in 1993. Photo – courtesy Warren Petterson

Since the inaugural race in 1993, won respectively by Warren Petterson and Terri-Lee Bedford, many of the country’s leading distance athletes have joined battle in what has become one of the country’s premier half marathons, with the race records of 1 hr 02 min 31 sec and 1:10:52 behind the names of world-class performers Joel Mmone (2015) and Elana Meyer (1999).

Three athletes can boast hattricks of Gun Run Half Marathon wins, all of them recorded in successive years – Cape Town’s Makhosonke Fika (1994 – 1996), Northwest Province athlete, David Manja (2016 – 2018) and latest Comrades Marathon sensation, Jenna Challenor (2015 – 2017).

Desmond Mokgobu – starts favourite to defend his title on Sunday. Photo – Stephen Granger

Johannesburg-based distance running athlete, Desmond Mokgobu, will be back on the start-line for the half marathon after taking the title in the last running of the event in 2019, and while women’s winner, Pretoria athlete Irvette van Zyl, will be Europe in preparation for a major marathon, there is a stellar line up of athletes seeking to take her place at the top of the Gun Run podium.

Five of the top seven from 2019 return on Sunday with the top two, Olympians Mokgobu and Sibusiso Nzima, determined to lead the procession home on Sunday.

“Desmond is well prepared,” said his coach Hendrick Ramaala. “He is ready for the competition and is healthy and stress free. He has done well this year, running PBs for both 10km and 21km within the last few months.”

Sibusiso Nzima – aiming to turn the tables on his close rival Desmond Mokgobu on Sunday. Photo – Stephen Granger

“My coach Lindsey Parry made some changes to my programme and I have been working on my speed before starting with marathon training again,” said Pretoria-based athlete, Nzima. “It has been a fruitful season for me this year and my confidence is back.”

Mokgobu has had the wood over Nzima in top races this year, but the margins have been razor-thin (as was Mokgobu’s 7 second margin in the 2019 Gun Run) and Nzima will be trying everything legal to turn the tables on Sunday.

But with top athletes flying into Cape Town from all over the country, the Half Marathon will be anything but a two-horse race. Two Johannesburg-based Boxer Athletics Club teammates, Gladwin Mzazi (who has three Gun Run 10km titles to his name) and Thabang Mosiako, will be snapping at their heels of the favourites, while locally-based athletes, veteran Lindikhaya Mthangayi and Raydon Balie will be eager to improve on their respective 4th and 7th positions last time round.

Gerda Steyn, attracting interest wherever she runs. Photo – Stephen Granger

Gerda Steyn attracts interest wherever she runs. Arguably the greatest-ever South African female ultra-distance athlete, Steyn has expanded her running toolbox in recent years and her speedy times over 10km and half marathons have yielded a national marathon record. She is likely to be a few percentage points off her best for the distance on Sunday, however, with her focus primarily on a November date with the New York City Marathon.

“It will be exactly 7weeks out from NYC marathon,” explained Steyn. “So I’ll be in the deep-end of my training block and not planning to taper for the Gun Run, but rather try to run my best on tired legs. I have heard that the Gun Run has a great atmosphere, and I can’t wait to be part of it!”

Ranging against Steyn will be Two Oceans Half Marathon winner, Fortunate Chidzivo.  Zimbabwe-born, Chidzivo, is now based in Cape Town and runs for the Retail Langa Athletics Club. She has enjoyed top running form this year, and her win against strong east African competition in the Two Oceans Half Marathon in April helped her win an Olympic Scholarship from the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee, aiming at Paris 2024.

Like Steyn, Chidzivo will use the Gun Run as an important part of her training towards a marathon at the end of the year, but with a half marathon best almost identical to that of Steyn (1:10:50 for Chidzivo; 1:10:55 for Steyn) an absorbing contest can be anticipated on Sunday. Her coach, Chris Bruwer, however played down his charge’s chances. “Her goal marathon is in Gqeberha at the end of the year with another goal marathon in May,” said Bruwer.  “She is fit and strong, but not so fast – definitely not in PB shape.”

Husband and wife Sibusiso Nzima and Rutendo Nyahora – aiming for double podium places on Sunday. Photo – Stephen Granger

Wife of Nzima, Zimbabwe-born Rutendo Nyahora, will be hoping for a husband-and-wife double podium on Sunday, when she races the Gun Run Half Marathon for the first time. A double winner of the Gun Run 10km and boasting the race’s fastest time with her 34:01 win in 2017, Nyahora has the credentials to push the favoured Steyn and Chidzivo all the way to the finish.

While the Half Marathon remains the ‘blue ribband’ race of the weekend, the 10km also promises fireworks with a top-quality field set to fight it out for line honours.

Another Olympian, Precious Mashele, will start favourite to regain the 10km title he won in 2018 following his 2017 win. He is the fastest in the field with a 28:11 personal best and a superb 1:00:00 half marathon time, but in-form Eastern Cape athlete, Melikhaya Frans (28:16 10km PB), is not far behind with a win over Mashele at the ASA Half Marathon Championship this year.

Anthony Timoteus pips Desmond Mokgobu to take 5th in the RUN YOUR CITY CAPE TOWN 10km in May. Photo – Stephen Granger

Cape Town’s Anthony Timoteus is another who has improved significantly this year, having lowered his 10km personal best to 28:29 at the RUN YOUR CITY CAPE TOWN 10km in May, and will be looking to cause an upset against his ‘high altitude-based’ rivals and improve on his 3rd positions in 2018 and 2019.

Nolene Conrad, is gradually returning to the form which earned her IAAF Gold-label status in 2018 and will renew her rivalry with fellow-Cape Town athlete, Anel Terblanche.  Terblanche beat Conrad by 15 seconds at the UCT 10km in May with Conrad turning the tables at the Women’s Day 10km last month, finishing second to Chidzivo ahead of Terblanche.

Top three in the Women’s Day 10km in August, Fortunate Chidzivo (centre), Nolene Conrad (left) and Anel Terblanche will again be close rivals in the Gun Run 10km on Sunday. Photo – Stephen Granger

The emphasis will be on fun and participation in tomorrow’s (Saturday) Gun Run racing, with the inaugural Gun Run 15km Trail Run getting underway from Van Riebeek Park in Oranjezicht at 07h30 and the 5k Fun Run and 5km Pet Walk starting from Stephan Way, Green Point, at 08h00 and 08h30 respectively.

The OUTsurance Gun Run Half Marathon gets underway at 06h30 on Sunday from Fritz Sonnenberg Road, Green Point, with the 10km off an hour later. Both races finish on the Green Point Common area opposite the Green Point Cricket Club.