It’s a red letter day as running’s elite and Cape Town’s city runners prepare to RUN YOUR CITY

Racing for glory - FLTR Victor Langat, Stephen Mokoka, Precious Mashele, Kabelo Mulaudzi and Elroy Gelant. Photo - Stephen Granger

Two years ago Stillwater Sports CEO Michael Meyer spoke of his vision of the Absa RUN YOUR CITY 10km series becoming the best road running series in the world.  Sunday’s Absa RUN YOUR CITY CAPE TOWN 10km is likely to underline just how close the series is to realising that lofty goal.

City of Cape Town Safety and Security and Events Portfolio Chair Mzwakhe Nqavashe welcomes athletes to Cape Town. Photo – Stephen Granger

“The series comes to the Mother City on Mother’s Day,” City of Cape Town portfolio chairperson for safety and security, Mzwakhe Nqavashe said at the media conference at a City hotel this morning (Friday 10 May).

“To all the runners, we can say the route is beautiful, safe and clean, prepared for you to take selfies along the way. Run it and appreciate all the iconic landmarks Cape Town has to offer and enjoy the race!

“And run with a sense of camaraderie as this race promotes social cohesion.  Friends who have not seen each other for years, will meet again along the route – and know the City of Cape Town is proud of this event.

“And as good as this race already is, a message to the organisers is to take it to another level. The sky is the limit.”

Absa Regional Executive, Haroon Abrahams plans to finish under an hour. Photo – Stephen Granger

Absa Regional Executive, passionate runner Haroon Abrahams, was quick to respond. “What I ‘absa’lutely love about this series,” said Abrahams, “is the fact that it is one of those programmes in our portfolio which talks to all sectors in our society. Everyone can get involved in it in one way or the other.

“A big part of this series can be found on our tagline #YourStoryMatters. We realised the need to be involved in that part of society in which we operate. For us to be successful we need to acknowledge the collection of stories behind the runners. Each has a story to tell.

“Potentially on Sunday we have 12000 plus stories on the streets. Our series is about people. It’s not a spectator sport – its about participation. Whether you’re a pro or just got off the couch yesterday, your story matters.”

Two stories relating to the ‘pro’s’ came through strongly at the media conference – firstly how fast the leading Kenyan athletes can run and secondly whether the younger generation South African athletes can triumph over the ‘aging icons’ Stephen Mokoka and Elroy Gelant.

Racing for glory = Victor Langat, Stephen Mokoka, Precious Mashele, Kabelo Mulaudzi and Elroy Gelant. Photo – Stephen Granger

Vincent Langat left his native Kenya for the first time last month to race Absa RYC series opener at Gqeberha and despite the significant prevailing wind, the 23-year-old ran a 31 second personal best to win in 28:01. The performance earned him a late call up for the Roads to Records 10km in Germany two weeks ago, where he comfortably achieved his sub-28-minute dream, clocking 27:11, just 6 seconds off his compatriot Nicholas Kipkorir’s winning time.

Just how fast can Langat go on Sunday? The Kenyan refused to be drawn into whether another personal best might be at hand, but acknowledged the role the series has made.

“The RUN YOUR CITY series has improved my career – my expectations and hopes have been met,” Langat acknowledged. “The level of competition in Gqeberha was very high.  That helped me to run my best time and gave me a boost for Germany.”

Undoubtedly on a steep rise, Langat has all the makings of yet another Kenyan super-star. Just over a month after flying out of Kenya for the first time, Langat is already up to number 36 on the all-time 10km road list and just 47 seconds behind his compatriot Rhonex Kipruto’s 26:24 world best.

If he can take advantage of Cape Town’s fast course and predicted perfect conditions and improve his personal best by 12 seconds, he would become the 19th athlete to dip under 27 minutes and the 6th this year, a list headed by Ethiopian’s Yomif Kejelcha’s 26:37.

Quietly confident – Kenyan athlete Diana Chepkorir. Photo – Stephen Granger

Langat’s fellow Kenyan, Diana Chepkorir, will also be chasing global-challenging times in Cape Town.  A year younger than Langat, Chepkorir is higher on the world lists, her superb 29:56 in Castellón, Spain in February this year slotting her into the all-time rankings at 14th. Remarkably, eleven of those above her are Kenyan athletes.

Agnes Jebet Ngetich’s 28:46 in Valentia, Spain, in January this year improved Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yahualaw’s two-year-old world mark by 28 seconds.

Elroy Gelant – been there from the beginning. Photo – Stephen Granger

A measure of the extent of the improvement in times in recent years – likely a combination of shoe technology, increased incentives and competition – is that Chepkorir’s 29:56 would have been the fastest on the planet seven years ago.

“I decided to come back after Gqeberha because this is such a nice series and the organization is has been really good” said Chepkorir at the media conference.

“My training was a bit disrupted last week when I was in Germany for the Roads to Record 5km Race (she finished 4th in 15:01 for the 5km) but my aim is to run fast on Sunday – how fast will depend on the wind.”

Can the younger athletes beat South African legend, Stephen Mokoka? Photo – Stephen Granger

The second story related to whether South African ‘icons’ Mokoka and Gelant can again see off the challenges of the younger athletes of the calibre of Precious Mashele and Katelo Mulaudzi, back following his injury at the World Cross Country Championships in Belgrade in March.

Gelant is on a ‘podium-roll’ having placed second at the Gqeberha RYC 10km, second  in the 5000m at the ASA Track and Field at Martizburg, KZN and first at the national marathon championships in Durban last week.

“To be a pillar of this fantastic series is an honour,” said Gelant. “I’ve been here from the beginning. This year, I’ve got a new mindset with my running and it’s fantastic to be back racing in Cape Town.”

“We’ve come a long way with the Absa series,” remarked Mokoka. “But we are now looking to put the finishing touches to the masterpiece and make it even better. Cape Town is always a place where we wish to come to.

“I don’t know why they keep on calling Elroy and I ‘icons’ !  But it’s good that we still inspire younger runners. Elroy outclassed me at the marathon championships but I’m looking forward to get my own back on him on Sunday!”

ASA President James Moloi enjoys a lighter moment with City Councillor Mzwakhe Nqavashe and Stillwaters Sport CEO Michael Meyer. Photo – Stephen Granger