Although the 33-year-old long-distance runner from the City of Roses, Godfrey Ramakone, finished in an excellent third position overall in one of the closest Sasol marathon (42,2 km) races ever seen between the top four finishers, he was crowned as the Free State (FS) champion. The first two athletes hail from outside the borders of the FS.
Ramakone (Eskom), a former world cross-country championships participant, won the FS title in a quick inland time of 2:24:25 to finish less than a minute behind the overall winner from Lesotho, Talimo Monesa (2:23:42). Tshepo Mataung (2:24:05), a visitor from Gauteng crossed the line in second place overall in 2:24:05, a mere 20 seconds ahead of Ramakone.
Ramakone had to pull out all the stops to beat the second Free Stater (4th overall), Zwene Moreng (Eskom), who stopped the watches in a good 2:24:40 among the Free Staters for his silver medal. Although Joseph Mphuti (Sibanye-Stillwater, 2:26:02) did not post much of a threat to Ramakone and Moreng, he held onto the bronze medal position among the Free State contingent to place fifth overall in a respectable inland time of 2:26:02.
Ramakone spoke to Bloemfontein Courant after the exciting battle among the top five placed runners: “My coach and I decided to target an even paced 2:28, which we thought would win the FS title, but I soon realised that the race was going to take more than that to win the title.
“At the halfway mark, we were still six athletes in a bunch and no one wanted to give an inch. Towards the end, the two visitors got the better of me and Moreng. I realised that I had to give all I had left in the tank to win the FS title and got rid of Moreng who was fighting like a wounded lion.
“I am very pleased with my performance as we are well on target in our quest to finish in the top six at the SA championships at the Cape Town marathon later in the year.”
Joyce Tshiane (Sibanye-Stillwater) had it all her own way when she won the FS title in the open division for women. She won in 3:23:17, but her time will surely not give the rest of the foremost marathon racers among the fairer sex in South Africa sleepless nights with regards to the SA championships.
Tshiane scored a runaway victory, leaving the second-placed Free Stater, Elrita Schultze (Maluti Multisport, 3:27:11), comfortably behind. – RUFUS BOTHA