JOHANNESBURG – With organisers yet to release the official start list, it is hard to tell just who the potential winners of Sunday’s Old Mutual Soweto Marathon are.
But as with last year’s race and the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon a few months ago, the top of the podium could be occupied by yet another Ethiopian.
But to follow in the footsteps of his compatriot Sintayehu Legese, who was victorious in the People’s Race last year, Ketema Bekele will have to beat some seriously stiff opposition.
Bekele is, according to Nedbank Athletics manager Nick Bester, in the form to improve on his fourth place in 2016. “Ketema is a four-time marathon winner and has shown he has what it takes for a top 10 finish in Soweto.”
Making Bester confident that his charge could be the first runner into the FNB Stadium on Sunday is the recent run the Ethiopian had on South African soil.
Bekele, also known as Legase, was runner-up at the Cape Town Marathon in September, his time of two hours, 11 minutes and six seconds just a minute behind winner, compatriot Asefe Negewo.
In Soweto last year, Bekele ran 2:24.07, just under four minutes behind the winner.
Will he reign supreme on Sunday? Not if the likes of Teboho Sello and Mabutile Lebopo have anything to do with it.
The Maxed Elite duo, according to their manager Martin Ngwenya, are confident they have what it takes to win.
“Mabutile has been a consistent top 10 finisher in the last five years and he has been training well for this year’s race,” Ngwenya said of the 2004 champion.
It is perhaps Sello though, that everyone should watch out for.The Lesotho athlete has had a brilliant year that saw him finish seventh in the Comrades Marathon.
And if his performance at the Two Oceans Marathon is anything to go by, he has to be considered a serious contender for the usually tough Soweto Marathon.
Sello finished third at the Mother City event in September and given his generally good performances in the ultra distances, Soweto could well see him shine.
Yet as is usually the case with the People’s Race, do not rule out the possibility of someone coming from left field and producing a stunning, victorious run.
In the women’s race, Irvette van Zyl carries the South African hopes of glory and will not be lacking in confidence after her good run at the Cape Town Marathon, where she finished first of her compatriots and ninth overall in a time of 2.36.43.
But Ngwenya thinks his charge Ntebaleng Letsele is due an upgrade in position from her fifth place finish last year.
“She is a strong runner for our club,” he said.