GABORONE — It is 5.30am on Sunday and emotions are high.
The journey from Brackendene Lodge to Phakalame Golf Estate seems longer than the actual 30 kilometres.
And that is to be expected given the five local athletes’ careers in the 42.2-kilometre marathon are going to come under severe test.
Tśepo Ramonene, 21, Sechaba Bohoosi, 28, Matela Makhetha, 21, Moleboheng Mafata, 21 and ‘Makampong Masaile are about to compete in the Steinmetz Gaborone Marathon as they chase qualification for the London Olympic Games.
The five will be joined by Jobo Khatoane and Ramolefi Motsieloa who came for the competition with their Durban-based team, Formula 1.
After a long silence, Mafata asks Lesotho Athletics Amateur Association (LAAA) spokesperson, Sejanamane Maphathe, to pray for them as the race draws near.
Just after 6am, the athletes put on their gear and join the rest of the 50 runners from all over the world.
It is a bit chilly and drizzling but that is not stopping the competitors from warming up and chatting while waiting for the race to start at 6:30am.
And finally the gun goes off.
At 5km, all seven local athletes both in the male and female categories are in the leading group.
But soon after the 7km mark, the tempo changes.
Bohoosi starts lagging behind.
Coach Mokete “Chaplin” Mphomane and Maphathe seem worried and start egging him on.
“That gap tells us we’ve already secured money in this marathon and now we just need to work on qualifying time and positions,” Maphathe said.
As if the female athletes were hearing what Maphathe was saying, Masaile and Mafata start leading the female marathon closely followed by Zimbabwean veteran, Samukeliso Moyo, and fellow country woman Sharon Tavengwa.
The two lead the marathon up until the 24 km mark when Masaile appears with Moyo closely behind her.
Masaile makes it up to the 37km when she starts experiencing stomach aches forcing her to rest for about 10 minutes.
Moyo takes advantage of her lapse and shoots past until the finishing line to claim first place.
“Despite losing the title to Samukeliso, I am happy because this is my first marathon and I was competing against veterans,” Masaile says.
“At 24km, I was certain I was going to win this race and qualify for the Olympic Games but I was just unlucky to have suffered the stomach ache and gave Samukeliso advantage over me,” she adds.
Despite losing to Moyo and failing to qualify for the Olympic Games, Masaile has something to smile about after she received P16 000 for coming second.
“At least I am going home with something — the money and the award,” she says.
Masaile will now stop worrying about athletics for at least one week as she needs to rest before resuming training.
Third runner-up Mafata got P10 000 but regrets going to Durban several days before the marathon because she missed training while there.
In the male category, Ramonene, Khatoane and Ramolefi led from the 23km mark until the last 500 metres.
The three athletes paid the prize of failing to negotiate a corner thus giving defending champion Kenyan, Felix Kipkorir, and Benjamin Kiporo a chance to overtake them.
Ramolefi paid the price by missing to qualify for the Olympic Games by just three seconds.
“We should not have gone far from the corner because that’s where the Kenyans took advantage and won the race ahead of us,” Ramonene said.
“But I am still happy with the results because I’ve qualified for the Olympic Games,” he said.
Female: Samukeliso Moyo (2:48:29), ‘Makampong Mafata (2:54:03) and Moleboheng Mafata (2:59:43).
Male: Felix Kipkorir (2:16:25), Benjamin Kiporo (2:16:45), Jobo Khatoane (2:16:49), Tśepo Ramonene (2:16:51) and Ramolefi Motsieloa (2:18:03).