Renowned athletes face off in top marathon
Lesotho’s iconic athlete Mamoroallo Tjoka on Saturday goes head-to-head with reigning High Altitude Summer Marathon champion Asefa Chelitu Bogela of Ethiopia.
Bogela took the M100 000 winner’s prize after beating Tjoka into second place in 2013 and both would be star-attractions when the race roars to life in Mokhotlong on 6 December.
A member of the race’s organising committee, Thabiso Moqhali, confirmed to the Lesotho Times this week that both the Ethiopian and Tjoka had registered for the lucrative marathon.
Dubbed the Queen of Soweto Marathon after winning the top South African race a record seven times, Tjoka is arguably one of Lesotho’s greatest marathoners of all time, but could not match Bogela last year.
After missing the Soweto Marathon last month in order to be fully fit for the 2014 High Altitude Summer Marathon, Tjoka is expected to give Bogela a good run for her money, hence the all-round excitement about their upcoming clash.
“I can confirm that the two athletes have registered for the upcoming marathon,” Moqhali said. “Everything is in place and we are just waiting for Saturday to see these top runners, and of-course others, in action.”
According to Moqhali, Mabuthile Lebopo would not be defending his title (in the male category), but other top runners such as Lebenya Nkoka, Teboho Sello and the race’s winner in 2010, Phatlalla Mohloli, had confirmed their participation.
Lebopo (39) told the Lesotho Times that he would not be taking part in the race because he was “tired”.
Former marathoner, Champlin Mpomane, who is now an athletics coach, told the Lesotho Times that it would be interesting to see Tjoka and Bogela going toe-to-toe for the top prize. Both Tjoka and Bogela could not be reached for comment.
“The Ethiopian is very fast as she proved last year and Tjoka will have to be at her best to win the competition,” Mpomane said.
“I think the problem with our athletes is that they are not getting enough rest, hence their failure to win races of late.
“Normally, a marathon-runner should just take part in three races a year, which is not the case with our athletes, hence the fatigue. I’m hoping Mamoroallo is now OK because she has been suffering from fatigue and injuries in recent months,” he said.
Mpomane further said Ethiopian runners are very tactical hence their victory in big races across the globe.
“All I can say is that our athletes are going to be tested in both the male and female categories and need to be at their best to beat the Ethiopians who are very good and fast,” added Mpomane.
The High Altitude Summer Marathon was introduced as the Mokhotlong City Marathon in 2003. Initially covering 32.2 kilometres, the race is now 42.2km and has become Lesotho’s premier marathon.
In addition, there event also includes 21.1 km and 10 km races.