Lebenya Nkoka wins the Old Mutual Two Oceans Ultra Marathon


Words: Leonie Mollentze

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Lesotho runner, Lebenya Nkoka from team Maxed Elite, won the Old Mutual Two Oceans Ultra Marathon today in a time of 03:09:52.

Nkoka, who came 9th in 2013, attributed focused altitude training, speed work and strong coaching support to his victory. “We work hard as a group and train together at high altitudes,” said Nkoka, who has been living and training in Maseru since January this year.

Nkoka added that the team receive significant support from the Lesotho Ministry of Gender & Youth, Sports & Recreation. The Ministry is currently grooming athletes for the upcoming Commonwealth Games.

Second place went to veteran Hendrick Ramaala (Nedbank), who ran his first Two Oceans Ultra in a time of 03:11:33, while Masilo Matjiane from Lesotho crossed the finish line in 03:12:00, taking the third position.

In the ladies’ race, it was third time lucky for Russian champ Nina Podnebesnova, who finally achieved a win after coming 5th in 2013 and 2011 respectively. She crossed the finish line in a time of 03:40:07, three minutes ahead of Ethiopian Shitaye Debellu (03:43:37).

Podnebesnova noted that her victory was the result of changing her coach over the past year, who had made her focus on cross country and speed work.

For the second year, Russian twins Elena and Olesya Nurgalieva couldn’t perform as they had hoped, with the sisters battling flu. Elena took third place in a time of 03:43:59, with Olesya only managing 6th place.

In the Half Marathon race, athletes battled windy conditions from start to finish. Defending champion Stephen Mokoka (Team Transnet) won the men’s race in 01:04:16 – almost a minute slower than his 2013 time – beating Joel Mmone (Nedbank) and Sibabalwe Mzazi (Team Transnet) to the finish.

The ladies’ race belonged to Lebo Phalula (Maxed Elite), who comfortably ran to victory in a time of 01:14:00. Rene Kalmer came second in 01:14:23, with Gezashigh Gemeda of Ethiopia taking third in 01:15:02.

A record field of athletes lined up for a windy and chilly start at this year’s Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon.

“Despite the cold start, things heated up quickly, which made for a slower overall Ultra Marathon and resulted a record number of athletes completing the Ultra in between six and seven hours,” said Chet Sainsbury of the Two Oceans Marathon NPC, who also completed his 32nd Ultra Marathon this year.

Sainsbury added that the wind also contributed to a slower Half Marathon.

Title Sponsor Old Mutual had originally offered a R1-million prize to the male and female runner to break the Ultra Marathon records. But as Easter Saturday drew to a close, the 1988 and 1989 records established by Thompson Magawana and Frith van der Merwe respectively, remained in place for another year.

Race Results

56km Men
1st: Lebanya Nkoka (Maxed Elite) (03:09:52)
2nd: Hendrick Ramaala (Nedbank) (03:11:33)
3rd: Masilo Matjiane (Lesotho) (03:12:00)

56km Ladies
1st: Nina Podnebesnova (Russia) (03:40:07)
2nd: Shitaye Debellu (Ethiopia) (03:43:37)
3rd: Elena Nurgalieva (Russia) (03:43:59)

21km Men
1st: Stephen Lesego Mokoka (Transnet) (01:04:16)
2nd: Joel Mmone (Nedbank) (01:04:29)
3rd: Sibabalwe Mzazi (Transnet) (01:04:29)

21km Ladies
1st: Lebo Phalula (Maxed Elite) (01:14:00)
2nd: Rene Kalmer (Nedbank) (01:14:23)
3rd: Gezashigh Gemeda (Ethiopia) (01:15:02)