JOHANNESBURG – The Tuks BestMed Marathon is only going into its third year tomorrow but such is its popularity you’d swear the race is decades old.
It is perhaps due to the fact that while the 42.2km race was only introduced in 2018, the half marathon and the 10km events have been around for ages.
Whatever the reasons, the marathon is an event favoured by many runners around Pretoria, with some looking to use it as a qualifier for the Comrades Marathon while others take it on as a long run to build up mileage for the winter KwaZulu-Natal ultra.
The inaugural race in 2018 was met with serious gripes from many runners who complained about the difficult route and last year the organisers changed it.
Not that the changes made it any easier, the country’s capital city Pretoria being such that there can be no running away from the hills at any race.
But they will once again line up in their huge numbers just outside the University of Pretoria’s High Performance Centre ready to put their early year fitness levels to the test.
Among those will be South Africa’s marathon ace Stephen Mokoka, the inaugural champion of the race.
The Boxer Athletic Club star trains at the HPC and will be out to once again be the first man to cross the finish line some two and a half hours after the start gun had been shot.
In 2018, Mokoka – a multiple winner of the shorter distances at the race in previous years – reigned victorious in a time of 2:32:02 in what he then called a training run for the World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia, Spain.
#TuksAthletics: Gauteng’s leading long-distance runners, Stephen Mokoka, will line up for the upcoming Bestmed Tuks Marathon.
Mokoka says the Bestmed Tuks Marathon is one of his favourite local races.#UPYourSportingGame 🆙🔝⏫📈
— #UPYourSportingGame 🆙🔝⏫📈 (@TuksSport) January 30, 2020
He had a mishap last year when he arrived late at the race and thus lost out on his title.
Fresh from a good win in a half marathon in Spain, Mokoka has said he will once again be using the Tuks race as preparation for next month’s World Half Marathon Championships in Poland.
Yet such is his class that even in what he will regard as a training run, Mokoka could still end up winning the race as he did two years ago.
It was not immediately clear whether last year’s winner, Siyabonga Dingile of Nedbank, will be participating.
Murray and Roberts veteran and former Comrades Marathon champion, Charne Bosman, won the inaugural race but will not be competing this time around to challenge for the women’s title that was bagged by Massmart’s Melinda Janse Van Vuuren last year.
The half marathon is also always a highly contested affair for both men and women and should be no different this year too.
Granted this year’s Comrades Marathon is a down run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, but running coaches and Comrades experts always advise runners to get in some good hills training ahead of the race.
No wonder then that the Tuks Bestmed Marathon is as popular as it is among runners.