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Mokoko’s top 10 finish

Stephen Mokoko and Rene Kalmer were the best South African contestants at Sunday’s World Half-Marathon championships in Birmingham, England.

Reigning national half-marathon champion, Mokoko placed eighth and Kalmer 15th to lead the South African men’s and women’s teams to impressive sixth place finishes.

Mokoko clocked a time of 61min 36sec, only 10 seconds outside his personal best while Kalmer ran 1:10:37 to beat her personal best by more than a minute.

The race was won by Eritrea’s Zersenay Tades in 59min 35sec while Kenyan Mary Keitany was first woman home in 66min 36sec.

SuperSport reports that at 5km, which Mokoko passed in 14:30, the 24-year-old was only three seconds behind the front runners, and while he had dropped a further 32 seconds back by 10km, which he passed in 13th place in 29:29, Mokoka gradually worked his way through the field.

He had moved up one position by the 15km mark and over the last 6,1km caught another four athletes and stormed home in eight place in 1:01:36 – only 10 seconds off his personal best.

Olebogeng Masire and Mbongeni Ngxazozo went with Mokoka early on but couldn’t keep up and faded in the closing stages. They did well, however, by hanging on to finish 29th (1:03:13) and 36th (1:03:47) respectively. Those three counted for the team competition, while Jeffrey Gwebu and Xolisa Tyali were disappointing.

Gwebu, the most experienced member of the South African team, started well but faded badly in the second half to finish 42nd in 1:04:11.
And Tyali, still only 20, gained some valuable experience but struggled from halfway and limped home in 85th position in 1:09:12. Tyali needed 38:58 to cover the last 10,1km.

Up front, Tadese secured his fourth straight global road running title. Kenyan Bernard Kipyego was second in 59:59 and Dathan Ritzenhein of the US picked up the bronze medal a second further back.

Kalmer ran a well judged race to finish. The 28-year-old, running in her first world road running championship, went through 5km in 16:09, trailing the leaders by 52sec in 18th place.

And while she was never in contention for a podium place, she picked off stragglers further back to go through 10km in 33:03 in 15th position, and had moved up a further two places by the 15km mark, which she passed in 49:47. She lost two positions on the run-in to the finish, but Kalmer did remarkably well and will be pleased with her performance.

South African champion Annerien van Schalkwyk, who failed to finish last year, ran the race of her life to place 20th in 1:11:26, improving her career record by 23 seconds.

Diminutive Poppy Mlambo started slowly, but was rewarded for pacing herself as she finished 40th in 1:14:27, breaking her personal best by 14 seconds.