By Mark Etheridge
Central Gauteng athletes ran off with the main honours at the national half-marathon championships run in Motherwell, Port Elizabeth at the weekend.
Lucky Mohale took the men’s competition in 61min 58sec to hold off teammate Sibusiso Nzima by 12 seconds and temporary licence holder Lusapho April, third in 62:24.
It was in the women’s race though that Irvette van Blerk surprised most, certainly herself, with a fine win. The 23-year-old athlete raced her way to victory in 71:09.
That’s a huge personal best and comes three months after another personal best of 72:55 at the Two Oceans half-marathon in Cape Town three months ago. It also means that only Elana Meyer and Colleen de Reuck have run faster half-marathons on unaided courses.
“I was completely surprised,” said Van Blerk, who is currently dating Commonwealth Games 400m-metre hurdles champion LJ Van Zyl.
“I just wanted the win and by 9km I was clear by myself. From then on I just thought if the other girls want to win, they must come past me because I didn’t feel like running slowly!
“I wasn’t worried about time at all, just the win. I went through 10km in 33:20 and 15km in 50:44 so I took some big strain ove the last 6km but I just tried to concentrate on catching any of the guys in front of me to keep my pace from slipping.
“I was quite relieve to get to the finish and see 71:09 on the clock. It’s always great to run a personal best… and win at the same time.”
Victory will be ever so sweet for Van Blerk who has has had a tough last year. She lost her father in a motorcycle accident late last year and has also battled with injuries. The weekend win will no doubt ease the pain.
She now plans to run the Spar women’s 10km series before heading overseas for a few road races in October and November.
Second woman in Port Elizabeth was Western Province’s Zintle Xiniwe in 73:13 with KwaZulu-Natal’s Tanith Maxwell third in 73:22.