Irvette Van Zyl successfully defends her Soweto Marathon title

Irvette Van Zyl
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Irvette Van Zyl was the only South African to secure a podium finish in the iconic Soweto Marathon as she defended her title to claim a third successive victory of the event. Ethiopian runners continued to dominate the race with four podium finishes in both the men’s and women’s categories.

Van Zyl dominated her race from start to finish. Despite a tough year with injury and having to undergo surgery which impacted on her preparations for the race, she was still able to manage her race fairly well. She maintained a similar race pattern and pace, and at 33 km she had a seven minute gap and was on course to claim victory.

Although she could not break her record from last year, she finished strongly to retain her title for a third consecutive year in 2 hours 34 minutes and 1 second.

At the finish line she was ahead of runner up Salem Alebachew by almost 12 minutes.

The Ethiopian runner and 2016 winner Alebachew finished second as she continued her top three finish since 2015 coming in at 2 hours 45 minutes and 54 seconds.

Compatriot and Newcomer to the race Gadise Gatachew Bekele came in third completing her course 13 minutes behind Van Zyl.

“I knew the route quite well so I think that was my advantage to the other runners because it’s my fourth time in a row doing this race so I knew if I can just be comfortable until 32 km I can maintain it and just win it. There is always a doubt when you go out too fast but this route I have learned you are not going on time you are only going on feel and the watch is only at the end that you will see what you can run,” says Van Zyl.

The men’s race started at a quick pace which saw the breakaway group taking a good lead as they approached the halfway mark. Winner Debeko Dakamo Dasa picked up his pace as he approached 33 kilometers to be in the top five. He was not far off from Kenyan athlete Refera Madesa whose pace dropped allowing Dasa to go ahead.

He maintained his pace as he opened a 13 second gap with a few kilometers remaining.

He finished in 2 hours 18 minutes and 33 seconds. David Maru and Madesa finished second and third respectively.

Ntsindiso Mphakathi was the only South African in the men’s group to make the top ten coming in at position eight.

In the half marathon, South African Elroy Gelant crossed the finish line first in the men’s category while Caroline Mhandu from Zimbabwe was the winner in the women’s section.