Malawian athlete Jimmy Bonjesi etched his name in South Africa athletics’ folklore after claiming honours for the inaugural edition of Hemel en Aarde Marathon over the weekend in Cape Town.
Bonjesi outpaced 1,500 speed merchants drawn from across the world to finish the 42.2 kilometres in 2 hours 28 minutes 52 seconds and shrug off Nedbank Athletics runner Siyabonga Sakwe who clocked 2.32.10 hours.
The Malawian and Sakwe were on each other’s heel for 30 kilometres before the former broke clear in emphatic fashion amid strong winds in a rough hilly terrain of the route stretching between Caledon and Hermanus.
In an interview, Bonjesi said he was eyeing bigger challenges in South Africa where he is based in Cape Town and represents Brimstone Itheko AC.
“I was very happy because this is the inaugural edition of the race. History has been made that I am the first winner of the championship. This was part of my preparations for the forthcoming 58km Old Mutual Two Oceans Ultra-marathon,” Bonjesi said.
The two athletes renewed their rivalry that was evident last week when Bonjesi and Sakwe finished on seventh and ninth places of Peninsula Marathon. Bonjesi clocked 2 hours and 34 minutes ahead of his rival in last week’s marathon.
Bonjesi is following the footsteps of compatriot Henry Moyo who has won championships for marathons in South Africa.
In the women’s race, Nienke Pannekoek won the championship in 3:07.02 hours followed by Katherine Antel in 3:08:34 hours then third-placed Madelle Van Zyl 3.10.54 hours.
A massive 1,342 runners were able to beat the five-hour time and qualify for the Two Oceans.
Of those, 1,192 were also within the 4:50 cutoff which is enough to qualify for the Comrades Marathon.