William Makwalakwale won the Old Mutual Om Die Dam 50km in two hours 51 minutes five seconds on Saturday, leaving over 6 000 runners strung out around the dam in his wake.
Heavy mist and cool weather greeted the massive field as they headed across the dam wall with the contenders coming to the fore on the Kommando Nek climb.
By half way the leaders had been whittled to a quartet of Elias Mabane (Nedbank), Philip Molefe (Rustenberg), Lukas Nonyana (ABSA), and Mokwalakwala who was content to sit just off the front shoulders.
Mabane, who won the 2011 Forever Loskop 50k in an age-group record time, looked the part of a victor until the Saartjies climb where Mokwalakwala appeared the stronger.
Makwalakwale shadowed Mabane down into the lower streets of Schoemanville before using the penultimate climb to take the lead. The kick was devastating with Mokwalakwala crashing through the tape fully two and a half minute clear of Mabane and over a kilometre clear of third placed Nonyane who finished in 2:54:15.
"I'm very happy. This was intended to test my fitness in preparation for Comrades; winning was a bonus," said Mokwalakwala who trains under the guidance of triathlon exponent Glen Gore.
"Comrades is the real focus. I've done 6:09 before, but I want a top three this year."
There was little changing of positions amongst the top five that dipped under the three-hour barrier. As an IAU (International Association of Ultrarunning) bronze label event the top finishers are world-ranked and can qualify for places in the World 50km Trophy later in the year.
Mabane added the 40-49 category to his second place with Butuki Jantjies second in the age group and closing the top ten in 3:07:33.
"I don't know what happened in the final 6k. It was not an age thing; age means nothing - this time did not scare me- it's just a mind thing. I had come to win and I know I can go faster," said Mabane who plans to go to defend his Loskop 50km title in April.
It was a gun to tape performance from Chiyedza Chokore who earned her third title in three hours 35 minutes six seconds. The Zimbabwean won in both 2009 and 2010 before placing second behind her sister in 2011.
"I was pleased to win, but would have preferred a faster time. I missed running with my sister as she helps to maintain the pace," said Ckokore. Julanie Basson, who won the Vaal Marathon in two hours 50 minutes in early March, was the nearest contender, but finished 500 metres adrift in 3:37:05.
Ndofhiwa Mandiwana closed the podium in three hours 45 minutes 34 seconds for third place while Comrades gold medalist Kashmira Parbhoo, who is back in her Lenasia colours, was fourth in 3:46:44.
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