Records tumble at the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km
Runners took the streets in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality in perfect weather conditions in search for more record-breaking performances at the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km, which took place on Sunday, 26 February.
Athletes from the Biogen-backed Nedbank Running Club took the occasion in their stride, with reigning Comrades Tete Morena Dijana setting a new (unofficial) men’s 50km world record, and Emane Seifu Hayile writing her name in the record books with her record-breaking performance.
The women’s field set off in the dark when the starter’s pistol fired at 05:30. The pack took advantage of the perfect weather conditions as pacemaker Helalia Johannes led a group of six athletes, including last year’s champion Amelework Fikadu Bosho and Swede Hanna Lindholm who was making her debut over the ultra-marathon distance.
Passing halfway in 1:30:28, the group was down to four, with Lindholm dropping off the pace and Tinebeb Ali and Hayile shadowing at the back of the pack. Eventually, with 13km to go, Hayile surged ahead.
Picking up the pace over the final 10km, Hayile remained unchallenged as she crossed the line victorious in a new world record, Ethiopian national record and continental record time of 3:00:30.
Bosho came through for second in 3:06:24, with Lindholm holding on for 3rd in a Swedish National record time of 3:08:56.
The first South African across the line was Stella Marais, who surprised everyone with her finish after starting the race as a pacemaker.
The men’s race was spearheaded by pacemaker Melikhaya Frans, who did a fantastic job of keeping the men under world record pace.
Despite many big names in the field, by the time the men entered the final 10km lap, it was down to three athletes – Dijana, his NRC teammate, Onalenna Khonkobe and Zimbabwean, Tonny Skink running in the colours of Maxed Elite.
All three men smashed their personal best marathon times after going through the official marathon mark in 2:12:37.
It was Dijana who struck first with a surge that saw Skink drop off the pace. Khonkobe tried to hang on, but lost ground to Dijana on the final turn with 3km to go.
Dijana kept the pace for a fast finish into Pollock beach and beat Stephen Mokoka’s 50km World Record* by crossing the line in 2:39:03, setting a new South African and continental record in the process.
Khonkobe hung on for second 37 seconds back, with Skink holding on for 3rd in a new Zimbabwean national record of 2:40:03. All three men finished under the previous world record. Lesotho’s Tshepo Mathibelle in 5th set a new Lesotho record of 2:43:57.
“We were in the camp for a purpose and the hard work we endured paid off today,” said an elated Dijana. “My victory is for my camp, my team Nedbank and all of South Africa.”
Race director Nick Bester was elated with another record-breaking morning. “We could not have asked for anything better and the athletes really came to the party and performed,” he said.
“Credit must go to the team, who put together another world-class event, and to the athletes, who rewarded us with new world records and multiple national and continental records as well.”
“We have seen this prestigious event consistently attract some of the most exceptional athletes in the past two years and that certainly didn’t change this year,” says Khensani Nobanda, Nedbank: Group Executive, Marketing and Corporate Affairs.
“What started as an opportunity to put runners back on the road has quickly evolved and now in its third year, the race has set numerous records each year. Breaking Barriers has truly set a high benchmark because we witnessed exceptional performances again today from some of the best athletes.”
*American CJ Albertson ran a time of 2:38:43 on 8 October 2022 but this time has still not been ratified. The official ratified world record time remains Stephen Mokoka’s 2:40:13.
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