spirits high in sa camp

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

There was a strong sense of self-belief among South African athletes this week but the locals will need more than just conviction to arrest the supremacy of foreigners in the "People's Race", the Nedbank Soweto Marathon, on Sunday.

The South Africans will need to display great stamina and poise if they harbour any hopes of outclassing their rivals from Lesotho and Zimbabwe.

Athletes from Lesotho have made the race theirs and there is a joke doing the rounds that the event should be renamed the Lesotho Marathon in Soweto.

Mmamorallo Tjoka, the unassuming marathoner from Lesotho, made history when she won the women's title for an unprecedented four times in a row.

Tjoka has already thrown down the gauntlet, declaring to Sowetan that "I'm coming to Soweto on November 2 to defend my title".

Her compatriot Teboho Sello ran away with the men's title last year, Lebopo Mabuthile claimed it in 2006 and 2004, and Tsotang Maene succeeded in 2005.

The men's title went to Zimbabwean Elijah Mutandiro in 2003 and 2002. The last time a South African won the men's title was in 2001 when Mluleki Nobanda beat Mutandiro by 30 seconds.

The women's section had a local winner in Charne Bosman (formerly Rademeyer) in 2004, who was the defending champion.

It was interesting to hear Rademeyer declaring her readiness to recapture her title this week.

Lucas Nonyana was equally optimistic he will shine on Sunday and so were other local athletes.

Atlanta Olympics gold medallist Josia Thugwane, Johannes Kekana, Norman Dlomo, George Mofokeng, Dimakatso Menong, Louisa Leballo, Eunice Nhlapo, Gloria Baeba and Farwa Mentoor will be among those carrying South Africa's hopes on Sunday.

The race starts at Elkah Stadium at 6am and finishes at the same venue.

Poppy Mlambo, the Phalula twins Lebo and Lebohang as well as Tshamano Setone are among the runners to watch in the 10km.

Meanwhile, Hendrick Ramaala is out to reclaim the New York Marathon title in the US on Sunday where he will face giants like Paul Tergat and Martin Lel.