Nelson Mandela Bay Half Marathon growing from strength to strength

athletics16 May 2023 07:25
Nelson Mandela Bay Half Marathon © Harwood Promotions

The Nelson Mandela Bay Half Marathon is back in full force and EP Athletics is gearing up for well over one thousand athletes to line up at Pollok Beach, Summerstrand, on June 3.

Race Director Michael Mbambani is looking forward to hosting the ninth NMB Half Marathon.

“With the support of our title sponsors, the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, we are expecting around 1500 local, national and international elite athletes to gather in Gqeberha – our city of action,” Mbambani said. “Our team is working towards delivering an incredible and competitive event with outstanding results which will be broadcast live on SuperSport. The race, which holds World Athletics Elite Label status, will also serve as the ASA Half Marathon National Championships.”

The event received high praise from Athletic SA’s president, James Moloi. “We must applaud the organisers of the Nelson Mandela Bay Half Marathon which incorporates the ASA Half Marathon Championships for being one of the best-organised races of the 21.1km distance not only in the country but in the world,” he said.

After a thrilling finish last year, Lesotho’s Namakoe Nkhasi won in his new personal best time of 1:01:01, narrowly beating hometown favourite Melikhaya Frans by seconds. Frans smashed his lifetime best by over a minute as he set a new Eastern Province Athletics record and won his first national title in 1:01:03.

Both Namakoe and Melikhaya will be on the start line, with hot competition from Kenya’s Kipkemoi Kiprono and Ethiopia’s Dinkalem Ayele, who are looking to improve on their fast personal best times.

Desmond Zibi, of Ikhamva Athletics Club, will also be in the mix.

Last year the women's race was dominated by Ethiopia's Ftaw Zeray who led from gun to tape to claim the victory in 1:06:57, but will not be competing this year. Confirmed competitors are Genet Habela Abdurkadir of Ethiopia, who is looking forward to improving her personal best time of 1.12.57 when she last competed in the 2018 edition of the half marathon, recent winner of the Two Oceans Half Marathon, her first attempt at this distance, Emma Pallant, who is looking to push for a faster time in Gqeberha, and Ethiopia’s Chaltu Bedo, who boasts a personal best half marathon time of 1.11.50.

So the race is set for another spectacular finish with top local, national and international athletes competing on South African soil.

Impressed by the fast times and quality of the race MMC Bassie Kamana, responsible for the Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts & Culture, gave the race the thumbs up.

“Nelson Mandela Bay is proud to sponsor this prestigious event, since 2014, for the ninth consecutive year, especially since this is the third year that it has been ranked by World Athletics as an Elite Label Road Race which puts our race on par with many of the world’s best races. Boosting sports tourism is high on the city’s agenda and partnering with high-profile events like the NMB Half Marathon & ASA Championships, promotes international participation and exposure, which is well suited to our tourism goals.

"We at NMBM pride ourselves on becoming the destination of choice for hosting both national and international events, and this marathon is the realisation of that objective."

"The Eastern Cape has unearthed many exceptional running talents in the past and a few Nelson Mandela Bay-based athletes will be looking to make a name for themselves on 3 June, running in their home town among the world’s best athletes. We will undoubtedly witness world-class talent at this outstanding race and we hope our local athletes will keep the Eastern Cape Athletics flag flying high!”

At stake is not only the South African title, but also valuable World Athletics ranking points and a whopping R80 000 for first prize and a total prize pot of R553 000, with the added bonus of R152 100 for ASA Championship prize money. 

The race is justifiably credited as the fastest half marathon in the country and with generous prize money one can expect fast times. The route is fast and flat and runs on the coastal road. Runners will start from 7am and complete a circular route. Starting from Marine Drive, at Pollock Beach, they will head north to Driftsands junction, then south on Marine drive through NMU, down Admiralty road, with the second lap turning at Driftsands junction to return to finish at Pollock Beach.

A full rolling closure from 5am will ensure a safe run and minimum inconvenience to the public.

Athletes can enter online through Webtickets or at major sports stores. The first 400 athletes, excluding provincial teams, to collect their race numbers will receive a special Nike T-shirt, and all finishers will receive a medal. The closing date for online and manual entries will be on Monday, 28 May 2023.