Unheralded Zimbabwean female long-distance runner, Anna Bungu, was the surprise package at this year’s Old Mutual Soweto Marathon. She finished in the top 10 of the women’s race in the gruelling event which was held outside Johannesburg on Sunday.
Competing in her first Soweto Marathon, 23-year-old Bungu, who is under the guidance of one of the country’s former top male long-distance runners Collen Makaza, surprised all and sundry at this annual event.
She came home in seventh place in a good time of 2 hours 57 minutes 47 seconds.
She was just one place behind fellow Zimbabwean and veteran female road runner, Rutendo Nyahora, who crossed the finish line in 2hr 55min 26sec.
Three Zimbabweans finished in the top 10 in the women’s race. Faith Nyasango came 9th in 2hr 58min 56sec as the local athletes made their presence felt in this race which was won by South Africa’s Irvette van Zyl.
Van Zyl continued her dominance after winning the third consecutive edition of the “People’s Race”.
The 32-year-year-old mother of two ran the 42.2km race in 2hr 34min 01sec, just 58 seconds slower than her record-breaking win of 2:33:43 last year.
Victory in Soweto marked a powerful return to business by Van Zyl after undergoing an operation three months ago.
After giving birth in May 2018, Van Zyl instead chose to prepare to run and defend her Soweto Marathon title, delaying the operation until this year. Second and third place in the women’s 42.2km race went to two Ethiopians Selam Abere Alebachew (2:45:54) and Gadise Getachew Bekele (2:48:19).
“Congrats to Anna Bungu, first marathon and managed to be in top ten at (the) Soweto Marathon . . . So proud to be your coach,” Makaza wrote on his Facebook wall.
Sadly, no Zimbabwean featured in the top 10 of the men’s race at the same event.
In the men’s race, Ethiopia took honours as Debeko Dakamo Dasa won in 2:18:35.
There was a half-marathon at this year’s Soweto Marathon and the women’s 21.1km race was won by Zimbabwe’s Caroline Mhandu in a good time of 1:20:58.
She was followed home by another Zimbabwean female runner Rudo Mhonderwa who clocked 1:22:06.
Third place in the women’s 21.1km race was snatched by South Africa’s Diana Lebo Phalula (1:23:27). Another Zimbabwean runner Ethal Sibanda also did well in the women’s 21.1km race where she finished in fifth place in 1:26:23.
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