By Bakang Mhaladi
Gaborone - Organisers of the annual Diacore Gaborone Marathon, which was held on Sunday, had dangled a P1-million cash prize for runners completing the 42.2km race in under 2 hours 8 minutes.
However, the cash was still intact at the end of a grueling race in Botswana’s capital, as runners sweated but could not beat the time.
The closest to the eye-watering cash was South African runner, Sibusiso Nzima who won the men’s race in a time of 2:16:00, missing the P1 million by eight minutes.
Zimbabweans, Isaac Mpofu and Ngonidzashe Ncube finished second and third with times of 2:17:49 and 2:26:58, respectively.
In the women’s category, Zimbabwe’s Olivia Chitate, despite emerging victorious, was way off the mark, finishing in 2:51:00.
Botswana athlete, Mantshapelo Badumetse, was second while Namibian, Annah Amutoko finished third.
While the organisers had tried to entice the best runners from the continent with the P1 million bounty, there was immediate criticism that the target was too steep.
Nzima, the men’s winner, said his target was winning the race, and not necessarily the P1 million.
“My preparations were not adequate for me to beat the set time. The course was flat and I faced stiff competition from Kenyan and Zimbabwean runners,” said Nzima, who was making his debut.
The top-ranked Botswana runner in the marathon, Godiraone Nthompe, who finished sixth, said it was almost impossible to do 2:08:00 in Africa.
“It is difficult to run that time in Africa. That time can only be expected in Europe,” Nthompe said.
The world record for the 42.2km marathon is 2:02:57 held by Kenyan, Dennis Kimmeto, who achieved it at the Berlin Marathon in 2014.
After the disappointment of failing to bag the P1 million, winners in both categories pocketed P25,000. Nedbank Runners dominated the race, all three podium finishers in the men’s race, belonging to the South African club. Chitate is also a member of Nedbank.