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by Michelle Carnegie
12 January 2018

A strong field of athletes will be lining up at this weekend’s Dis-Chem Half Marathon in Bedfordview, Gauteng, but all eyes will be on Nedbank Running Club’s (NRC) David Manja and Irvette van Zyl. Manja recently won the Soweto Half Marathon while Van Zyl took top honours in the marathon.
Van Zyl, who is four months pregnant, is hoping her body will allow her on Sunday to go out and do her best. She has won the race a couple of times in the past, and is hoping for a top three position on Sunday, though she says she has learnt from her previous pregnancy that anything can change on the day.
She is no newcomer to running while pregnant. With her first pregnancy she still managed to run a sub 35-minute 10km and also ran this distance a week before her son Louis was born.  Last year Van Zyl, an Olympic marathoner, became the first South African female since 2009 to win the Soweto Marathon. She crossed the finish line in a time of 2:41. Van Zyl was already pregnant them, but was not aware of it. “I didn’t feel 100%, but thought I was maybe just getting sick,” said Van Zyl.
She will be up against a strong field of women at Sunday’s 17th anniversary of this premier half marathon in Gauteng. Christine Kalmer won the race last year in a time of 1:22:50.

The men’s race promises to be very competitive with all eyes on NRC’s David Manja and Philimon Mathiba. Both men had fantastic races at last year’s Soweto Half Marathon with Manja winning and Mathiba finishing in 3rd position.  Just a week before the Soweto Marathon Mathiba finished in 8th position in his debut marathon in Dublin while Manja won the 10km event at the Tembisa Mile.
Both are in excellent shape, and a win or at least a top three position is highly likely from Manja, says Pio Mpolokeng, former Dublin Marathon winner and currently NRC development coach in Klerksdorp. “After Soweto the men had a break for a week and then we started training again right through December into the New Year with our goal to perform at Dis-Chem,” said Mpolokeng.
Both men have run Dis-Chem before with Manja finishing second in 2016 and Mathiba 3rd last year. “I am most certain that Manja will have a good race because he is in excellent shape. Selection to the Half Marathon World Champs in March in Spain is on the cards if Manja manages a good time on Sunday,” said Mpolokeng.
After Sunday’s race the men will compete in Bloemfontein next week where the cross-country African Championship trials will be held. A team will be selected to represent South Africa in Mauritius and Algeria in March. Their focus thereafter then shifts to competing at the Two Oceans Marathon end of March.

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