World records are the theme for the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km 

In what was perfect weather conditions for runners, the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality was the beautiful backdrop once again for a morning of record-breaking performances as Nedbank Running Club (NRC) athletes Tete Morena Dijana and Emane Seifu Hayile set new men’s and women’s 50km world records, obliterating them in the process. 

With the women setting off in the dark with the starters pistol fired at 05:30, it was evident that the pack were taking advantage of the perfect weather conditions as a pacemaker, Helalia Johannes, formed a group of six women which included last year’s champion Amelework Fikadu Bosho and Swede Hanna Lindholm who was making her debut over the ultra-marathon distance. 

Passing halfway in 1:30:28, the group was down to 4 with Lindholm dropping off the pace and Tinebeb Ali and Hayile shadowing at the back of the pack. It wasn’t long after that Johannes’s pacemaker job was ending before the Namibian stepped off the course. 

Hayile and Ali surged ahead, leaving Bosho on her own in third but Hayile kept gesturing to Ali to keep in her slipstream but the 22-year-old Ali found the pace too hard and with 13km to go, Hayile surged ahead. 

Picking up the pace over the final 10km, Hayile remained unchallenged as she crossed the line victorious in a new world record, Ethiopian national record and continental record time of 3:00:30. Bosho came through for 2nd in 3:06:24 with Lindholm holding on for 3rd in a Swedish National record time of 3:08:56.

First South African across the line was Stella Marais who surprised everyone with her finish after starting the race as a pacemaker. “I am elated with today’s run because I honestly did not come here with the intention of finishing,” said Marais. “The agreed pace was 3:40 per km and the girls started much faster so I kept the pace until 30km and when I got there I found that I was still feeling ok so I decided to push on.”

The men’s race was spearheaded by pacemaker Melikhaya Frans who did a fantastic job of keeping the men’s way under world record tempo. Many big names dropped off the pace early. By the time the men entered the final 10km lap of five, it was down to three consisting of Dijana, his NRC teammate, Onalenna Khonkobe and Zimbabwean, Tonny Skink running in the colours of Maxed Elite.

Going through the official marathon mark in 2:12:37, all three men smashing their personal best marathon times in the process, it was Dijana who was first to strike a blow as Skink dropped back. Khonkobe tried his utmost to hang on, but the invisible elastic band finally snapped on the final turn with 3km to go and Dijana shot off.

It was a fast finish to Pollock beach as Dijana smashed Stephen Mokoka’s 50km *World Record crossing the line in 2:39:03. Not only did set a new World Record, he set a new South African and continental record. Khonkobe hung on for 2nd 37 seconds back with Skink holding on for 3rd in a new Zimbabwean national record of 2:40:03. All 3 men finished under the previous world record. Lesotho’s Tshepo Mathibelle in 5th set a new Lesotho record of 2:43:57.

“We were in the camp for a purpose and the hard work we endured paid off today,” said an elated Dijana. “My victory is for my camp, my team Nedbank and all of South Africa.”

Race director Nick Bester was elated with another record-breaking morning. “We could not have asked for anything better and the athletes really came to the party and performed,” said Bester. “Credit must go to the whole team who put together yet another world-class event and the athletes rewarded us with not only 2 new world records but also national and continental records as well.”

“We have seen this prestigious event consistently attract some of the most exceptional athletes in the past two years and that certainly didn’t change this year. What started as an opportunity to put runners back on the road has quickly evolved and now in its third year, the race has set numerous records each year. Breaking Barriers has truly set a high benchmark because today we witnessed exceptional performances from some of the best athletes. Congratulations to all the runners that were once again part of history,” says Khensani Nobanda, Nedbank: Group Executive, Marketing and Corporate Affairs.

*American CJ Albertson did run a time of 2:38:43 on 8 October 2022 but this time has still not been ratified. The official world record ratified time is that of Stephen Mokoka’s 2:40:13.

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