JOHANNESBURG – Stephen Mokoka was not beating himself up for his close shave with world marathon glory.
Instead South Africa’s road running superstar was looking back at his maiden IAAF World Championships marathon appearance with delight, content that he had given it his all and grateful for the invaluable experience he plans to put to good use going forward.
“I am okay with the results because my body gave it all it had. It was my first marathon championships, so the results are good and I believe more can come from the experience.”
Mokoka finished in a credible fifth position although he had looked good to seriously challenge for a podium finish having kept up with the leading group until a little under three kilometres to go.
Mokoka was in the lead with the trio of winner Lelisa Desisa, runner-up Mosinet Geremew and bronze medallistt Amos Kipruto for a long time until Great Britain’s Callum Hawkins caught up.
The Sanlam Cape Town Marathon record holder fell off the bunch and had to be content with fifth place.
He had looked good despite spending a part of the race looking back and even attempting a surge away which did not drop the other competitors as had appeared to be the plan. Sometimes he skipped the waterpoint only to ask for a drink from Desisa. All that seemed to have contributed to his failing to keep up late on when Hawkins caught up.
But Mokoka says he wouldn’t change anything from his run.
“I was running my own race because it made me feel Ok and confident. I looked back because when you race against big names you have to be alert all time. So looking back, I was checking if we are clear.”
He said at the end he just could not push any harder.
“The body was out of gas and could not give more. I had to hang on until the finish. Callum is a back to front guy and we knew he would come. So when I became a casualty I just kept pushing the body with the hope that no-one catches me. All I wanted was to maintain my position.”
That much he did, although there is also reason to believe he had it in him to still be in the running for a podium until the end.
Mokoka had looked very good from when he stuck with the initial six man breakaway group that took over from the initial leader Derlis Ayala of Paraguay who sprinted into the lead on the 7km lap course.
The South American’s ploy was always going to backfire, especially given he had just ran another marathon a fortnight before the Doha race.
When Mokoka and the leading group, that also included defending champion Geoffrey Kirur of Kenya and Eritrean Zersany Tadese, overtook Ayala at about the half marsthon mark, it was clear a winner will come from among them.
Mokoka appeared to be doing well except for his continued glances backwards that no doubt sapped him of energy in the hot and humid conditions.
While he says they were expecting Hawkins, his shock as seeing the Scot catch up told the story of a beaten man and his failure to hang on to the group confirmed this much.
His fifth placing though remains the best ever finish at the global event by a South African and Mokoka has every reason to be proud of his run in Doha.
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