Lesotho's Lebenya Nkoka and Russian Nina Podnebesnova won the 45th edition of the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon in cool and windy conditions in Cape Town on the Easter weekend.
Ethiopian Ketema Tadese led the race through the marathon mark in 2:19:45, with a 15-second gap over the chase group of Hendrick Ramaala, 2010 winner Mabhutile Lebopo and Nkoka.
Cresting Constantia, Nkoka made his break and had opened a 21 seconds over Ramaala after 50km, which he went through in 2:49:02.
From there he looked every part the winner as he strode forwards to the finishing line at University of Cape Town grounds. He broke the tape in 3:09:52, to record the first win by a Lesotho athlete since since 2010.
'A great day for me'
"I had done a lot of speed work in the build up. I knew I needed more speed," Nkoka said after completing the race. "This is a great day for me. It's going to change things."
Ramaala, running his debut ultra marathon, was the runner-up, one minute 41 seconds behind the winner, but he still had the consolation of being first finisher in the 40-plus age group.
"The South African thing'
"I was initially training for a spring international marathon, but that never materialised, and with the [Old Mutual R1-million] bonus I decided I would do the 'South African thing' and try this," the former New York Marathon winner said.
"I slept with my window open and was amazed at the wind that came in last night. My initial plans of going for the record were blown away.
"It was confusing over the initial kilometres. People were surging and there was no consistency of pace. I was told there were three hills, but I found so many more," he said. "At the marathon I was dead, but it's a mental thing. Then I was hungry. This ultra thing is different, and harder than I expected."
Lesotho runners claimed three of the top four positions, with Masilo Matjiane ending third and Warinyane Lebopo.
In the women's race, Ethiopia's Shitaye Debellu took the lead out of Hout Bay. She looked strong up to the marathon mark but then faded on the steep climb to Constantia Nek, where she was caught by Nina Podnebesnova, who went on to break the tape in 3:40:07. She had previously finished fifth on 2011 and 2013.
"I changed my coach over the past year, and he focused more on cross-country, track, and improving my speed," the Russian said after securing victory.
Debellu, who finished in 3:43:37, was the first of three Ethiopian women to earn gold medals on their debut.
After a decade of dominating the Cape classic, the Nurgalieva twins, Elena and Olesya, were below par, having caught flu immediately before flying out to South Africa.
"Olesya was really bad in the last few days," said Elena, who was nonetheless able to finish third in 3:43:59. "Before the race I did not expect to be in the top five. I am happy that I was able to get third today, but after a rest I hope to get back to form for Comrades." Her sister, Olesya, finished sixth in 3:51:46.
Pauline Njeya was the leading South African runner in fifth place, while Zola Pieterse (nee Budd) looked to be in cruise mode for most of the race and finished eleventh in 4:07:58.
Earlier in the day, Stephen Mokoka clocked 1:04:16 to win the half-marathon, just 80 metres clear of Joel Mmone and Gladwin Mzazi, who were both credited with a time of 1:04:29.
Lebo Paulino out ran Rene Kalmer in the ladies' race, taking line honours in 1:14:00, 23 seconds clear of Kalmer. Ethiopian Gezashigh Gemeda was third in 1:15:02.
Lebenya Nkoka (Les) 3:09:52
Hendrick Ramaala (RSA) 3:11:33
Masilo Mtajiane (Les) 3:12:00
Warinyane Lebopo (Les) 3:12:24
Ketema Tadese (Eth) 3:12:35
Nina Podebesnova (Rus) 3:40:07
Shitaye Debellu (Eth) 3:43:37
Elena Nurgalieva (Rus) 3:43:59
Mamarallo Tjoka (Les) 3:46:13
Paulina Njeya (RSA) 3:50:48