Uganda's Joshua Cheptegei was touted as race favourite at Sunday's inaugural FNB Durban 10K CITYSURFRUN - and the 21-year-old World Championship 10 000m silver medallist lived up to the billing, by smashing the South African all-comers record with a 27min 28sec win.
The previous best of 27:55 was set by Richard Limo in Port Elizabeth 13 years ago. Cheptegei's time was the fourth fastest time in the world this year, as well as a Ugandan national record. Switzerland's Julien Wanders, who ended fourth, set a new Swiss record of 28:12.
If that wasn't enough, Uganda's 19-year-old Mercyline Chelangat also ran a national record of 31:37 in the women's race.
The first kilometre saw a bunch of approximately 20 athletes fly past in 2:47, but within the second kilometre the pace increased markedly and the group went past in 2:42, spitting out close on 10 athletes from the front bunch.
The pace then settled to 2:45/km but even that was too fast for some of the bunch and by the 4km mark the pack had been whittled down to four.
Surprisingly, the worlds' fastest 12km runner, Morris Gachaga was not able to go with the brutal pace; nor was SA 5000m record-holder, Elroy Gelant as Cheptegei surged at 4km, taking SA 10km record holder, Stephen Mokoka, Swiss sensation Wanders and countryman, Stephen Kissa with him.
The halfway mark was passed in 13:47 - well on for a sub 27:30 finish. Cheptegei was relentless and again upped the pace, dropping both Mokoka and Wanders. Kissa hung on for almost another kilometre, before he too had to give way to Cheptegei's continuous surging.
By 8km, Cheptegei was the sole contender for the title and it was only a race against the clock. Flying down the promenade on Durban's beachfront, Cheptegei crossed the line in 27:28 to run the fourth fastest time in the world this year.
Second across the line was countryman and training partner, Kissa shaving 24 seconds off his personal best of 28:28 to finish in 28:04 while Wanders knocked 37 seconds off his previous best of 28:49, clocking 28:12.
'The wind came up and it did affect us,' said Cheptegei. 'But I'm very happy. A national record and my PB, yes I'm very happy.' Asked about why he decided to make the move at 4km, Cheptegei said that it just felt right to go then. 'We were running hard, we wanted a fast time. The first few kilometres were not consistent in terms of splits, so I wanted to make sure we ran more consistently. Also I felt good and I could see the others were struggling a bit.'
Mokoka, who was chasing his own SA record, finished fourth in 28:34. 'This was a hard run. Overall I'm happy, but it was hard.'
Just as in the men's race, it was a Ugandan who took the women's race in a national record. Mercyline Chelangat (above) had the race of her life, improving her best time of 33:17 by a massive 1:40 to clock an incredible 31:37 for the second-fastest time ever on South African soil behind the 31:33 of Elana Meyer in 1991 - also in Durban.
The initial pace was almost suicidal as the women went through 2km in 6:02 and then settled down. Chelangat, Dorcus Tuitoek and Paskalia Chepkorir then raced together for the next 7km, before Chelangat was able to break away and fly to an incredible time of 31:37, and breaking the previous national record of Uganda which had stood at 32:10.
'I did not know what to expect, so to run this fast, makes me very happy,' says Chelangat. 'I knew I was in good shape and the wind made it difficult, but after today I know I can go a lot faster.'
Paskalia Chepkorir finished second, 10 seconds back (31:47) with Dorcas Tuitoek rounding out the podium (32:11).
First South African across the line was United States based Dominique Scott who finished in 33:26.
'It's been a long season, almost 13 months of racing with no break, so I'm quite happy with today,' says Scott. 'But it was hard and the wind did add to the challenge. But I loved racing in Durban and hope to be back again. This race is incredible and it was amazing to be part of it.'
1 Joshua Cheptegei 27min 28sec, 2 Stephen Kissa 28:04, 3 Julien Wanders 28:12, 4 Stephen Mokoka 28:34, 5 Elroy Gelant 29:11, 6 Joel Mmone 29:31, 7 Phillimon Mathiba 29:38, 8 Mbongeni Nxazozo 29:42, 9 Thabang Mosiako 29:46, 10 Morris Gachaga 29:46
1 Mercyline Chelangat 31:37, 2 Paskalia Chepkorir 31:47, 3 Dorcas Tuitoek 32:11, 4 Veronicah Nyaruai 32:55, 5 Dom Scott 33:26, 6 Nazret Weldu 33:43, 7 Betha Chikanga 33:59, 8 Maria Shai 35:24, 9 Jenet Mbhele 35:35, 10 Janie Grundling 36:24