VETERAN runner Lebenya Nkoka on Sunday reclaimed his High-Altitude Summer Marathon (HASM) title clocking 2:31:21 to beat last year's winner Teboho Noosi to the M120 000 cash prize.
The 16th edition of the race took place in Mokhotlong also saw Kenyan Monica Jepkoech Mengich (3:10:46) winning in the female category.
Lehlohonolo Raletebele came second in the male category clocking 2:32:30 while Noosi finished third after recording a time of 2:32:43.
In the female category, two Basotho runners Lineo Chaka (3:11:00) and Ntebaleng Letšela (3:17:55) came second and third respectively.
The first and second runners-up each pocketed M80 000 and M40 000 respectively in both female and male categories.
Both Noosi and Nkoka started the race with a high tempo breaking away from the rest of the runners straight from the start.
Noosi led the pack for a few kilometres before Nkoka caught up and they paced together for about 30 kilometres. Nkoka however, broke away after crossing the Senqu River and maintained his pace until the finish line.
Noosi went on to relinquish the second place to Raletebele who was in a chasing pack in the final five kilometres.
In female category, debutant Mengich dominated the race. However, the 34-year-old did not have it any easy as Chaka followed closely behind. Nevertheless, the Kenyan proved too strong especially when ascending steeps.
Nkoka said this year's race was tougher and he was happy to win.
"I am happy to have won and I am already looking forward to a better performance next year," Nkoka said.
Although he was happy with the competition, he said there was room for improvement to make the race the best on the continent.
"There is great potential. All that needs the Lesotho Sport and Recreation Commission (LSRC) must do is to market it. I know that they participate in expos in South Africa but more must be done."
He said the LSRC must start distributing marketing materials and branded merchandise early in the year. Nkoka also said there was need to increase the prizes so that they are commensurate with the race's steep terrains.
On her part, Mengich said her first experience in Lesotho was an awesome one.
"This was my first time running in Lesotho, I must say it was an amazing experience. The race was difficult especially because of the hills but I enjoyed the challenge," Mengich said.
"Chaka was very strong and kept pushing me but I know that I am strong in ascending steeps, so that is where I won the race; it was actually a good challenge and experience for me," she said.
Menigich said Lesotho has the potential to produce good runners and must use its high altitude wisely.
"I train in a high altitude myself and that is what helped me win this race. There is potential that local runners can dominate the world; they must just continue working hard and use the high altitude wisely," Menigch said.
Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) sponsored the 10km race while Alliance Insurance sponsored the five-kilometre race.
Letsekang Sekonyela (1:07:05), Tebello Ramakoangoana (1:07:34) and Jobo Khatoane (1:08:24) came first, second and third respectively in the male category while Neheng Khatala (1:27:03), Mokulubete Makatisi (1:29:15) and Patience Muruwe (1:30:07) also came first, second and third in the female category.
Namakoe Nkhasi, Mthimkholo Hatasi and Tšepang Maqaleha came first second and third in the LEC 10km race in the male category. In the female category Olivia Mugave, Malineo Mahloko and Rudo Mhonderwa came first, second and third.
Thebe Semoko, Sethunya Mokheseng and Monatsi Monatsi came first, second and third in the boys' five-kilometre race while Rorisang Tlhola, Relebohile Makhiwane and Nyaliseng Shao won in the girls' category.
Tanki Molefe (boys) and Manqabang Tsibela (girls) won the inaugural one-mile race for under-15s.
Six hundred and two athletes from Afghanistan, Australia, Botswana, India, Ireland, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, eSwatini, United Kingdom, United States of America and Zimbabwe participated in the race.
The race coordinator Malitsietsi Zwakala said although the numbers were fewer than last year, they were happy with the achievements considering that they had less time to market the race. She however, said there was still room for improvement.
"The event was a success but there are areas that we must still improve. Most importantly, the race must secure funding elsewhere instead of relying on the government. We are happy that we retained Alliance Insurance Company and LEC," Zwalaka said.