Ethiopian Tsige Haileslase Abreha has won the 2023 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon in 2 hrs 24 min 17 sec, falling just 15 seconds short of the 2022 course record set by her compatriot, Meseret Dinke, for an all-Ethiopian podium also including Melesech Tsegaye Beyene taking silver, and Shewarge Alene Amare in third.
For ten years Sanlam Cape Town Marathon has enjoyed near-perfect running conditions, and that perfect run had to end one day, and it did so in 2023 with a substantial headwind in the final 4 km adding to the strain of runners at the time athletes least needed it.
Perfectly calm conditions at the start belied what was to follow and the gusts of wind which impacted the athletes after the first quarter forced a more tactical approach, as athletes remained in packs seeking protection from the elements.
A strong group of nine runners covered the first 15 kilometres together, led by two pacemakers. It was only around the half-way mark, reached in 1:12:02, that the wind and the attritional nature of the course began to take their toll, leaving six athletes clear at the front.
Haileslase, winner of last year’s Stockholm Marathon, looked comfortable tucked behind the pacemakers with fellow Ethiopians Melesech Tsegaye Beyene, Selam Fente Gebre, Ayinadis Teshome Birle and Shewarge Alene Amare and Kenyan Sheila Chepkech keeping her company, while 2021 winner Lydia Simiyu dropped out of contention.
The pace increased with four remaining at 25km. Then there were only two, as Gebre held on tenaciously.
But Haileslase went solo as the runners reached Woodstock Main Road and with only her pacer, Lesotho marathoner and former Two Oceans Marathon winner, Motlokoa Nkhabutlane, for company, she set off to break the course record.
Unfortunately for her, cramps in the final 2 km could not prevent Haileslase from claiming victory in an Olympic qualifying time, although they likely cost her the course record.
Tsegaye finished strongly to claim second place in 2:26:22, also an Olympic qualifier with a third Ethiopian, Alene, taking the last podium position in 2:27:26.
In the women’s wheelchair race, it was the support of the Cape Town crowds – its legendary ‘gees’ – which carried British athlete Eden Rainbow-Cooper through to a record win in the women’s wheelchair race, her 1:52:58, almost five minutes inside Brazilian Vanessa de Souza’s winning time last year. De Souza took bronze today behind Australian Christie Dawes.
“I’m over the moon with my performance,” said Rainbow-Cooper. “Every course is different, but I loved Cape Town! The gusts of wind between building made it challenging, but there were only a few parts which were tough.”Eden Rainbow-Cooper, 2023 Cape Town Marathon Wheelchair Winner
“One of the really big things for me was the atmosphere. Crowds were out there, shouting your name. They seemed genuinely excited in our event, which you don’t always get in other parts. I felt like a true elite!”
2023 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon Top 10 Results
1. Tsige Haileslase Abreha (2:24:17)
2. Melesech Tsegaye Beyene (2:26:23 | +2:06)
3. Shewarge Alene Amare (2:27:27 | +3:11)
4. Sheila Chepkech (2:27:41 | +3:25)
5. Lydia Naliaka Simiyu (2:29:04 | +4:48)
6. Ayinadis Teshome Birle (2:29:14 | +4:57)
7. Cynthia Chepchirchir Kosgei (2:29:34 | + 5:18)
8. Emane Seifu Hayile (2:30:23 | +6:07)
9. Tamryn Mckie (2:32:36 | +8:19)
10. Alina Armas (2:36:08 | +11:52)
Women’s Elite Wheelchair Podium Results
1. Eden Rainbow-Cooper (1:52:58)
2. Christie Dawes (1:58:03 | +5:06)
3. Vanessa Cristina De Souza (1:58:37 | +5:40)
Main photo Caption: Tsige Haileslase Abreha storms to the win at the 2023 Cape Town Marathon, on Sunday, 15 October, 2023. Photo: Screengrab of Cape Town Marathon’s video on Instagram
Photo 2 Caption: Eden Rainbow-Cooper (centre) won the 2023 Cape Town Marathon Women’s Wheelchair division, ahead of Christie Dawes (right, for silver) and Vanessa Cristina De Souza finishing the podium. Image: Stephen Granger
Photo 3 Caption: Nobility spotted during the weekend’s events and festivities included Cape Town Marathon’s Elana Van Zyl Meyer (left) alongside Mary Keitany. Photo: Supplied
Original Words by: Stephen Granger