South Africa’s Stephen Mokoka stepped up to 50km in style on Sunday (6), running 2:40:13* to break the men’s world record for the distance at the Nedbank #Runified 50km – a World Athletics Elite Label road race – in Gqeberha.
The three-time Olympian has been running marathons for more than a decade but made history in his very first 50km race, following the pacemaker through half way in 1:21:02 and then breaking away after 30km with a 2:56 kilometre to put himself on world record schedule. He held that pace on the 10km loop course and solo ran his way to the finish line to win by almost four minutes and improve the inaugural world 50km record of 2:42:07 that had been set by Ethiopia’s Ketema Negasa at the same event last year.
“I’m tired,” Mokoka said with a smile in his post-race interview. “It’s a long way and I don’t know how I’m going to feel later, but I enjoyed it.”
Given the increasing popularity of 50km road races, the decision to add the distance to the list of events for which world records are recognised was made at the 225th World Athletics Council meeting in Tokyo in July. Negasa’s 2:42:07 was then ratified as the inaugural men’s world 50km record at the start of this year, while the 3:04:24 run by South Africa’s Irvette van Zyl in the same 2021 event was ratified as the world 50km record for a women-only race.
That time had been the target for athletes in Sunday’s Nedbank #Runified 50km but while it remained out of reach, Ethiopia’s Amelework Fikadu Bosho claimed a dominant women’s race win with her 3:04:58 performance.
Kenya’s Shelmith Muriuki was second in 3:08:30, while Van Zyl was third in 3:13:23. In the men’s race, Tete Dijana was runner-up to Mokoka, clocking 2:44:08, with their compatriot Edward Mothibi third in 2:45:27.
*Subject to the usual ratification procedure