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Wesley Botton
Chief sports writer
2 minute read
5 Nov 2013
8:00 am

April races into the big time

Wesley Botton

Having made a career breakthrough at the age of 31, South African long-distance runner Lusapho April feels he still has plenty more to offer.

FILE PICTURE: Lusapho April. Picture: ImageSA / Gallo Images.

April finished third on Sunday in the New York Marathon, perhaps the most prestigious 42km race in the world.

“I think I probably have eight or nine years of competitive racing left in my legs,” April said yesterday.

Pacing himself well in the early stages, April tucked into a large lead group of 20 men as they went through the halfway mark in 1:05:06.

With less than 10km to go, eventual winner Geoffrey Mutai and fellow Kenyan Stanley Biwott broke clear of the pack, and while April was unable to stick with them, he managed to open a gap on the rest of the field.

He was overtaken by Ethiopian Tsegaye Kebede, who defended his London Marathon crown in April, but then passed a spent Biwott in the dying stages of the race to cling to third position.

“I saw Biwott was fading so I knew I could fight for second,” he said.

“Kebede had dropped off earlier, and I thought he was beaten, so when he came past I was surprised. I don’t know where he found the energy.

“I was feeling good but I just couldn’t find another gear to go with him.”

April crossed the line in 2:09:45, completing the second half 27 seconds faster than the first.

His podium finish was the best performance by a South African at a World Marathon Majors event since former New York winner Hendrick Ramaala took third place in the Big Apple in 2007.

“I’m very happy to put my country back on the map and follow in the footsteps of the likes of Hendrick Ramaala.”

April’s coach, Karen Zimmerman, was delighted with his performance, despite holding high hopes of victory in the build-up to the race.

“We wanted to win but we’re pleased,” she said. “Third place in New York is a big deal.”