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Agony and ecstasy on the East London Esplanade

On 25 July 1987 East London produced what has been described as one of the greatest road races ever run.

The South African Half-Marathon Championship was always expected to produce an excellent, possibly even world-record, time.

But no-one could have predicted the high drama that unfolded when two of South Africa's most talented athletes, Zithulele Sinqe and Matthews Temane, sprinted down the East London Esplanade for what is undoubtedly one of the most thrilling half-marathon finishes ever.

" The day of the 1987 half-marathon dawned with an air of expectancy as SA went in search of a world best time," Bob Norris wrote in the Daily Dispatch on 25 July 2017.

"The field catapulted down Oxford and Fleet streets to the esplanade. The first kilometre was run in 2min 39sec. At 5km Temane, Sinqe and ( Jan ) Tau were determining the pace, and what a pace it was – 13:44 ... The 10km mark was reached in 28:07, which would have been an SA record in its own right. The same would apply at 15km when they went through in 42:50."

But it was the finish which would prove the most thrilling.

Temane and Sinqe, having broken away from the pack, were neck-in-neck, sprinting down the Esplanade to the finish line.

In the end, Temane just pipped his Mthatha-born rival to the tape - though both runners were credited with an (unofficial) world record time of 60:11.

"The SA Half-Marathon Championships goes down as one of the greatest achievements in South African sporting history," Norris concludes.

Read his full account of the thrilling race here.

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