George Ntshiliza produced a late surge to break the foreign stranglehold on the 56km Two Oceans ultra-marathon in Cape Town on Saturday.
Ntshiliza came from behind to stun novice ultra-runner Motlhokoa Nkhabutlane of Lesotho and stormed clear with less than 1km remaining to win by 18 seconds.
The 31-year-old, who crossed the line in 3:08,31, became the first local athlete to win the race since 2003.
Russia’s Olesya Nurgalieva led twin sister Elena to another one-two in the women’s race.
A large Kenyan contingent took control of the men’s race in the first half, but after injecting an erratic pace, they fell back one by one.
Mike Fokoroni of Zimbabwe surged up Constantia Nek and took the lead with 12km to go, but Nkhabutlane caught him 3km later and forged ahead on the steep downhill section towards the finish.
The Lesotho runner looked to have the race in the bag, but Ntshiliza closed the gap in the dying stages and sprinted clear to secure victory.
Nkhabutlane settled for second place in 3:08,49, with countryman Tsotang Maine taking third in 3:09,19.
Double Comrades marathon champion Stephen Muzhingi of Zimbabwe finished fifth and Fokoroni, who took a beating for his hard work up the tough hills in the second half, held on to cross the line in seventh.
Four South Africans placed in the top 10, a vast improvement on the single gold medal last year.
Olesya Nurgalieva took control of the women’s race going up Constantia Nek and pulled away from her sibling to win in 3:33,58.
Elena finished second in 3:37,54 and Mamorallo Tjoka of Lesotho worked her way up the field to take third in 3:42,12.
South Africa’s elite women struggled to stick with the early pace, and filled only three of the top 10 positions.
Farwa Mentoor was the first local woman home, finishing eighth in 3:52,05.
Lusapho April defended his men’s half-marathon title in 1:03,58, and Helalia Johannes of Namibia held off South Africa’s Irvette van Blerk by eight seconds to win the women’s race in 1:11,56. – Sapa