Olympic marathon runner Lusapho April helped defending champions Gamble Pharmacy smash their 21km course record by more than two-and-a-half minutes in the first race of the Investec Night Relay series in Port Elizabeth on Thursday evening.

Uitenhage-born April set a blistering pace of just over three minutes per kilometre on the first lap around the North End Lake to edge his five-man team towards victory and a new record time of 1 hour 4 minutes and 56 seconds.

NSRC Warriors chased hard for the runner-up spot, finishing in a respectable 1 hour 10 minutes and 10 seconds, with the NMMU Young Guns just 10 seconds further back in third.

The title sponsor’s Investec 3 team proved too strong for their opposition in the mixed category, coming home in a time of 1 hour 18 minutes and 27 seconds. Their nearest rivals were Ernst & Young and Aspen in second and third respectively.

It was also one for the books in the walking category, with the Rawstron family team setting a record pace of 1 hour 27 minutes and 52 seconds on the 12.6km course.

Race organiser Michael Zoetmulder of Zports said it was a great start to the 2013 series.

“We were very privileged to have our former national marathon champion here.

“Lusapho was also the first South African home at the London Olympic marathon last year. It’s great to have athletes of this calibre supporting our local events.”

Zoetmulder said he expected entry figures for corporate teams to double ahead of the second race on April 4.

“A lot of companies indicated that they were unable to make the March event but will be entering multiple teams for next month’s race.

“Because each lap is just 4.2km, the event is achievable for even social runners and walkers.”

With lucky draw prizes, live entertainment, food stalls and a beer garden adding to the festival atmosphere, he said the series provided a healthy alternative networking opportunity for businesses in the metro.

The three-race series culminates on May 2.

Visit www.investecnightrelay.co.za for full results and event details.

esau mariano

Fifth runner Esau Mariano takes a record-breaking win for Uitenhage’s Gamble Pharmacy in the first race of the Investec Night Relay series at the North End Lake in Port Elizabeth on Thursday. Photo: Sport Action Photography

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