It was another red-letter day for South African ultra-marathon running at the recent Comrades Marathon, when Elite Athlete Development Programme star and current South African 100km record holder Bongmusa Mthembu ran himself into the record books as he claimed his second Comrades title last weekend.
Mthembu, who won the 2014 down run to Durban, has been in sublime form recently when he finished second overall at the World 100km Championships, helping Team South Africa to win the gold medal.
“I always want to keep improving as an athlete and I always thought to myself that I was going to get another Comrades win but I didn’t want to rush it,” the Arthur Ford athlete said.
“Having won Comrades before I knew how to win the race so I just wanted to take my time and prepare properly for the race.
“It was important that I kept on working hard and pushing myself,” he commented.
The 2017 edition of the Ultimate Human Race was as uncompromising as ever for all runners and once Mthembu realised that the race record was off the table his astute race plan kicked in and he took control of the race.
“My coach and I had been working really hard on a plan throughout the race and when we went through halfway and the record was gone the pace slowed down.
“When I got to Little Polly’s and I was in the lead I felt that it was my race from there and I was confident that I was going to win.
“I got very emotional over the finish line because you only then realise the sacrifices that you make through training for this race.
“Anyone can run Comrades but the training is the hardest part of the event,” he added.
With a down-run win and now an up-run win to his name, Mthembu was confident but wasn’t focusing on the win in the early stages of the race.
“I knew that I had the ability to win the race but I didn’t put myself under that pressure when we started.
“My preparation had been very good and I was mentally and physically fit for the race,” Mthembu commented.
Mthembu’s fellow Elite Athlete Development Programme marathon star Siphiwe Ndlela was on the verge of not being able to run and a last minute decision from Dr Kevin Subban and himself saw him take off from Durban and finish in an impressive sixth overall.
“It was touch-and-go as to whether Siphiwe would even be able to run,” Prime Sports Medical Practitioner Dr Kevin Subban mentioned.
“He came back from a team camp in Lesotho and it was discovered that he had a Grade One tear in his calf.
“We did a scan and it was a race against time to see whether he was going to be ready to run but with some intense physiotherapy he felt a lot better on the Thursday before the race – the day we had to make a decision.”
Ndlela’s performance at the Comrades was a monumental achievement with his injury just highlighting the hard work that he had put in in the build-up to the ultra-marathon.
“I think that we managed to catch it just in time which meant that he was able to run with the slight strain.
“His brilliant base work and preparation played a huge part in getting him ready and able to run and to achieve what he did,” Subban added.