UKZN runners from the University Athletics Club, staff, students and alumni who participated in last Sunday’s 2019 Comrades Marathon excelled; flying the UKZN flag high in their endeavours of excellence in sport.
Running his first Comrades Marathon and finishing in 11th position with a time of 5:53:22, third-year Education student, Mr Nkosikhona Mhlakwana, said he had a great race with everything going according to plan. He said when his body and legs stopped, his heart and mind carried him to the finish line. His results have put him in seventh position in South Africa and third in KwaZulu-Natal.
Howick-born Mhlakwana recently came third in the 10 000km USSA Track and Field Athletics Championships and has been running professionally for the past 13 years. He thanked his coach, Mr Prodigal Khumalo, who taught him everything during the training.
Chuckling, Mhlakwana said running the Comrades Marathon feels like a drug. ‘I feel like I can run another Comrades Marathon next week.’ He said he is taking advantage of his rest for the next two weeks. Thereafter, he will resume his training and running other races.
On Thursday, 06 June 2019, the University held a Pasta Evening event for the runners during which Mr Buti Manamela, the Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, was present to wish the runners well.
During the event, veteran runner and staff member, Mr Tony Singarum, who completed his 23rd Comrades Marathon race on Sunday also offered his advice on the do’s and don’ts of running the Comrades race.
He said his years of experience in running ultra-marathons and his determination to never give up is what carried him through to the finish line. Singarum said Team UKZN trains regularly and even though he had barely trained with the University team this year, he had a great run and respected it 100% throughout. He said: ‘My wish is for staff and students to join the team even if it is just to keep fit.’
Manamela reminded the runners, especially those doing so for the first time that everyone’s race is personal as it affects people differently. He added that should they feel like giving up, they should remind themselves why they are there.
Having run the race in 2018, Manamela said the discipline he gained from the experience has transferred to other areas of his life. Although he did not take part in this year’s race due to a knee injury, he thanked the UKZN Athletics team for helping him with his training.
UKZN alumna, Ms Nontuthuko Mgabhi, a Psychology master’s graduate who ran her fifth Comrades Marathon, will soon be the first African female to take part in the World Marathon Challenge which consists of seven marathons on seven continents, in seven days. She said she used the Comrades Marathon as part of her training for the World Challenge.
Mgabhi is running to raise R3,5 million to build a school for 657 children in rural Mtubatuba where more than 110 learners currently share one classroom. Her dream is to close the education gap between the rich and the poor.
She said coming from a tough school environment inspired her to give these children an equal opportunity to succeed.
Staff member, Mrs Khosi Mdladla who ran her second Comrades Marathon and her first up run, said she enjoyed this year’s race more than the first time she participated. ‘The excitement at the starting line and the support we received all the way was really great,’ she said. The mother of three (two girls aged 17 and eight and a boy aged 11) said it has not been easy to balance running, work, studying and family but the sport has helped her immensely in all areas of her life. ‘If it wasn’t for running and God, I would have given up. I want to run and take part in the Comrades for as long as I can,’ she said.
Manamela said more support is needed for races at club level and for up and coming athletes at development level who show talent but might lack the resources to take part in the Comrades.
This year’s Pasta Evening was attended by runners from the UKZN Athletics team, alumni, staff and students who formed part of the 21 000 runners who took part in the Comrades Marathon. The evening was in line with runners’ strategy of loading on carbohydrates, popularly known as carbo-loading, which takes place a week before the marathon. Loading the body with carbohydrates before an endurance event lasting many hours fuels the body, thus reducing fatigue and improving performance.
During the Pasta Evening, Singarum reminded runners to make a list of all the gear needed on the day; sort out transport to and from the race; and to buy all necessities such as petroleum jelly, gel and plasters. He also urged runners to properly hydrate themselves without overdoing it; keeping healthy and avoiding getting sick; and most importantly, for runners to relax their legs, and to not try anything new on the day of the race.
Words: Sithembile Shabangu