Mthembu aims for Comrades men’s three-peat

07 June 2019 - 15:37 By Khanyiso Tshwaku‚ In Durban
Comrades Marathon winner Bongmusa Mthembu crosses the finish line on June 10, 2018.
Comrades Marathon winner Bongmusa Mthembu crosses the finish line on June 10, 2018.
Image: THULI DLAMINI

Bong’musa Mthembu’s eyes may be on a unique Comrades Marathon hat-trick and defending the up-run he won two years ago but he’s not fazed by the magnitude of the task that faces him.

Mthembu has left an indelible mark on the race recently having won the down and the up runs in consecutive years in 2017 and 2018.

However‚ the sense from his competitors is that they’re tired of his dominance and he needs to be dislodged from his lofty throne. The 35-year-old‚ though‚ has always been about himself and what he needs to do to win the race.

Mthembu‚ who runs for the Arthur Ford Athletics Club‚ is not even worried by the fact he may not even win the race.

“Anyone can say what they like but the Comrades is the Comrades. I can say I’m going to run my best time but you can never know what will take place on race day‚” Mthembu said.

“I don’t think about it because I have my plans and I’ve prepared. If I don’t win Comrades‚ then so be it. It hasn’t happened. I’ll come back next year.

“Whoever runs a smart race will win‚ that’s why it’s important for me to run my own race. That’s what I’m going to do and the big and competitive field doesn’t bother me.

“If I decide to break them‚ I’ll break them. When I decide to run with them‚ I’ll do so.”

Mthembu goes into Sunday’s 94th edition as the reigning Two Oceans Marathon winner.

The scenic Cape Town-hosted marathon took place quite late in March‚ leaving a small window for rest and preparation ahead of the Comrades.

That’s the least of Mthembu’s worries‚ with the champion saying the Two Oceans Marathon has always been part of his preparations.

However‚ he wants to leave a legacy in the Comrades‚ something that could be possible if he emulates Stephen Muzhingi’s three-peat the Zimbabwean achieved between 2009 and 2011.

“Whenever I’m at the start line‚ I’ve never said nor thought that I’m going to win the Comrades. This is my dream and I’m chasing my dream and if I win‚ then so be it‚” Mthembu said.

“I’m not going to put myself under pressure and say I’m going to win Comrades. If I get to win Comrades‚ that’s my dream and my legacy.

“I never celebrated the Two Oceans. That was just part of the plan and I just happened to win. The next day‚ I was back in training and that doesn’t bother me.”

Such is the relaxed nature of Mthembu and the respect he has for his competitors‚ that he said the best way to deal with the race is focus on your own time and less about what the other racers are up to.

With his tail being chased‚ it’s not an easy mindset to adopt‚ but over the past two years it’s worked for him. After all‚ the race is physical and mental.

“I’m not competing against anybody. I’m competing against my watch. I respect everyone who takes part in the race but when the gun goes‚ I’m going to focus on my time‚” he said.

“The Comrades is a mental race and it’s won in the head. You can be strong‚ but you need to be able to be mentally strong.”

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