Comrades Marathon’s elite men calm before trek from Pietermaritzburg to Durban
It could be “the calm before the storm”, but there is nothing to suggest any of the main contenders for the men’s Comrades Marathon title are feeling pressure before Sunday’s race.
From 2019 champion Edward Mothibi, multiple winner Bongmusa Mthembu to rising star Nkosikhona Mhlakwana and Ethiopian novice Edndale Belachew, the elite men were coolness personified at the pre-race media conference on Friday morning.
Each athlete described himself as well-prepared for the 90km trek down from Pietermaritzburg’s City Hall to the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
Mthembu, a three-time winner, said pressure did not exist in his vocabulary.
“We have to be realistic and tell the truth, because it has not been easy being away for two years,” he said, referring to the race not having been run normally in the past two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “Hopefully, we will all do what we do best.”
Asked whether being a three-time winner makes him feel like a marked man, the Arthur Ford athlete said no.
“I don’t know what pressure is. There are about 20,000 runners who want to finish the race. All I know is that we are all here to run and compete in the race that we all love.”
Mothibi, who outran Mthembu in 2019 to stop the KwaZulu-Natal athlete completing a hat-trick of triumphs, said his preparation was good.
“Preparations went similarly to 2019 and I am hoping to run the best race on Sunday. It’s been a long time since we raced and everyone deserves the title. The best man will win on the day.”
Two Oceans Marathon winner Belachew seemed hardly intimidated by the prospect of tackling the longest race of his life.
The Ethiopian has the fastest marathon time (2:11:51) of the entire field and his victory in Cape Town in April seems to have given him a belief that he can tackle the super long Comrades.
“I am ready, I have trained at 2500m altitude,” he said, before switching to Amharic, leaving the room wondering what he was saying as there was no translator.
Local boy Mhlakwana is just happy that he will be tackling the race injury-free.
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