Runners still hoping

2020-03-25 06:03
Bongmusa Mthembu and Gerda Steyn at the Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town last year. They are trying to stay positive despite massive disruptions to the athletics calendar due to Covid-19. PHOTO: gallo Images

Bongmusa Mthembu and Gerda Steyn at the Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town last year. They are trying to stay positive despite massive disruptions to the athletics calendar due to Covid-19. PHOTO: gallo Images

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COVID-19 may have left the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) with a race against time to keep their 2020 edition afloat, but three-time cham-pion Bongmusa Mthembu says he is still putting in the hard yards and hopes that “favourable news” will eventually emerge.

With an update set for April 15 on the mighty marathon’s scheduled running on June 14, Mthembu said yesterday that he’s working very hard to be ready to compete in three months’ time. But he would accept a postponement of the race for safety reasons.

He’s also currently playing cheerleader along with reigning women’s champion Gerda Steyn and others to boost the spirits of frustrated athletes on social media platforms during the national state of disaster.

The soft-spoken, Bulwer-born Pietermaritzburg resident said he hoped that the running fraternity “are keeping well and safe during this time” even though most of them would have shared his sadness at the cancellation of next month’s Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town and the possibility of Comrades being pushed back.

He said: “Firstly, I would like to state that I respect and understand the decision made by the state president which led the ASA president to suspend all events for 30 days.

“Back to the Two Oceans Marathon, of course I’m disappointed by the cancellation as I had put in a lot of work into it, but I do understand their position. Hopefully, we will hear some favourable news from the Comrades Marathon in due time and again I will accept any decision the board takes going forward.”

One of KwaZulu-Natal’s few professional ultra-marathon runners, Mthembu has had to change his running programme which was set up with the Two Oceans and Comrades as targets for the first half of the year, in consultation with coach Xolani Mabhida.

“My priority right now is to adjust and adapt to the changes together with my coach on my training.

“I’m feeling strong and grateful for the support that my sponsors, family and friends have given me during this time. I hope to see you soon on the road and please keep it safe at all times,” he said to fellow runners on Instagram.

That platform is also where runners and athletics followers alike can find further inspiration from reigning Two Oceans and Comrades female champion Steyn.

She has been posting interesting videos on indoor challenges and dietary issues, among other things, to lift the spirits of herself and others.

She said at the weekend: “We are in a strange place right now but we are a tough breed and we will get through this too!

“Runners: My Fourth Tip: is to try and maintain some sort of regularity in this irregular situation. If you’re used to doing your weekly club time trial, then why not keep it up? You can still go and run your club time trial route at your own time during the week! Also, if your long run is usually always over the weekend, then lace up and go crunch some kilometres anyway!”

Former Comrades champion Camille­ Herron of America has also urged runners to try to stay upbeat despite having to change their schedules because of Covid-19.

Meanwhile, the CMA and ASA met on Friday and agreed to meet again on April 15 to “map the way forward” in terms of the race’s possible postponement. Given the state of disaster, the CMA have told runners that they are reviewing the qualifying criteria for this year’s race and may do the same with the substitution period.

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