Bongmusa Mthembu: From bricklayer to Comrades glory

Bongmusa Mthembu (Gallo Images)
Bongmusa Mthembu (Gallo Images)

Durban - Bongmusa Mthembu was once a casual bricklayer in Pietermaritzburg, but now he is the most successful KwaZulu-Natal athlete in recent Comrades Marathon history.

The 33-year-old professional runner from Bulwer took his second Comrades title at a warm Scottsville Racecourse in Pietermaritzburg in the same comfortable fashion in which he reached glory in the ‘down run’ in Durban in 2014.

His winning time over the 86.73km on Sunday was 5:35:34, with Zimbabwe’s Hatiwande Nyamande taking second place in 5:38:48 and 2015 ‘up run’ champion Gift Kelehe third in 5:41:48.

Mthembu had a tough ‘up run’ in 2015 and finished 17th, but bounced back to take third place last year.

He was competing in his 12th Comrades in the colours of Arthur Ford Club yesterday and, aside from the collection of Comrades gold medals he has put together since entering the event for the first time in 2006, he finished second in the World 100km Championships in Spain last year.

At that event Mthembu became the first South African man in 23 years to step on the podium by cutting 62 seconds off a 27-year-old national record held by nine-time Comrades king Bruce Fordyce.

“I was born in Bulwer in the rural area not far from Pietermaritzburg. I started running at school like every child in public school,” Mthembu said on his internet profile linked to the 32Gi endurance supplement.

“After Matric, I left Bulwer for PMB for greener postures, only to find it was hard to get a job. I got hired as a bricklayer at that time and I was training just to keep my body healthy.

“In 2004 I started to enter same of the races, then in 2005 I won the Maritzburg Marathon without good training. That was when I started thinking about taking part in the Comrades Marathon, but in my mind I already had the dream of winning Comrades one day.”

That dream has been realised more than once, proving that Mthembu has legs of gold.

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