Three-time Comrades Marathon winner Bongmusa Mthembu is fired up for this weekend’s Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50 km race in Gqeberha, which will see the runner facing his former coach, Xolani Mabhida, for the first time.
The Sunday event will see the crème de la crème of South African and international runners aim to break a world record in the distance.
The organisers of the race have enticed athletes with R100 000 for winners in both men and women, plus a lot of bonuses.
What adds more flavour to the event is that Mthembu and Mabhida, who used to be a powerful team that won two Comrades titles, are no longer on the same side.
While Mthembu will be one of the most-watched runners on Sunday, Mabhida will be attacking with highly rated upcoming runners such as Ndumiso Sokhela, Mthokozisi Mazibuko, Sibusiso Kubheka and one woman, Zinhle Shabalala.
Both Mthembu and Mabhida said they were done with preparations and happy with how they went and now they just have to deal with pre-race jitters until Sunday.
“It will be a tough race because obviously, it’s my first race whereby I’m going to compete against Bongmusa and he is one of the athletes I coached for a very long time and won a number of titles,” said Mabhida.
“It’s really going to be tough because he knows my tricks and I know his as well.”
“My preparation went really well, and I can say that I’m ready for Sunday,” said Mthembu.
“We haven’t had a proper run in a long time now so there are still those little fears because we don’t know how tough competition is out there and how other guys are running at the moment. We don’t know how fit they are.
“So, it’s really difficult for us to know what to expect,” he said.
Mabhida’s mission is to see his boys qualifying for the IAU 50km World Championships.
In the women’s race, where Shabalala will be competing, there will be a stiff competition with top stars such as Gerda Steyn, Irvette Van Zyl, Sanelisiwe Mbanjwa and international runers Bashanke Bilo (Ethiopia), Dominika Stelmach (Poland) and Russian Alexandra Morozova part of the event.
Mthembu also took the opportunity to thank the organisers for making it possible for them to run again.
“The most important thing is to thank Nedbank to put something like this.
“It shows that we were always right when we always say that until we have former runners as administrators, athletics will never reach the heights that other sports codes such as soccer and rugby have reached,” he said.
“Elana Meyer has done it with Cape Town Marathon, Nick Bester is also doing it with the Nedbank Runified.”
The event will be broadcasted live on SABC 2 from 7 am.