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Confident, injury-free Khumalo targets Comrades gold

Athletics
JOHANNESBURG - Prodigal Khumalo’s name was not on the list of the top contenders released by the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) for this year’s edition of the ultimate human race.

Perhaps rightly so! Though he is a good ultra-marathoner, Khumalo has had a pretty lukewarm, up and down showing in the KwaZulu Natal race.

His best showing remains his ninth-place finish back in 2014 when he ran a Comrades personal best (PB) of 5:39.

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Runners compete in the Comrades Marathon. Photo: Rogan Ward/ReutersProdigal Khumalo. Photo: File

Thereafter he failed to make the top 10 in the last two editions, leaving the Zimbabwe-born Khumalo eager and determined to have a good run come June 4.

“I got silver in 2015 but last year I had it bad and did not finish because of injuries,” Khumalo reflects, the disappointment evidenced by the frown covering his youthful-looking face.

But Comrades disappointment is something the 35-year-old is familiar with. After all, he's had no less than five DNF’s (did not finish). Yet, instead of breaking him, those failures - mainly due to injuries - have made him stronger and more determined to do better.

“This time around, I want to improve my time from 2014. I believe that can happen because of the way I am training.”

It was hard not to agree that he will improve. After all, he is in the camp of champions, the Maxed Athletic Club, training with champion-maker John Hamlett in the serene surrounds of Dullstroom out in Mpumalanga.

On the day of our interview, Khumalo and the rest of the Tom Tom Athletic Club runners had just returned from a six-hour LSD (Long Slow Distance). They were six weeks into their camp and Hamlett was confident a champion would come from among his charges.

Khumalo was not about to declare himself a potential champion though, not in the presence of last year’s record winner David Gatebe and defending up-run champion Gift Kelehe. But he is in no doubt he' ll be there or thereabout when the first man enters the Scottsville Race Course in Pietermaritzburg. And his sense of self-belief has a lot to do with the man who’s helping him prepare.

“I started working with John two years ago. I like him because he is a Comrades ‘kingmaker’. I was following the programme he gave me even when I was home in Inanda.”

Khumalo, a consummate trail runner, has another great source of confidence in the form of his win at the 100km Ultra-Trail Cape Town last year.

“That win made me realise I have what it takes to do well at Comrades even though we were running on the mountains and not on the road. I really think I have a chance to make the top-five at Comrades.”

For someone who took to Comrades by chance back in 2008, PK has done pretty well.

“I started running Comrades in a funny way, hey,” he laughs. “I was told I was going to be the pacemaker. But when I reached the 50km mark, my coach told me to keep going because I was looking strong. I finished 16th and I knew I could compete in Comrades.”

He has more than competed, albeit somewhat inconsistently. He is looking to change all that on June 4 and stun the organisers while at it.

The Star

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