Gold in the up run will end Makgetla’s ‘torture’

Johannes Makgetla finishes sixth in the Comrades Marathon last year. | Sibonelo Ngcobo Independent Newspapers

Johannes Makgetla finishes sixth in the Comrades Marathon last year. | Sibonelo Ngcobo Independent Newspapers

Published Jun 4, 2024



WITH two gold medals to his name in the down run, Johannes Makgetla’s Comrades Marathon career will be complete should he get a top-10 position in the up run.

Having finished fifth and sixth in the previous two editions of the world famous ultra-marathon that was run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, the Nedbank Running Club athlete is looking to be in the gold medal positions in Sunday’s race going the other way.

“I really want to get gold for the up run because next year I am going to do my last down run and then I will stop racing Comrades,” the 42-year-old member of coach Dave Adams’s Happy Bunch, which includes winners of the last three editions, Tete Dijana (2022 and 2023) and Edward Mothibi (2019) said. “This thing is too strenuous. It takes a lot out of you.”

Makgetla has completed the Comrades four times, having fallen prey to peer pressure in 2018 and gone back on his word that he would focus solely on standard marathons.

“To be honest, Comrades was never in me,” he said during a telephonic interview from his camp in Dullstroom, Mpumalanga.

“I used to say I will specialise in the 42 (42.195km standard marathon) because I thought Comrades was too long and too hard. I used to see it as torture.”

That he got to running it was because of the stigma that gets attached to any runner who has never completed the race of about 90km. You are not a runner until you have completed Comrades – both ways.

“Peer pressure made me go to run Comrades. I went there saying let me just go and experience this thing that everyone is making noise about,” he recalled.

The year was 2018 and the then-36-year-old ran a pretty decent time of 7:11:12. And the Comrades bug, as it usually does, bit big time.

He ran another silver medal time (6:25:39) the following year.

“Later, the winner of that race, Edward Mothibi, told me that I have talent and that I could run better with good coaching,” he said.

He joined Mothibi’s training group under coach Adams but the 2021 and 2022 races were cancelled due to the pandemic. When the race returned in 2022, Makgetla struck gold.

He was the first veteran (runners between the ages of 40 and 49) home with his 5:41:35, which earned him fifth place overall in the year when the Happy Bunch completed a clean sweep of the podium and had five runners in the top 10. Last year, he won gold again, finishing sixth in 5:23:33.

He wants to get gold this weekend and then run the race one last time next year before he focuses on improving himself and his life via studies.

“Comrades is the torture I used to think it was before I started doing it. You train for months on end.

“You know, I’ve been in camp for three months now. I’ve not seen my kids for three months. That’s too long.

“Also, I have other goals. I work in the mines, underground and I would like to improve my life. I want to go and study and I can’t do it if I am still racing Comrades.”