Runners competing in the Comrades Marathon pass through Kloof. Photo: Rogan Ward/Reuters

JOHANNESBURG - Those who attentively watched this year’s Comrades Marathon would be aware of the name Thobani Chagwe.

He was fast out of the blocks and led the race for about 30km only to disappear. The uninformed would have thought him silly to go out so fast in such a long race.

The road running connoisseurs, on the other hand, would have realised that Chagwe though was actually a pace-setter at the 90th edition of the Ultimate Human Race.

Now with that kind of pace, it is no wonder the man from Nkwezela, Bulwer in the south of KwaZulu/Natal is confident of winning Sunday’s Mandela Day Marathon.

“I’m well prepared for the race,” says the 28-year-old who won the race back in 2014 in what remains the course record time of 2.27.12. And he believes he has what it takes to dip below that time.

“I am looking to do a sub 2:28 and whether I break the record will depend on the pace. But it looks like the record will go because there are guys who run the first half very fast and if I stick with them, I am sure I will be in with a chance.”

He says should they complete the half-marathon in 1:15, then the record could tumble.

“The first half of the Mandela Marathon is very hard and the second half no so bad. There is Struggle Hill at about 9kms which is very tough, But the good thing is that it comes while we are still fresh and it is thus a little easier to negotiate. There’s another tough one at 27km and then the last hill is at 35.”

Hills though do not hold any fear for the man who has struggled with injuries since he won the race that finishes at the Nelson Mandela Capture Site in Howick.

“I’ve done everything I have to do to be ready and I am looking forward to running this race again after my struggles with injuries. I’ve had a hamstring and a groin problem for a while and have been going to physio. But I am fully recovered now.”

Earlier this year, Chagwe failed to finish the Two Oceans Marathon after suffering cramps.

“I had to stop at about 45kms because I was cramping. But that had nothing to do with my hamstring or groin which are okay now after the physio sessions I had. This will be my first marathon in a while because I’ve mainly been doing 10km and half marathons. But I am feeling sharp.”

Having had to watch the last two editions of the race from the sidelines was hard for Chagwe.

“I followed the race in the past years and yes it was a bit hard to know that my record could go without me being there to defend it. But I wouldn’t have had a problem because it would have meant that the guys were running well.”

As he looks ahead to Sunday, Chagwe admits that there will be stiff competition standing in his way to glory.

“There are a lot of good runners from Ethiopia, Kenya and Lesotho. And the most dangerous ones are from Lesotho because they are used to running hills. But I am prepared to give this race my all.”

If his all is anything like the lightning speed with which he tackled Comrades and he is able to sustain it for the entire race, then surely Chagwe can rewrite the Mandela Marathon record.

The Star

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