Fikile Mbuthuma
JOHANNESBURG – The youngsters of today would describe Fikile Mbuthuma as having “a lot of giggle gas”. She laughs that much.

“Me winning Comrades? Are you kidding me?” she laughs. “Gosh I wish!”

With Caroline Wostmann out of the race, I’d put it to KwaZulu-Natal’s best female Comrades runner for the last three years that this is her chance at the Holy Grail of local road running.

She met the suggestion with serious mirth.

“A lot of people have called me telling me about Caroline pulling out and they are all telling me I should go and win it. But there’s my teammate (Nedbank Athletics Club) Charne (Bosman) who won it last year and there are many other very good runners,” she says before breaking into yet another piercing laugh.

Having initially thought she didn’t believe in herself, it soon became evident that laughter is a significant part of the lady who finished eighth in last year’s race. She broke into a laugh before answering just about every question.

Laughter, after all, is the best medicine – don’t they say? And perhaps it is her ability to laugh at just about everything which has helped her do so well in the notoriously difficult race that is the Comrades.

“Of course I can try to win. But iyoo, Comrades is very tough,” she giggles.

Not that you can tell it is tough by looking at her results.

Her eighth position last year was preceded by two silver medals in 2014 and 2015 plus six Bill Rowans. She got bronze in her second race having failed to finish her maiden Comrades in 2005.

Mbuthuma has generally been improving and it is because of that, that the Comrades Marathon Association included her in their list of the top contenders for honours on Sunday. As appealing as that is for the 36-year-old, she is not putting herself under any undue pressure.

“This year all I want to do is break my seven hour 18 minutes time from 2015 which got me into position 15,” she said. “I will be happy if I improve on that time. The key for me will be to control my pace and not run too fast in the first half like I did in that last up run.”

Mbuthuma has recently recovered from a hip injury after winning the Zululand Ultra Marathon in March, but says she’s fit to race.

“I didn’t train for three weeks because of it but I am back to full fitness now and I am looking forward to the race,” Mbuthuma said.

She took to running the Comrades because she grew up listening to the race on radio back in her home in Harding.

“When I was young, I used to sit near the radio all day and it was like I was on the road. The voice of Zithulele Sinqe brought the Comrades to life and it made me to want to be a part of it one day.”

It was hearing how the likes of Farwa Mentoor and Riana van Niekerk were doing that got a young Mbuthuma – pretty good in track running at school at the time – determined to compete in the Comrades.

After matric, she ran a few 10km races and then completed the Maritzburg Marathon: “I knew after that marathon that I was ready for Comrades.”

But is she ready to win it this year? “Maybe it’s about time,” Mbuthuma laughs.

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The Star

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