JOHANNESBURG – The uninformed would have deemed him cocky. But those who have followed his Comrades Marathon journey knew it is the next logical step.
Gordon Lesetedi in a podium finish at Sunday’s running of The Ultimate Human Race is as natural a progression as they come, the Entsika AC runner having patiently worked his way into top contender status over the years.
Under the astute and strict tutelage of champion-maker John Hamlett, Lesetedi has grown from a scrawny, timid lad into a strong man confident he can take on all comers.
And so it was not with arrogance when he publicly declared that a gold medal was guaranteed but rather with the confidence of knowing his abilities.
“The gold medal is in the pocket already,” the man from Sekhing in the North West’s Taung told the group of media men gathered at the Kritchley Hackle in Dullstroom.
“The aim for me this year is for the podium. I am not worried about who’s there and what time they have run before.”
His sixth-place finish in a time of 5:39.32 was indicative of Lesetedi’s growth as a serious Comrades runner. It was his first gold medal, and proof that putting in the hard work brings rewards.
Back in 2014, when he approached Gift Kelehe and asked to join his team, the response he got from Hamlett would have sent many a running scurrying back into their little social club corners.
“I had a 2:40 marathon PB then, and coach John said to me: ‘You’re joking, that is too slow’.
“I came here for six weeks and the training was very, very hard. But I felt that I will improve and I stuck it out.”
The fruits were quickly evident, Lesetedi running a 6:01 in that year’s Comrades, a remarkable improvement from his 7:18 debut time the year before.
“I ran 6:21 the following year and even I could see that I was going somewhere and that I just needed to out more effort into my training as well as eating. I worked on hills and speedwork. After eight weeks of being in this camp, I ran a 5.59 in 2016.”
In 2017, Lesetedi was excitedly looking forward to breaking into the top 10 when a stress fracture some two weeks before the race put paid to his Comrades participation.
“It was very disappointing to miss out but injuries are part of running.”
He returned last year and ran like a beast.
“(Last year) I had no fear at all. I went full force and ran 5: 39. I got my first gold. This year, there’s another gold in my pocket.
"My first up-run gold. Everything I have done, I did it with confidence. I am in the camp of champions.
“You don’t come here to spend eight weeks waking up every morning to punish your body in tough sessions for nothing,” he said.@Tshiliboy