JOHANNESBURG – Mncedisi Mkhize has come to a profound realisation that could well see him finally become a Comrades Marathon champion.
Granted the big victory might not happen on Sunday, but the self-trained Maxed Elite runner believes the days of him fading out at The Ultimate Human Race are finally over.
Having DNFd (did not finish) in the last two races, the one-time third-placed athlete has realised that he has been his own worst enemy all this time, thanks to a generally held belief among many local black runners.
“I have been damaging myself unaware by cleaning up my stomach every time before the race,” he confessed.
Mkhize revealed he always used seawater as a form of laxative so that he could be “light” for Comrades.
“I honestly believed cleaning up my stomach was good for me. It’s something I have always done. But after my failure to finish in the last two years, I had to try and figure out what the problem was.
“I realised that I was actually taking out important things out of my body that I need for the race. I would have trained hard and would be fit, but I still got tired late in the race and had no energy.
“It was like the pistons of the engine were just not functioning.
“So this year, I tried to go for runs without drinking the seawater, and I found that I felt strong for longer.”
Surely having a coach would have helped him learn about the damage he was inflicting on himself?
“Maybe. But I have never had a coach since I started running Comrades in 2006. And I have managed to achieve everything that I have training on my own.
“The thing is that I am able to decide on what I want to do when I want to without following a programme I got from someone. That is how I like it.
“I know myself and I feel food going into this year’s race. I am good for gold,” said the athlete who finished in 10th spot back in 2016 when he last completed the race.
And so a fitter Mkhize will line up at the Durban City Hall on Sunday morning intent on not only improving his up run PB of 5:44.28, but to challenge reigning champion Bongmusa Mthembu for the title as well.
“I will be happy with a 5:43. That will be my new up run PB. I am definitely sure I will finish in the top 10. I have trained very well, and I am very fit now.”
But so have the rest of the contenders, with the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) actually not including him among those they view as potential champions.
Mkhize is not concerned about not being rated highly this time around, but he has enough Comrades experience to know that pre-race predictions are just that.
“Of course the competition is very strong. The guys are all looking good. We all know Bongmusa is the champion, and he is very good because he won it in a row.
“But with Comrades, all that matters is what happens on the day. So, let’s wait and see what Sunday brings.”
He plans to stay with the leading pack for as long as possible and go for a break should the opportunity present itself.
“It’s important to stay with the group, and a guy like Bongmusa should not be out of your sight because once he goes you can’t catch him.
“If I can stick with them for long, I will try to make a break after the 70km mark.”@Tshiliboy