JOHANNESBURG – Ntsindiso Mphakathi is aiming to produce an “out of this world” performance that will ensure the Old Mutual Soweto Marathon crown stays in South Africa on Sunday.
The 28-year-old Mphakathi of Port St Johns in the Eastern Cape is one of the finest athletes to come out of that province.
He goes into Sunday’s race as the country’s ‘defending champion’, after his third position from last year meant he was the first South African to run into the iconic FNB Stadium behind Lesotho’s Tshepo Mathibelele and Legese Yinesu of Ethiopia.
It was a second such finish for Mphakathi, who was ninth back in 2014, but the first South African. The also-ran title is a bit tired now, and he wants to graduate to champion.
The word ‘improvement’ so littered his interview with Independent Media that it will not be surprising if he lives up to it at the weekend.
“I want to do better than last year. I need to improve my time,” he said of his impressive 2:21.23 finish, that was just under two minutes slower than the winner.
“I am happy with the progress I have made since I started to run the race. My times have been improving. I need to do better than previous years,” explained the man who ran a 2:23.35 four years ago.
Having won the Harry Gwala Marathon and Nelson Mandela Half Marathon, both in Pietermaritzburg early this year, the rising star, who is based in Dube in Soweto, is in good shape.
“I ran those two races and won them, but for me, that is water under the bridge since then.
“I am happy that I won those two races, but now my next target should be Soweto because I reckon it will open new doors for me. I think my confidence is at the right level ahead of the race.”
Mphakathi knows he cannot afford to slip up and stumble over into the ground as his family will fill the heat. He has his sights not only firmly set on the race, but also on providing for his family.
“I use the prize money from the races to feed my family. My mother and my four siblings, they depend on me as I am breadwinner back at home in the Eastern Cape.
“If I do not do well in the race, it means there will be no good Christmas for them. I need to perform well and win the race for them.”
He is hoping that delivering an outstanding performance in Soweto will get some sponsors looking his way.
“It’s a struggle without a sponsor. If I can get sponsors, I will not have the pressure that I have now, as I will get something every month to feed my family.
“I would plan my races accordingly, like other elite athletes with sponsors who are not running as many races as I do. They know that there is a salary at the end of the month,” he explained.
Mphakathi is coached by former Comrades Marathon champion Claude Moshiywa, and he says he has seen a vast improvement in his running since their partnership started.
“I started working with him in 2013 after he won Comrades. He has helped me a lot with his experience in the field. He has turned me from a normal runner to a perennial contender. I enjoy working with him.”