Joseph Mphuthi finishes second in the 2018 Comrades Marathon. Poto: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Joseph Mphuthi has a good reason to believe he can finally be crowned Comrades champion in a fortnight's time.

An Up Run specialist of sorts, Mphuthi goes into the June 9 race on the back of a splendid showing in last year’s Down Run, where he finished second behind Bongmusa Mthembu. That brilliant run, plus the form he takes into the world renowned ultra marathon, has got the Mphuthi's camp anticipating excitedly the 94th running of the Ultimate Human Race.

“We are ready. Preparations went well and I am expecting Joseph to take the title back to the Free State,” said Mphuthi’s coach Goodman Mokhathi. “He is injury free and going to Comrades on the back of a great build up.”

Mphuthi won both the Miellie Marathon and the Mpumalanga Sasol Marathon, and finished runner-up in the Free State Sasol Marathon. He was 11th at the Ulundi Marathon and came in a credible fifth at the Loskop Ultra Marathon.

“What gets me even more confident is the fact that he ran sub-two and half hours in all his marathons. He is a good Comrades runner with three gold medals to his name. He was out injured in 2017 and last year he came back to finish second. We are now going for first position.”

With a seventh and fifth placing in the Durban to Pietermaritzburg runs of 2013 and 2015, Mokhathi has every reason to be confident this year.

The discerning road running enthusiast will remember, however, that Mphuthi has previously been sanctioned for using a banned substance and can probably look at his sterling performances with some doubt. That topic Mokhathi refused to discuss - the coach choosing instead to focus on where his athlete currently is at - in peak form ahead of the country’s premier road running race.

“He is one of the most disciplined athletes I have ever worked with. He knows when it's time to work and he never cuts corners. He understands that what he puts in, is what he will get out.”

While he is looking forward to seeing Mphuthi depose Mthembu as Comrades champion, Mokhathi also has his sights set on snatching the team prize.

“We are also looking at the team prize because we have assembled a very strong team. Apart from Joseph, we also have Shadrack Mzizi, who ran six hours, 30 minutes last year and Tumi Molefetsane, who came in just ahead in six hours, 11 minutes.

We believe they will both improve and that will give us a shot at the team title.”

Mbongiseni Buthelezi