Nkosikhona Mhlakwana out to exorcise the ghosts of his 2019 Comrades 500m crawl

The memories of those incredible final 500 metres inside the Scottsville Racecourse at the Comrades Marathon in 2019, for Nkosikhona Mhlakwana remain vivid. Picture supplied.

The memories of those incredible final 500 metres inside the Scottsville Racecourse at the Comrades Marathon in 2019, for Nkosikhona Mhlakwana remain vivid. Picture supplied.

Published Jun 5, 2024


It has been five years since Nkosikhona Mhlakwana crawled his way into the hearts and minds of South Africa’s road running enthusiasts.

But the memories of those  incredible final 500 metres inside the Scottsville Racecourse at the 2019 Comrades Marathon, during which Mhlakwana's legs gave up on him and his attempts to stay up on his feet by balancing on the perimeter advertising boards proved futile, remain as vivid as ever.

A Comrades Marathon novice back then, Mhlakwana lost out on a gold medal, prize money top-10 position – his collapse coming as it did when he was in ninth place and seeing him being overtaken by the Entsika Athletic Club duo of Gordon Lesetedi and Siya Mqambeli.

He aims to return to the ‘scene of the crime this weekend, intent on having a final 500m that will see him being applauded by the legions of fans he gained on that Sunday, and the many he got thereafter with some fantastic runs in the country’s ultra races.



‘Brought the tears’

“I’ve not forgotten that 500m to go - the one that brought the tears, the one that brought smiles to many, the one that put Nkosikhona in the limelight. This time I want to run a better last 500m at the Comrades Marathon Up-Run.”

And he has put in the hard work to ensure he will realise his goal, the Hollywood Athletics Club athlete having spent time in camp out in the high-altitude Underberg preparing for yet another June 9 Up-Run from Durban to Pietermaritzburg.

“We have trained and I am a better athlete than I was in 2019. I am in better shape, a better athlete and I want to achieve a better finish. Comrades Marathon owes me a better finish in that 500m to go.”

He has proven that he can do better than 11th place, the athlete affectionately referred to as The Pitbull finishing sixth in the 2022 Down-Run. He missed out on the top-10 in last year’s repeat Down-Run but his time was way better than the 2022 one, although it must be remembered that the distance was slightly shorter in 2023.

“Comrades 2023 I did not get the gold medal but I had mastered myself in a way because my time was 120 percent better than when I got the gold in 2022. My performance on the day was the time that Tete (Dijana) ran to win in 2022. So, I must be proud that everything went down accordingly. Of course, it would have been good to get a gold medal but the performance is what really matters.”

The Scottsville crawling experience has helped Mhlakwana mature – both as an athlete and a man.

“I’ve grown up and developed new skills on how one must pace himself in life. Don’t be rushing things. As young people we tend to get tempted by many things that might put us down negatively but I’ve learnt through Comrades and Two Oceans that one has to be disciplined, work hard, be focused and dedicated in everything that you do. How you carry yourself in the sport and out of the sport is important.  You can’t be seen in a negative way. So, discipline goes with integrity – doing right even when people don’t see you.”

And so it is that even with his training, Mhlakwana does not cut corners.

‘An amazing home’

He has also surrounded himself with people who are good for his progress in the sport, his relationship with his coach Prodigal Khumalo as strong as that of blood brothers who love each other. At Hollywood Athletics Club, he believes he has found ‘an amazing home’ where he knows he is ‘truly cared for’.

“I am a blessed athlete because I have incredible support at my club. My running manager David Mohale works very well with my coach Prodigal Khumalo and my sponsors 32GI and Puma have given me everything that I need to do well. They all deserve a gold medal and I am planning to give it to them, as well as my fans that always send me well-wishes on social media.”

Mhlakwana showed he means business early in the year with a stellar run in the Nedbank Runified City 50km when he finished in third place. He skipped his beloved Two Oceans this time around though in favour of preparing for an onslaught at Comrades glory.

“I did not do Two Oceans. I wanted to recover (from Runified City) and get ready for this one. But I ran the Harry Gwala Marathon – one of the toughest in KZN to check how the training was going.  I am happy that I went there to test myself and I was looking to do a 2:40 or 2:45. I finished in third position with a 2:33.”

That must surely be is a sign that Mhlakwana is ready to exorcise the ghost of those last 500 metres inside the Scottsville Racecourse from his Comrades Marathon debut five years ago, right?