With this year being the Up Run, the 30-year-old from Howick in KwaZulu-Natal is particularly excited and eager to make up for his maiden Comrades Run, which catapulted him into the status of a Comrades darling.
Back in 2019, Mhlakwana ran into the Scottsville racecourse in ninth position and looked set to get gold as a rookie.
But with a few metres to the finish, his legs gave up on him and the sight of Mhlakwana buckling and repeatedly lifting himself up by balancing on the advertising boards to the crowd’s cheering became the biggest story of that year’s race.
Pitbull impresses at Comrades 2022
He eventually finished 11th after Entsika AC athletes Gordon Lesetedi and Siya Mqambeli overtook him as he struggled.
The race did not happen for the next two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. When Comrades returned in 2022, with the Down Run, the athlete popularly referred to as “Pitbull” impressed with a sixth-place finish. Last year – in another Down Run – he missed out on gold, finishing in 12th place.
Mhlakwana has now renewed his contract at Hollywood, is delighted the club is supportive of him, and is looking to have a splendid Comrades run.
“The club and I are happy with each other and that’s why we agreed to renew. Mr Mogran Shandu and Greg Glossop have been very supportive of me and I am looking forward to making them – as well as my sponsors Puma and 32GI – proud this year.”
Before the Comrades in June, Mhlakwana is aiming to have a great run at the Nedbank Runified 50km race, which will double up as the South African 50km Championships taking place in Gqeberha on February 25.
Disappointed that he was unable to go to the 50km World Championships in India last year due to a mix-up by Athletics South Africa (ASSA), which saw more than half of the team selected for the event not attending, Mhlakwana says the Runified is the best race for him this time around.
“My coach Prodigal Khumalo and I decided that we should do Runified because I still have the speed in my legs after the training that I did for the World Champs last November and never got to use. It is for that reason that we decided to skip Two Oceans this year,” explained the man who had two good years at the Mother City event where he was on the podium in 2022 (second) and 2023 (third).
Though he has fast established himself as a good ultra marathoner, Mhlakwana remains a good middle distance runner and will again do some track races this year as he fine-tunes his speed prior to his assault on what he hopes will be a glorious Comrades Marathon Up Run in June.
And with the comfort of being a member of a “highly supportive” club (Hollywood AC) and “very good sponsors” – Puma and 32GI – the Pitbull has no doubt his bite is going to be sharper than his bark.