JOHANNESBURG – Long after he had crossed the finish line for his third successive Forever Resorts Loskop Ultra Marathon triumph at the weekend, and waiting for the official prize giving ceremony, Charles Tjiane sat in animated discussion with Gift Kelehe.
As is often the case with road runners, the topic soon moved to Comrades Marathon and the Maxed Elite athlete was quick to send a warning to his Entsika Athletics Club counterpart.
“Pasop jong (be careful), this year I am going to show you guys dust,” Tjiane chuckled “I know you guys think I’m too old.”
Kelehe knew that the 43-year-old veteran was not joking.
After all, the man from Limpopo nearly ran away with the title in last year’s up run.
“You guys were saved by John (Hamlett), this year. If it wasn’t for him, you would have found me waiting for you in Maritzburg.”
Kelehe agreed and shared with Tjiane how they cottoned on to his strategy.
“So we saw you dash away but we maintained our pace. Suddenly we couldn’t see the helicopter (that follows the race leader). And then John came to us and told us to get a move on or else you’d leave us for dead. We had to lift the pace.”
In the end neither Kelehe nor Tjiane won the Ultimate Race, that honour going to Bongumusa Mthembu. Kelehe finished third while Tjiane found second wind to come in at a credible fifth.
“I know I have to go fast early because I don’t have the leg strength of some of these guys,” said the slightly-built man from Limpopo “And after this win here, I am confident I can go to Comrades and give them a run for their money. I have the speed.”
While Tjiane always races Loskop, Kelehe and his Entsika teammates as well as the Nedbank AC stars such as Ludwick Mamabolo use it as training.
Tjiane though, does not think he is putting himself at a disadvantage for Comrades by going all out at the Mpumalanga Ultra. Far from it, for he believes the race gives him a good gauge of where he is at in terms of his readiness for the Ultimate Human Race.
After yet another win at the weekend, the multiple Comrades gold medalist is feeling good and will be using the next month and a bit to fine-tune his preparations.
That he triumphed despite there being some top runners out to halt his dominance is a sign he is on to a good thing come June 10.
“They organised some runners to try and beat me, so that’s why I did not run too fast (his winning time was some six minutes slower than last year’s). I wanted to gauge them first and see how they responded. But I’m happy with my run and now the focus will shift to preparing for Comrades.”
And should the likes of Kelehe, Mthembu and Mamabolo allow him to surge ahead like he did last year, Tjiane warns that ‘they won’t catch me’.