Nontuthuko Mgabhi is currently making history as the first African woman to participate in the gruelling marathon challenge. Photo: Nontuthuko Mgabhi on facebook

JOHANNESBURG – Prodigal Khumalo has admitted to being pleasantly surprised by how well Nontuthuko Mgabhi is doing in the World Marathon Challenge.

Mgabhi is currently making history as the first African woman to participate in the gruelling challenge that sees competitors run seven marathons on seven continents in seven days.

And the two-time World Tour Ultra Trail Cape Town 100km winner and record holder, who is also a multiple Comrades Marathon gold medallist, says the athlete he trained is exceeding his expectations.

“I knew she was well prepared for this challenge. But truth be told, I she is performing way above what I expected,” he said yesterday.

Mgabhi has really done well so far, twice finishing in fourth position out of the over 40 contestants. Incredibly, one of those fourth placings was in the Antarctica leg of the Challenge which she had said she expected to be her most difficult because “I have never raced on snow”.

But she completed the 42.2km distance in 6:51:11. She also finished fourth in Dubai (Asia).

Also already completed are the races in Cape Town (Africa), Perth (Australasia) and Madrid (Europe).

The Americas, Fortaleza in Brazil and Miami in the US, are the remaining races and it appears Mgabhi - a five time Comrades finisher - will complete the Challenge and join Johannesburg businessman Ross Taggart as the only Africans to have done so.

Looking back at when they first met, Khumalo finds himself in awe of Mgabhi and munching on a bit of humble pie.

“Initially I doubted her commitment. I didn’t believe she would do it until she started to show me just how much she wanted to achieve this. This was three weeks into our training program together.”

From his own personal experience, and having coached a few athletes for endurance events, Khumalo knew exactly how to help Mgabhi prepare.

“Because we only had three months instead of the six that I usually need to work with athletes, I focused on working on her weaknesses. So we focused on working on strength training, her speed endurance and general endurance.”

Mgabhi’s character helped make things easier.

“She is very disciplined and coachable. Nontu is easy to work with and she is a quick learner. She loves her running and she is very committed to it.”

A marathon on its own is tough, but seven ...?

How did he ensure she was up for this?

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“I challenged her mind by making her run on tired legs. I introduced double training sessions daily, something she was not used to.”

Excited as he is for his athlete, Khumalo is not about to get all his runners to sign up for the Challenge.

“Ja, it’s something one can do once in a lifetime but it not to be repeated and believe me it is not for everybody.”

Mgabhi is doing it to raise R3.5-million towards the renovation of the dilapidated Khiphinkunzi Primary School on Mtubatuba in KwaZulu/Natal.

* For more on Mgabhi’s story and how you can pledge to help her raise R3.5m for Khiphinkunzi Primary School, go to: 

gobeyondforachild.com or https://www.backabuddy.co.za/khiphinkunzi-primary

Matshelane Mamabolo

@Tshiliboy

 

The Star

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