Galaletsang Mekgoe’s hard yards set to pay off with Comrades gold

Galaletsang Mekgoe holds the record as the best black woman Comrades finisher ever, after her fifth-place finish in the event last year. Photo: Supplied

Galaletsang Mekgoe holds the record as the best black woman Comrades finisher ever, after her fifth-place finish in the event last year. Photo: Supplied

Published Jun 6, 2023


Dulstroom - On a cool Monday morning out in this quaint, high altitude town in Mpumalanga, a group of seven runners turn heads as they fly through the heart of the business area.

It is the sole female runner lagging behind her male teammates who attracts the most attention, with some onlookers expressing pity for her.

She appears to be struggling, lost even as she seeks to close the seemingly ever-increasing gap between her and the men.

She is not giving up, though.

And the onlookers need not have worried because while she was last in training, Galaletsang Mekgoe is going to be among the top finishers at the Comrades Marathon this weekend.

It is a change in fortune that the 27-year-old from Luka in Phokeng, near Rustenburg, would not have imagined not so long ago. But having listened to the advice of her coach to switch from shorter distances – 10km and half marathons – to the ultramarathons; having milked the wisdom from her accomplished teammates; having put in the hard work at training; having lived a disciplined life and having quit her firefighter job to focus solely on running, Mekgoe is reaping the benefits.

She now carries the title of the best black female Comrades finisher, with her fifth place last year, and is among the favourites for this weekend’s 48th running of the Ultimate Human Race’s down run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.

“It is a little unbelievable, but I know I deserve it,” Mekgoe says during our interview out at the Fairstreams that has been home to the “Happy Bunch” that is the Nedbank Running Club coached by Dave Adams.

She has just freshened up following the fartleks session that saw her chasing her teammates shadows and crying “these guys left me behind” at the finish and now has a bottle of protein recovery shake in her hand as she regales me with her running pauper-toprincess tale.

“Iyoo, I have had a journey in this running thing,” Mekgoe says, reclining into her chair and sipping on her drink.

“During Covid, I went to run the elites-only Spar Ladies race in Pietermaritzburg and I finished last.”

Mekgoe laughs before taking yet another sip and protecting her eyes from the sun with her hand.

“Even Charne Bosman beat me – the old lady beat me. I cried.

“When the coach came to fetch me from the airport, I was still crying. I just threw myself into his arms and cried.”

Adams decided to have his runner move up to the ultras. After all, she was training with the likes of Comrades champion Edward Mothibi and former

Om Die Dam winner Joseph Manyedi.

She had never run a full marathon when she went to last year’s 50km Nedbank Runified, where she finished in seventh place in a time of 3:30:24 despite being injured. At the start of last year’s Comrades, her first, she was a virtual unknown.

But she was a big name a little under seven hours later after finishing fifth in 6:42:53, the best finish by a black female since women were officially allowed to compete in the race.

She is now expected to challenge for the podium on Sunday and though coach and teammates are not putting her under pressure, she will be out to at least improve on her time.

“When I see these guys ahead of me in these training sessions, I remind myself that my competition at the race will not be as strong as these guys are. These guys are pulling me to give my best. I am going to KwaZulu-Natal to run a better time than I did last year.”

While he thinks it might be too early to expect Mekgoe to win the Comrades, Adams has no doubt that his athlete will get gold.

“She’s going to do very well. She is a tough cookie and the good thing is that she has fully recovered from her injury. She is going to improve on her time from last year,” Adams said.

That is sure to delight the Dullstroom community that has taken to the group, and Mekgoe in particular.


Related Topics:

Comrades Marathon