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  • Writer's pictureThathe Msimango

Ashworth joins Phantane to help develop elite female runners

Just five months after joining Boxer Athletics Club, South African ultra-marathon star Ann Ashworth has moved to Phantane Athletics Club. The 2018 Comrades Marathon winner joined Boxer in January after her club Team Massmart closed down at the end of 2020. The brand that owns Makro and Games stores in SA ended its partnership with the running club due to the havoc wreaked on sport by Covid-19 forcing the club closed down.

Phantane coach and founder Mdu Khumalo (centre) is flanked by Ann Ashworth (left) and her husband David. Photo Credit: Mduduzi Khumalo.

But with very few marathon races on the 2021 South African athletics calendar, the ultra marathoner believes it was not worth sticking to a club whose main focus is middle and long distances. And her team of 16 female athletes she joined the club with from Massmart at the start of year will follow her to Phantane. The 37-year-old attorney is delighted that she has found a new home under the leadership of Mdu Khumalo whom she regards as a passionate sportsperson.

"I joined Phantane on Saturday," said Ashworth during a telephonic interview with #TheTopRunner. "It was an easy decision for me to join Phantane because coach Mdu Khumalo is such a wonderful person with a lot of passion for athletics. It's good to get to work with someone that shares a positive attitude in achieving something and I believe we are going to work well with Mdu going forward. Boxer couldn't continue to hold us because no marathon races are happening at the moment in South Africa and their focus is on short distances. And All other 16 female athletes will follow me to Phantane now," she explained.

Ashworth runs into Durban on the Down Run of her beloved Comrades Marathon. Photo Credit: Ann Ashworth.

Ashworth, who is the owner of a 2:35:44 marathon personal best achieved during the 2018 Valencia Marathon in Spain where she settled for 13th position believes she will add value to Phantane as the club doesn't have elite women runners. She hopes to help them grow into one of the biggest elite teams in the country.

"If you look at Phantane right now you can see that they don't have elite women runners," elaborates Ashworth. "I'm hoping to help them to have more recognized female runners. It's not only about running in club colors but I'm going to assist with motivational talks to the upcoming athletes inside the club. My wealth of experience as a runner must be shared with others so that everyone benefits from sports. The club can become one of the biggest in the country and I'm hoping to assist them in achieving that," she added.

Ashworth is also a motivational speaker and will be called upon to use those skills for promising young ultra marathon women. Photo Credit: Ann Ashworth.

And Phantane founder Mdu Khumalo echoed in Ashworth's words stating that her arrival would change the way they look at the club. "I'm excited and at the same time in disbelief," said an elated Khumalo.

" Ann told me that she has been tracking the club's progress for too long now but was scared to join last year since there weren't any elite female runners. But that is going to change now since she is here. She is a prominent runner who needs no introduction and for her to choose my club shows that the work we put doesn't go unnoticed. She will assist me in many ways especially serving as the motivational figure to my athletes," he concluded.

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May 13, 2021

I'm sure Ann will provide loads of motivation to all those female runners by regularly Instagramming how "it was just a training run and I wasn't properly prepared for it but it's nice to have won and to have the course record" after each race result. Fellow female competitors always feel uplifted by Ann announcing that their hard work race effort wasn't a match for her off-form training day.

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