'Focus on what's in front of you' - The secret to Motlagale's success as he takes aim at SA Champs
"The main thing is to focus on yourself." Those were Tumelo Motlagale's words of advice when he was ask to deliver a message of motivation to a group of young athletes that had gathered to celebrate their achievements during the 2022 season. Invited by long-time friend and founder of the Masai Athletics Club Caster Semenya, Motlagale shared the wisdom he had gained over many years as a top runner.
"You shouldn't worry about what anyone says out there. Don't worry about your perceived shortcomings - like what's lacking. Maybe you think you are lacking in speed, or lacking in endurance or you're too old or you're too late, or you're too early. Just focus on what's in front of you. Don't entertain the sideshows. It's you and your coach and the field."
The Boxer Athletic Club man's words struck a chord with many because he was speaking from considerable personal experience. It took him a long time to get where he is today. While he showed potential as a steeplechase runner taking ninth place at the 2012 African Championships, it was only ten years later that he took part in his maiden World Championships event. At the age of 35, Motlagale ran a personal best 2:11:15 at the 2022 Durban International Marathon to book his spot on the plane to the United States.
Aside from producing his best effort at an age where many are being written off, that he even qualified in the first place is perhaps even more inspiring. Coached by his father Adam who also represented South Africa with an impressive eighth place (1:01:42) at the 1993 World Half Marathon Championships, Tumelo had a tough road to Eugene, Oregon. Training by himself in Zeerust he would sometimes have to hide water bottles in the bush and behind trees the day before so that he could have water to drink on his long run. Then a bungle in his travel arrangements forced him to take a bus from the North West to eThekwini arriving the day before the race where everything was on the line.
Motlagale managed to find the performance of his life and will be counting on those deep wells of inner strength when he lines up for the same race on Sunday. Bolstered by a flat route, this year's event which incorporates the Athletics South Africa (ASA) Marathon Championships carries a R50 000 prize purse for the winner plus an inviting US $10 000 for any runner that can clock the qualifying standard and book that elusive ticket to the World Championships or the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.