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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

From 2:56 to 2:19 in 2 years. How Thabang Mathebula won the Durban City Marathon.

At 33 years old, most top runners are entering the autumn of their athletic careers not starting one. But that is precisely what Thabang Mathebula has done because at 33 years old, the Save Orion AC man claimed his first podium finish. What's more, he won the race. Mathebula clocked a personal best 2:19:53 to win yesterday's Durban City Marathon by more than four minutes from Chabeli Nyedimane (2:25:43) and Benedict Zuma (2:27:44) in third.

"I felt good all the way man," he told #TheTopRunner. "It took two years with my coach, Wade Forster building up to this time. My marathon PB was 2:56 when we started working together in April 2022. I was preparing for my debut Comrades. Our approach has always been to improve my time, taking it one step at a time. Last year my marathon time improved significantly, earning 2:27 at the Durban International Marathon. So coming into 2024, we were very intentional about improving my PB. So we had good preparations for the last three months for this Marathon. I am very excited about the results, taking my first podium ever in my running career," said the man who is coached by Wade Foster.

Mathebula on the podium for the first time in his life after winning the 2024 Durban City Marathon. Photo Credit: Supplied.

Working full time as a Communication Officer at the Department of Higher Education and Training KwaZulu-Natal Regional Office and having also been employed at KZN newspaper The Witness, it demanded a lot of Mathebula to transform from social runner into top runner. Not unlike Gerda Steyn whose metamorphosis from a Bill Rowan medalist to a Comrades Marathon record holder, the Pietermaritzburg resident admits that he had to make a lot of changes to his personal life in order to see the results on the road.

"It's a life changing experience transitioning from being a social runner to an elite. However, it comes with enormous responsibility to maintain the status. Everything changed when I decided to run competitively because the training programme for achieving such time is demanding. I had to learn to use my time wisely. In addition, I had to make changes to my social life. My life now revolves around work, studies and running. And I have discovered a winning formula to cope with all this."

Mathebula (4520) enjoying a race with his training partners. Photo Credit: Supplied.

His improvement over the standard marathon as a result of these lifestyle changes have also seen his ultra marathon times come down. In 2022 Mathebula earned silver during The Ultimate Human race when he crossed the finish line in 7:17:39. Last year he stopped the down Run clock in 5:55:58. The confidence he has drawn from this journey that started with him simply wanting to improve on his Comrades time, will lead many to believe that Mathebula is a contender to grab a first gold medal come the 9th of June.

And why shouldn't he believe when belief is what has got him so far?

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