'I'm not in a rush to run the marathon. I want to improve my times over 10km and 21km first' - Leeto
Even though he has been running for some time now with his official results on the track going back to 2015, it is only now that Matthews Leeto is beginning to make an impact on South African athletics - road running in particular. The 32-year-old who hails from Zeerust in the North West province has been enjoying a breakthrough 2022 season that saw him finish as the runner-up in the 10km race at the ASA Cross Country Championships and earn a credible fourth place at the Absa RUN YOUR CITY JOBURG 10k on Heritage Day.
"I'm happy. I'm very happy," he told #TheTopRunner after his run at the national Cross Country Championships in Rustenburg a fortnight ago. "I must admit I am a little bit disappointed because I was aiming for gold but at the end of the day those are the results," he shared after finishing behind Mbuleli Mathanga on a scorching hot day in the mining town.
That he was able to prevail in the testing conditions and against a stellar field which included third-placed Kabelo Seboko, is perhaps testament to the fact that he spent much time living and training in the area before moving to Klerksdorp to join the Nedbank Running Club under respected long distance coach Pio Mpolokeng. But the man who now trains alongside Onalenna Khonkhobe has revealed that his new lease of running life is owed in large part to Peter Gaebetse who spotted him when he took fourth place at the at 2019 MiWay Wally Hayward 10km in 31:15 and invited him to join some of his training camps in the northern part of the North West province.
"Actually things started coming together last year when I was here in Rustenburg training under Ntate Peter Gaebetse. We were planning for this cross country competition back then at the beginning of last year. But then because of the circumstances of life, I found myself moving to Klerksdorp to join Ntate Pio Mpolokeng's camp. There we continued with the journey that I had started with in Rustenburg."
The seeds planted in early 2021 immediately began to bear fruit. Last October Leeto clocked a new lifetime 10km best when he produced 29:26 at the Absa RUN YOUR CITY DURBAN 10k. Then this year he paced the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km race with excellence as Stephen Mokoka went on to break the world record. His fourth place at the Absa Joburg 10k shows that there is much more to come.
"You see in school I was a footballer so I haven't really had a chance to run consistently. For example this was only my second cross country national champs. I haven't had a chance to run extensively on the track, either. So I'm not in a rush to race the marathon. I want to improve my times over 10km and 21km first before upgrading to the marathon. To be honest I want to go to the World Cross Country Championships next year and then work towards the 2024 Olympic Games in the 5000m or 10 000m," he said.