'I think I'm ready to race my first Comrades' - Mhlongo to run against history
When Makhosi Mhlongo lines up for her debut Comrades Marathon on Sunday 28 August, she will carry the hopes of many country's black female runners as she aims to the history books. In the history of the world's " Ultimate Human race," only four black female athletes have managed to place inside the top ten. The legendary Farwa Mentoor won ten gold medals between 2002 and 2011, placing third in 2004. Fikile Mbuthuma of the Nedbank Running Club is the only female athlete to achieve the feat in the last decade when she came eighth in 2016; before her was Nokuthula Nhlengethwa, ninth in 1993; and Sarah Mahlangu, seventh in 2002.
Despite being a relative ultra-marathon novice, Mhlongo has produced some incredible performances since stepping up to the longer distances. She placed ninth in the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km in both the 2021 and 2022 editions of the race. The 40-year-old spent last week polishing her preparations at a camp in the tough hills of Dullstroom under the watchful eye of legendary Comrades coach John Hamlett. The pair have been working together since 2019.
"I think I'm ready to race my first Comrades Marathon. This is something I have dreamt of a long time ago. Knowing that I will stand on the start line still gives me goosebumps. I think my age is right to start running the race like Comrades. My goal was actually to run the race in 2020 but Covid-19 placed everything on hold. The training has gone quite well for me. My body is responding well. I'm so lucky to work with someone like John (Hamlett) because he has produced multiple Comrades champions. He is strict when it comes to following the program," said Mhlongo.
The diminutive Hollywoodbets Athletics Club runner who hails from Hammarsdale, a township just outside Durban not far from the Comrades route in Hillcrest, has lofty ambitions come race day.
"My target is to place inside the inside the top ten. I know it is possible with the amount of work we have done with my coach," said Mhlongo, who is also mentored by Athletics icon Blanche Moila. "What is important is that I approach the race like the coach instructed me to do. He knows his work as numbers speak for themselves. I think we have done it all in the training now so I must deliver on the race day."