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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'I train with lions' - Thembisa Mile 10km Champ Chris Mhlanga off to World Student Games

When University Sports South Africa (USSA) named the team that will represent the country at the World Student Games in August, it came as little surprise to athletics lovers to read the name of Chris Mhlanga on the list of those on the plane to China. The University of Johannesburg student dominated the 2023 USSA Athletics Championships in Bloemfontein in May winning the 5000m, 10 000m and the half marathon titles for the Orange Army. It made his selection a no-brainer and Mhlanga is excited to be headed to Chengdu for his first major global athletics competition.

"I'm very proud of myself," he told #TheTopRunner. "For this year my main aim was to represent the country and make it to the world stage. It will be first time going to World Students because last year I went to the FASU Cross Country Championships in Kenya. I'm very excited about that. Very, very excited. I just hope that I will make a podium finish there."

Mhlanga wins the 2022 Thembisa Mile 10km announce himself as emerging force in SA long distance running. Photo Credit: Thembisa Mile.

But even before his dominance at the USSA Champs, the 21-year-old had already announced himself as promising future prospect when he took several big scalps to win the 2022 Thembisa Mile 10km title. Racing against the likes of SA 5000m national record holder Elroy Gelant and SA Marathon Champion Simon Sibeko, Mhlanga beat Gelant and Sibeko into second (30:20) and third (30:32) respectively as he won the tough race run at 1600m above sea level in 30:14. He says his coach Hendrick Ramaala and his Zoo Lake training group including national record holder Precious Mashele and Olympian Desmond Mokgobu must take the credit for the success he is beginning to enjoy.

"It's all about where I train at Zoo Lake," he exclaimed. "There I train with lions. The toughen me up everyday. I wake up motivated to go and train everyday. I mean we've got national record holders, SA Champs and the like. It motivates me daily because I also want to see myself there at their level one day," said the man who ran 14:29 to finish in fourth place and as the third South African at the ASA 5km Championships in Nasrec a fortnight ago where his training partner Nicholas Seoposengwe emerged victorious.

And Mhlanga will have an opportunity to defend his Thembisa Mile 10km title because he has confirmed that he will be returning for the 2023 edition of the race on 29 October. Speaking at the official launch at the Lenmed Zamokhuhle Private Hospital yesterday, Founder and Race Director of the celebrated township race Donald Mathipa emphasized the race's role in helping giving quality racing opportunities to up and coming runners such as Mhlanga. He also thanked runners, sponsors and volunteers for their support over the last 11 years saying The Running Party is back with more fun for social runners and more prize money on offer for elite athletes in both the mile and the 10km.

Mathipa and the Thembisa Athletic Club's Kamohelo Makitla pose with the club's youngsters who will benefit from the proceeds of the 2023 Thembisa Mile. Photo credit: Tumelo Mabua.

"This year we have increased the total prize money. For the elite runners, the race offers a total prize purse of R100 000 (hundred thousand Rand). This year we have got prize money for the 70 plus category for the first time since the race was launched. The race is open to a total of 3000 participants, with 2500 entries available for the 10km road race and 500 for the 1 Mile Road Race. The aim is to use the proceeds from the race fund the development initiatives of the Thembisa Athletics Club in particular for tracksuits for our juniors and the club's annual December training camp which costs in excess of R60 000."

Click HERE to enter the race. Entries will close at midnight on Sunday, 22 October 2023 or when the maximum race capacity has been reached. The registration fee for the 10km is R150 for ASA licensed athletes, while unlicensed athletes will pay an additional R60 for a temporary license. The registration fee for the 1 Mile Race is R50 for the ASA licensed athletes, with unlicensed athletes paying an additional R20 for a temporary license.

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