'I've been patient' - Mphakathi wins first African Bank Soweto Marathon title after decade of trying
In winning yesterday's African Bank Soweto Marathon, Ntsindiso Mphakathi ended a twelve year winless drought for South African men at the nation's most loved township marathon. Before the man affectionately known as Tata stopped the clock in 2:19:13 to win ahead of Ethiopia's Daba Ife Debele (2:19:52) and Zimbabwe's Tony Skink in third (2:20:15), you have to go back to the year 2011 when Michael Mazibuko was the last South African to win the The People's Race. But perhaps even more impressive is that the man who hails from the Eastern Cape but now lives and trains in Soweto, has been trying to win the race for a decade and despite many setbacks he never gave up on his dream.
"To win this race is a very, very big achievement," he told journalists who had gathered in the auditorium at Soccer City after the race. "I've been trying to get some better position in this race for quite some time. Last year I got position five and I was the first South African. Then in 2017 I was position three. Since from 2013, I have been trying to do something because most of the people that are competing in this race are from outside the country. So I'm very, very happy to get position one."
Asked what the Entsika Athletic Club top runner did differently to secure the victory that had been eluding him for ten years, the man who trains in Mofolo Park, Soweto and Zoo Lake, Johannesburg under the watchful eye of coach Hendrick Ramaala, shared a powerful insight. Mphakathi revealed that he dedicated himself completely to training for a period of four months wherein he sacrificed lucrative racing opportunities in order to focus on preparing for the race he loves so much.
"The course is very, very tough. So I think you need to have patience and have enough time to prepare because it's got a lot of hills. I'm one of the runners who are good in hard courses, that's why every year I try and get a good position in this race. So I've been patient. I didn't race too much this year. I only ran on the 30th of April in KwaZulu-Natal and then I went to Comrades. Then from Comrades I didn't attend any race, I only ran the Absa RUN YOUR CITY JOBURG 10K in September just to check my fitness where I ran 31 minutes and I told my coach that I feel like something good will happen on race day. He agreed and told me that I have the mileage, I only need to work on my speed at the track," shared the man who produced 6:03:09 on his Comrades debut in June.
The 33-year-old's victory rounds off a good year for the Entsika Athletic Club who also claimed victory at the Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon when Givemore Mudziganyama won the 56km race on debut. Zakhele Mkhize, Chairman of the Entsika Foundation, expressed his pride and joy at Ntsindiso's achievement, stating, "We are thrilled to witness the fruits of our investment in Ntsindiso and the club's athletes. Being associated with such excellence is a source of immense pride for Entsika. Ntsindiso's victory is a testament to the hard work, dedication, and support that have gone into nurturing our athletes."
In the women's race Irvette van Zyl was at her superlative best when she claimed a record equalling fourth African Bank Soweto Marathon title. The Hollywood Athletic Club top runner crossed the finish line in 2:34:16 to miss out on her own course record by just 33 seconds. The Nedbank Running Club's Selam Gebre was second (2:36:04), while Maxed Elite Running Club's Faith Chepkoech was third (2:37:26) in what ended up being the fastest ever women's podium at The People's Race.