'I want to make a name for myself' - Joshua Mabunda positive about 2024 after maiden 21km victory
With gyms full and the new year full of possibilities, one man who is aiming to make 2024 his year is Joshua Mabunda. And while some may change their lives by starting with a new year's resolution, Mabunda has already begun his transformation into one of South Africa's future champions after ending 2023 by winning his first ever 21km race when he breasted the tape at the Lesedi Athletic Club Annual Reconciliation Day Half Marathon on the 16th of December.
"It's very special because it's my first victory and it happens at home where everything started," he said after beating the likes of Kemang Khunonyane and Tumisho Magakwe to claim line honours in 1:09:22. "My race was good. It went according to plan. I think at about 17km or 18km that's when I decided to take the race. I just told myself that I know the route because I sometimes train on it and they won't catch me," said the man who originally hails from the Ekurhuleni township of Vosloorus where the popular kasi race took place.
Claiming his first major victory on home soil signalled a homecoming for the journeyman who has run for a number of clubs in Central Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal over the last two years as he continued to search for a mentor to polish his talent. Since 2022, the diminutive 24-year-old has turned out for the likes of Waterfall AC, Black Diamond AC and Xcel Running Club. But in 2023 he finally found his forever home at Maxed Elite Running Club.
"I'd like to thank my coach Martin Ngwenya. I can see that since I started working with him, I'm on the right track. When I'm here in Voslo I train with Karabo Ntsoelengoe, then when I'm in KZN I train with the likes of Jobo Khatoane and Pakiso Mthembu. Ntate Jobo in particular has been has taken me under his wing. In fact all those top runners encourage me so much and tell me that I should be patient and my time will come. If I can just stick to my training then I know that next year, I'll have a much better season."
With the experienced Ngwenya in his corners and training alongside sub 29 minute 10km performers such as Khatoane and Mthembu, the man who was sixth at the Durban International Marathon 10km in February and took seventh place at the Harry Gwala District Municipality Half Marathon in May is confident of even better performances in 2024.
"Ntate Jobo always tells me that once I get that maiden victory under my belt, everything will change. So next year my aim is to at least run 65 or 64 minutes for the half marathon and start to make a name for myself. Running 69 minutes here at altitude gives me confidence that I can run faster at sea level. I would be happy if I can start placing in the top 10 in some bigger races, so that people can know that there is an athlete called Joshua that's coming.