"It's possible if we get the correct pacing," says Mathiba as he tackles 50km World Record
Phillimon Mathiba is confident that he can do damage at the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km race in Gqeberha on Sunday. The Thembisan is one of an arsenal of top runners who have been assembled to take on the 50km world record set by the legendary Thompson Magawana on the way to winning the 1988 Two Oceans Marathon. That Magawana's astonishing 2:43:38 has stood for over 30 years is testament to just how tough a record it is. But Mathiba believes it is within his grasp.
"It's all about the correct pacing," he told #TheTopRunner. "My training has gone well and I am sure that I am gonna be able to run the record," assured the man who won the Pretoria leg of 2020 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. Reimagined into a hybrid event featuring a virtual and physical races in three cities (Cape Town, Pretoria and Potchefstroom), Mathiba won in the nation's capital in an encouraging 2:18:28 by almost three full minutes from second placed Philani Buthelezi.
That performance at altitude has given the Nedbank Running Club athlete the confidence to tackle the stomach-churning record in the Windy City. "We'll be running at the coast and not at high altitude so it's possible. It's possible if you get the right people to run with," he said.
Nedbank Running Club National Manager Nick Bester is excited that Mathiba and others will finally get the opportunity to run competitively over the ultra distance again. "It's very exciting for runners in South Africa. It's been a long time that runners have been restricted from racing because of Covid. No races have been happening in South Africa because it's so expensive to put up a race of this nature. So luckily Nedbank came to the party with the support of Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality and a host of other sponsors," explained former Comrades Marathon champion.
Bester promised that this is elite-only event brings them a step towards organising similar events in future which will also cater for long suffering social runners, who last ran an official Athletics South Africa sanctioned marathon in March 2020. "So this is now for the elite athletes and after the elite athletes we will concentrate on the social runners and normal runners on the street to take part in the Nedbank Runified series," he concluded.
Aside from the Nedbank runners, athletes from Murray & Roberts, Entsika Athletic Club and a number of other professional clubs will take part in the hotly anticipated event. In total, over 70 men and 35 women will be hoping to win a share of the R270 000 prize money spread over the top ten men and women, with the winner pocketing a whopping R100 000. Athletics South Africa have also confirmed that they will use the IAU (International Association of Ultrarunners) Bronze Label event to select a team that will represent the country at the 50km World Championships scheduled to take place in Chinese Taipei on 31 October, 2021.