Johannes Kekana to attempt Masters Marathon World Record
While most South Africans can remember Wayde van Niekerk's 400m world record from lane 8 at the 2016 Rio Olympics, fewer will know that another athletics world best belongs to their compatriot. Titus Mamabolo who celebrated his 80th birthday on the 7th of January, is the proud holder of a marathon world record. Just after he turned fifty back in 1991, the Rand Athletic Club legend ran a staggering 2:19:29 in Durban to set a Masters M50 marathon world record. And it's that record which 49-year old Johannes Kekana is aiming to break!
"My target now is to go for the record of the Marathon Masters because I know I've got an advantage," said the man who will turn fifty years old in April. "I've got an advantage with the speed I'm having and looking at the young boys I'm training now and how I perform - because I can still run a sub 9 minutes for 3km. That shows that if I have a good training base and focus on a specific race, then I can achieve what I want to achieve," said the man who coached the likes of Olympian Desmond Mokgobu and Lucky Mohale who represented the country at the World Championships during his time coaching in Tembsia.
If he is able to do so then the man who won gold in the marathon at the 2003 All Africa Games will become only the second 50-year old human being ever to run under 2:20 for the marathon. Mamabolo says he was able to do it because after initially running 5000m on the track during the mid 1970's, the country's second black Springbok then took a 10-year break from athletics returning in 1986 because his wife told him that he was getting fat. That break combined with hard training that saw him run to work and back over a hilly 20km course daily, is what got Mamabolo in shape.
Kekana believes that because he had a late start to athletics, he also enjoys the benefit of a relatively fresh body later on in life. "I was a chef at a hotel in Mokopane and one of my friends who used to visit me from Pretoria would tell me what was happening there in running. I saw that people were making money in running so I decided to join because I was training but not competing. I used to beat some of the full-time athletes from Limpopo even though I was working," shared the Comrades and Two Oceans Marathon gold medalist.
So aged 27 in 1998, Kekana took up running full-time and won his first race which was a half marathon run at the Carousel near Hammanskraal. Five years later he would win gold on the international stage and he says it's all down to the fact that he threw himself completely into the sport after taking it up later in life. "It's all about commitment in everything you do. You have to tell yourself that I want to do this thing and put all your efforts in what you're doing," said the Boxer Athletics Club legend.
That attitude plus a fresh body leads Kekana to think that he has a very good chance of breaking the record which he says only two of his compatriots are capable of. "That's my goal. That's my target. I believe it's only me and two three other athletes like Hendrick Ramaala and Shadrack Hoff who can do that because we have been running fast at our senior level and managed to reach the veteran category still performing well. So that shows that I'm still running 31 or 32 minutes as we speak. So I don't see difficulty in challenging that record. I just want to try something before I close the chapter of running," he told #TheTopRunner.
For more on the life of Johannes Kekana tune into #TheTopRunner on SuperSport channel 207 at 17H45 this evening (Tuesday 25 January).