King Ryan retakes his throne at Endurocad Invitational
After setting a second personal best in a week, Ryan Mphahlele has underlined his status as the country's best 1500m athlete of the moment. Temporarily knocked off his perch by Tshepo Tshite who defeated him in a most entertaining race during the second leg of the ASA Grand Prix Series in Cape Town last Wednesday, Mphahlele dusted off that second place 3:36.86 finish by winning last night's Endurocad Invitational Meet at the Coetzenburg Stadium in Stellenbosch in a time that has set middle-distance tongues around the country wagging.
3:35.36 is the University of Johannesburg athlete's new PB, as he left 3000m SA record (7:40:99) holder Jerry Matsau and UJ teammate Nkosinathi Sibiya in his wake. To what does The tornado from Thembisa owe this mercurial form that has seen him set two 1500m personal records as well as mile new mark over the mile in just the last three months?
It seems that a change in both the mind and the body of the 23-year old is the secret. Last year The 2019 SA 1500m champion spent time training with legendary middle distance coach Ian Harries who mentored Olympic silver medalist Mbulaeni Mulaudzi. He used this time to adjust his training by beginning his base training in early spring instead of the traditional summer holidays, which is when most South Africa distance runners put in the high mileage. He was immediately rewarded with a victory at the SA 4KM Cross Country Championship held in Amanzimtoti in September before going on to win the Thembisa Street Mile at the end of October. To that new Spring base, Mphahlele added his usual annual December training camp at the Tembisa High School and the results are there for all to see.
"Most of them do their base round about December time, but in my opinion that's too late. I did mine during the cross country season during winter time - I did my base then. So I was able to compete in December and even now because I have a large base that I built in September and October. I kept consistent in my training and I think it just shows in the results," he explained.
Armed with the new personal best and world class form it seems only a matter of time before Ngugi nails the qualification time for the World Championships which take place in July on the United States West Coast. As it was, he only just missed out on that mark of 3:35.00 last night, for which a R10 000 bonus had been on offer. But the ever-confident Mphahlele believes that he can run even faster.
"It has been a tough past 3 years for me. I have never been at a peak like this before. I always wanted to be in this shape and this form for a long time. I'm just glad to be in this shape and form at this time of the year and I'm relieved because now I have something build on. It's good progress. All I just need to do is keep on running quick times and when I get international races, I just run to win and the times will just come by itself," he concluded.
Apart from Mphahlele, there we a number of encouraging performances in the women's middle distances. SA 10km champion Tayla Kavanagh (now running in the colours of Murray and Roberts) broke the 16 minute barrier for the first time when she won the women's 5000m in the time of 15:43.40, while there was also a new PB for 17-year old Naledi Makgatha who smashed her PB by 8 seconds when she the women's 1500m in 4.19.48 ahead of reigning SA metric mile champion Danielle Verster. Makgatha's fabulous run was also under the qualifying standard for the World U/20 Championships later this year in Colombia.