Mathanga ready to win last national Cross Country title as he looks to step up to the marathon
KwaZulu-Natal golden boy Mbuleli Mathanga is aiming to successfully defend his national 10km Cross Country title in Rustenburg tomorrow. Mathanga, who is expected to face stiff competition from the likes of Central Gauteng Athletics (CGA) champion Kabelo Seboko, won the title last year when the championships were hosted in Amanzimtoti, south of Durban.
"I think preparations have gone quite well for me to be ready for the big day. The goal remains to win the race as I'm heading there as the defending champion. So all eyes will be on me to do well," said the man who is coached by Mdu Khumalo.
The 28-year-old Phantane Athletics Club athlete has been in good form in 2022 as he successfully defended his 10 000m title at Athletics South Africa (ASA) Senior Track & Field Championships in Cape Town in April and then set a new 10km personal best of 28:03 when he took sixth place at the Absa RUN YOUR CITY DURBAN 10k in July. But with the cross country race taking place at a higher altitude of 1 170m above sea level in the North West Province this weekend, Mathanga believes that the times won't be fast but his intentions remain to become victorious on race day.
"I know what is expected of me come race day. Times won't be fast as the race is on the coastal venue but the competition with be tough. Many athletes are hoping to close the season on a high and that is my plan too. I expect to see athletes hungry to compete," he explained.
In addition to winning the long race in his home province, Mathanga also claimed the silver medal over the 4km distance in 2021. This time around though he has made it clear that his target is winning the long race. "Not too sure about the 4km distance as the priority is to run 10km well," he told #TheTopRunner.
For his supporters, 2022 could be the last time they could see the fearless runner compete at a national cross country competition. Mathanga has indicated that this could be his last championship as he is going to up distance to full marathon distance with his dream to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics in France.
"I think it's important I do well on Saturday as I won't stick much in doing the cross country in the future. I plan to start a marathon as from next year because I feel it's time I start to run the marathon now. That have been our plan with the coach. In the next Olympics I must qualify over full marathon distance. So the focus is already there," he said.