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  • Writer's pictureThathe Msimango

Mhlakwana ends great 2022 with Sani Stagger victory

South African road-running sensation Nkosikhona Mhlakwana ended the year on a high with a spectacular Sani Stagger 42.2km victory on Saturday. Mhlakwana crossed the tape in the time of 03:07:31 to win the challenging race held in the Drakensberg mountains. His time was the second fastest in eight years behind Sikhumbuzo Dlamini's 03:04:13 which was set in 2014. The tenacious runner who hails from Howick describes the mountainous off-road race as one of the toughest he has done in his career and is pleased with his winning time.

"The race was hard, I won't lie to you. It takes a lot of strength to be able to finish the race. It remains one of the most difficult races I have done in my life," said Mhlakwana, who runs for Hollywoodbets Athletics Club.

Mhlakwana on top of the podium after ending 2022 with a victory at the Sani Stagger. Photo Credit: Kirsten Oliver.

"I'm so happy I have finally managed to taste a victory in the Sani Stagger. In 2019, I was second in the marathon distance and I told myself that one day I will come back strong. The time I clocked is good as most of the winners usually manage 3:10 so I was a little bit faster plus I'm happy I have managed to close my year with a victory," he said.

This year Mhlakwana has been in outstanding form. In eight races he has participated in, he has won four of them and then finished as the runners-up on three occasions. Those spectacular achievements include coming second on his Two Oceans debut plus finishing sixth in his second Comrades Marathon. The 29-year-old who holds a 2:16 marathon personal best time dedicates all these good results to his coach Prodigal Khumalo, who discovered his true abilities.

Mhlakwana pictured with his coach and mentor Prodigal Khumalo. Photo Credit: Supplied.

"I think all the praise should go to Prodigal Khumalo for where I am today. I know in my career I have remained disciplined and worked hard but my coach made a strong call that changed my life," reflects Mhlakwana.

"I was an 800m and 1 500m specialist but Khumalo said I must try to switch to the marathon distance. It was a bold move since I didn't do much of the 10km and 21km distances but I trusted him. Then I started to follow the program in order to succeed. I think life is all about believing in yourself then you can succeed. Everything must be in your head first before people can start to trust you."

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