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.
"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.
"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."