Mphakathi aims to retain Prince Mangosuthu 52km title
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi Ultra Marathon defending champion Ntsindiso Mphakathi says he expects some healthy competition when he tries to defend his crown on Sunday. The race which takes place on 30 April between Dundee and Nquthu, carries a sizeable prize purse of R100 000 for a first athlete to cross the finish line in both men's and women's categories. Mphakathi, who won the race last year in a time of 3:00:45 has generally provided good performances in the race. In 2021, he led the race until the last 500m when Comrades Marathon gold medalist Nkosikhona Mhlakwana launched a dramatic attack to go past him and force him into second place. Yet despite his proven success in the 52km event, Mphakathi says he still respects the route along with the athletes he will be lining up against.
"Its no doubt that I have reached the stage where I have fallen in love with that race (Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi 52km). I have special memories where I always look back and say I have achieved much over the ultra Marathon distance," said Mphakathi with a big laugh. "Even though I should have won the race in 2021, I'm still proud of what I managed to achieve on race day. Then last year, I prevailed which still makes me happy. On Sunday, nothing has changed as I'll still respect my competitors because I don't know how fit they are. But I'm not really someone who looks at how other runners are doing. I prefer to focus on myself," explained the Entiska Athletic Club top runner.
The 33-year-old Soweto resident who hails from Mount Frere in the Eastern Cape, hasn't had the best start to 2023 as injuries kept him out of action. He has only participated in Nedbank Runfied Breaking Barriers 50k where he could only manage 2:58:54 for 23rd position in a race where Tete Dijana broke the world record. Mphakathi, who claimed 5th position in the 2022 Soweto Marathon last November is positive that he can retain his title come race day. "I have struggled a lot with the injuries this year and I haven't done any races besides Nedbank 50k race," said the man, who is coached by Hendrick Ramaala. "After the Soweto Marathon, I experienced injuries then I was forced to adopt a new program and not rush the process. Running is my career so I must look after myself. I'm feeling stronger now and I'll give my best to do well. If I can retain my title then the mission would be compete."