'My target is to run sub 2:08' - Tebello Ramakongoana reflects on great 2023 and looks ahead to 2024
Xcel Running Club elite athlete Tebello Ramakongoana is still in awe of the success he achieved last year. Ramakongoana showed a red-hot form which saw him doing the unthinkable and finish in fourth place in marathon at the World Championship in the Hungarian city of Budapest in a lifetime best of 2:09:57. Roughly two months before that, he shattered Lesotho's national half Marathon record with a splendid run of 1:00:35 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Half Marathon in Gqeberha. Despite a lack of resources in his native Mountain Kingdom, he managed to rise above his circumstances into one of Southern Africa's top marathoners of 2023.
"Nothing is impossible in life because I didn't know that one day, I would be counted alongside the world's Gold Label elite athletes," explains Ramakongoana who hails from the village of Mohlapiso. "One's background is nothing. What matters is to do the best in everything you do and use what you have. In my homeland, I don't have proper training facilities. I train on dusty grounds. In summer, I face a huge challenge when it rains as it can get muddy. So what I can say, sometimes your background can be instrumental to achieving your dreams especially when you are not complaining and working with what you have."
His incredible showings during the 2023 road running season which started with victory at the Durban International Marathon last February, have not gone unnoticed. The 27-year-old has obtained a sponsorship deal with Xtep, a Chinese sports equipment company who have already invited him to take part in their events. In December the man who the male athlete of the year at the Xcel Running Club Awards clocked 1:01:26 to claim second place at the Xtep Xiamen East Half Marathon.
"I was so happy and emotional at the same time. It was a dream of mine to sign with a big sponsor, especially an international one. I still expect more sponsors to come on board because I have been working hard to prove that I'm a gold label athlete," explains the man who is coached by US-based James McKirdy. "I think coming fourth in the World Championships changed my life. It was the biggest achievement of my career. The sponsors I have now will supply me with everything to run fast. My dream has been to achieve good things through sports and I have done that. Signing with Xtep Company is one of them and I'm not done as yet."
Now preparing to line up for the Osaka Lake Biwa Marathon in Japan on the 25th of February, Ramakongoana has set his sights on running faster than 2:08:10 in order to qualify for the Olympic marathon and book his spot at the global showpiece taking place in the French capital, Paris later this year. Achieving that qualification standard would also mean eclipsing the current Lesotho national record of 2:09:47 held by Motlokoa Nkhabutlane.
"I'm excited that I'm going to run Osaka next month. I think competing internationally will help me to build my confidence. Plus it will help me to be familiar with these world-class athletes and learn how they run. My target is to run sub 2:08:00 to qualify for the Olympics. It is every athlete's dream to participate in the Olympics. So If I can achieve that then I would be happy," he said.