Nontokozo Mkhize praises coach for great 2022 and calls for more support for rural female runners
By winning the Drakensberg Marathon on Sunday, Nontokozo Mkhize ended what has been in many ways a breakthrough season for her. The Hollywoodbets Athletic Club top runner was largely unchallenged as she won the hilly race also known as the Josiah Gumede Marathon in 2:50:43 more than ten minutes ahead of second placed Msawenkosi Nsibande (3:02:36). The 30-year-old says her coach must take credit for the success she currently enjoys.
"I'm very happy to be back after struggling with injury," she told #TheTopRunner. "I must first thank my coach Nkosinathi Duma. A big thank you to him because I'm where I am today because of him. We started training at the beginning of the year and worked hard together until now. He taught me that I should always be prepared both physically and mentally to perform at a race. He also taught me about nutrition and everything else that I needed to know."
Duma's investment in his young charge has begun to payoff handsomely. Besides her win in Bergville over the weekend, Mkhize also placed tenth at the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon (2:46:29) while setting a 10km personal best of 34:38 at the Durban leg of the SPAR Grand Prix in June. Returning from injury in the last quarter of the year, the woman who lives and trains in Pinetown followed up that up with a 34:59 clocking at the Hollywoodbets Durban Summer 10km at the end of October. But undoubtedly the performance that put her on the map in 2022 was her eighth place finish in her debut Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon (3:48:01).
"My coach gave me the splits that I should run over the 56km so that I would be able to finish the race and place inside the top ten. It was also good to have my Hollywoodbets teammate Ann Ashworth with me during the race because she was advising me and telling me what not to do because she ran it a lot and even won it before."
Mkhize's success is bittersweet for many though because although she has already turned 30, only now is she beginning to find her way in the sport. Hailing from the village of Maphumulo in rural KwaZulu-Natal, Mkhize does much of her training in the Underberg around the town of Bulwer on the foot of the Drakensberg Mountains. She explains that it her a long time to find a coach and mentor which is why the talent of so many rural girls is going undiscovered.
"All I can say is that I am begging coaches and managers and supporters to go to the villages because we don't get support there - especially us black girls. You will get support once you are already at a semi-elite level and you are fit. But you don't get much support when you start out as a runner in the rural areas," she said.