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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'Nothing beats perseverance' - Jenet Mbhele out to defend SA title at Durban International Marathon

As the reigning SA Marathon champion, all eyes will be on Jenet Mbhele to see if she can defend her title. The Xcel Running Club top runner won the last edition of the Durban International Marathon in the colours of KwaZulu-Natal Athletics to ensure that the women's crowned remained in KZNA. In fact 2022 turned out to be a good year in general for MaMbhele who also ran the fourth fastest 21km time of her career when she took 11th place at the NMB Half Marathon in 1:14:40.

"All I can say is that I tried hard because I had to battle through injuries," is her humble response when asked about her exploits last year. "But I ran very well and trained for the marathons which we selected together with my coach and management. They gave me a lot support, especially on my long runs. I thank my coach for the wonderful support that he gives me,” said the woman who is coached by Thami Khuboni.

Mbhele is looking to defend the SA title she won at the 2022 Durban International Marathon. Photo Credit: ASA Media.

The 28-year-old's performances make for positive reading especially when viewed in the light of time she lost during the Covid-19 lockdown. Coming from a 5000m and 10 000m background on the track, Mbhele announced herself as a future champion when she clocked a lifetime best 33:30 for fifth place at the Durban leg of the SPAR Grand Prix back in 2019. But the lack of races and limited quality training opportunities which resulted from the lockdown stunted her development and almost forced her to give up altogether.

"The coronavirus lockdowns hurt as a lot. For example,I remember in 2021 I was ran the Pietermaritzburg leg of the SPAR Grand Prix at a time when I had told myself that my running was finished. I could only manage 36 minutes and I wanted to quit the sport. But my coach told me that you can’t give up easily in life - you must persevere," said the 1:11:55 half marathoner who represented South Africa at the 2018 World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia.

Mbhele poses with the legendary Elana Meyer after taking ninth place at the 2022 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. Photo Credit: Xcel Running Club.

Her post-Covid perseverance was rewarded with a new 42,2km personal best of 2:41:36 at the 2022 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. And that is exactly the attitude that she will no doubt adopt when she lines up on Sunday for a shot at the R50 000 prize money up for grabs at the Durban International Marathon Incorporating ASA Marathon Championships to defend the crown she won last year.

"Nothing beats perseverance. Right now my personal best is 2:41, but if I can try and run closer to 2:38, I would be very happy with that. In life nothing comes easy, you have to keep going. Running is hard but if you train hard then things happen,” she said.

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