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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'Sports is life. You can make a life for yourself out of sports' - Neheng who lives 500km from coach

This time last week Khatala Neheng was celebrating a new personal best after clocking 32:18 to finish as the runner-up at the Absa DURBAN 10k CITY RUN. In finishing second to the exciting young Tayla Kavanagh, the runner from Lesotho raised a few eyebrows because her new mark came just over two months after racing the Olympic Marathon in hot and humid conditions in Japan. Speaking to the television cameras after the race, her coach Andrew Booyens admitted to being pleasantly surprised by the 29-year old's performance.

"It is surprising," he shared. "Because after the Olympics we gave her a break so she didn't have much time to prepare for this race and do more speed work." But there have been several key clues suggesting that the woman who took twentieth in the women's marathon at #Tokyo2021 (2:33:15) was in the best shape of her life. In 2021 alone, Neheng has set two national records for The Mountain Kingdom - one over 10 000m (33:46.39) and another over 42,2km (2:28:06) when she qualified for the Olympic Games back in May.

Neheng Khatala Seutloali being paced at the Retail Capital Langa AC Marathon Challenge on the Killarney Racecourse in Cape Town where she achieved Olympic qualification. Photo Credit: Cuan Walker.

"I'm very happy," she told #TheTopRunner in Durban. "After running the marathon I rested for two weeks and then started by jogging and doing some gym work. When I raced the SPAR Ladies 10km race in Gqeberha (October 9) I hadn't done any speed work whatsoever. I only started with speed work after that race. I think the work I did in the gym helped me a lot," she explained.

What is even more surprising though is that she has done all of this remotely. The Maseru resident lives almost five hundred kilometres away from Booyens, yet she has been able to execute the training programme to the coach's satisfaction. As a wife, student and full-time athlete it hasn't been easy. But Neheng says it's all about time management and knowing what you want out of athletics.

Khatala and Kavangh embrace after taking the top two positions at the Absa DURBAN 10k CITY RUN. Both are coached by Andrew Booyens. Photo credit: MWMedia.

"It's like that. How we work is that he sends me daily workouts every evening which are meant to be completed the following day. I have to share the data from my watch so I can't cheat it," she explained. "But it all starts at home. I always say it's about one's gift. If you are book smart then do that, if you are gifted in sport then do it with everything that is in you. Sports is life. You can make a life for yourself out of sports. So I always encourage young girls especially and tell them that I have a car and a house all because of running and that motivates them to stay in sports," she concluded.

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