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  • Writer's pictureThathe Msimango

'The most important thing is to finish' - Jenet Mbhele to make Comrades debut

South African marathoner Jenet Mbhele has thrown a surprise move by announcing that she will be lining up for this year's Comrades Marathon. The world's oldest ultramarathon is an 89km run from Pietermaritzburg down to Durban on June 11. Amongst the 17,920 starters will be Mbhele who is will be tackling the race for the first time in her career. Speaking to #TheTopRunner, the Xcel Running Club top runner said decided to take part because she wants to feel firsthand what it's like to run this iconic global race.

"Yes, it true that I'm going to participate in this year's Comrades Marathon. I have done all the preparations to be much ready for the big day," explains Mbhele, who won the 2022 SA Marathon title and represented the country in 2018 World Half Marathon Championships in Spain.

Jenet Mbhele is ready to make her comrades Marathon debut. Photo Credit: Xcel Running Club.

"I have consulted my coach regarding my decision and he fully supported it. He drew up a program for me to follow. I have been working very hard to get myself into great shape. You can't be certain that you are 100 percent ready for a race like Comrades. It is a gruelling race and it needs mental strength more than anything, which I think must guide every runner to finish line. So I can't wait to be on the start line."

With the women's race having seen a couple of withdrawal from last year's top ten finishers including Janie Grundling, Jenna Chanellor and Camille Herron, the competition looks wide open for female to get a gold medal. But Mbhele who hails from Umzikhulu, South West of Durban has a different goal in mind.

Mbhele goes head to head with Dominique Scott and Kesa Molotsane at the 2018 national cross country championships. Photo Credit: Xcel Running Club.

"I don't see myself amongst the top 10 contenders. It would be the wrong idea for me to go into the race with that mindset. Its my debut Comrades and I'm not familiar with the race. So to put myself under lot of pressure will derail my plans even further. I think the most important thing is to finish which should be the main goal for each athlete. Whatever I'm going to achieve beyond that is going to be a bonus for me," said the 28-year-old who ran a 42,2km personal best of 2:37:07 in March when she took fifth place at the Durban International Marathon.

Even though she is cautious ahead of her debut on Sunday, Mbhele's long term goal is to see herself winning the Ultimate Human Race in the next five years. "Its no doubt that I dream of winning Comrades and I think is what many runners across the world have in mind. If I can be the first black woman then it would be great. We are now capable of achieving these days. There is no special recipe in winning Comrades as all former winners will tell you that training hard will make you deliver good performance," she said.

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