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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'You have to work hard' - Ramakongoana shares his secret after winning Durban International Marathon

“You have to work hard and be disciplined then you’ll perform well.” Those were Tebello Ramakongoana’s words when asked about the key to his success. The man from Lesotho came within seconds of breaking the national record of 2:09:47, when he won the Durban International Marathon in 2:10:11 yesterday.

Competing in the colours of Xcel Running Club, Ramakongoana was on course to not only on course to run under 2:08:10 and register an Olympic qualification time, but also on time to smash the Lesotho Marathon record which was set by Motlokoa Khabutlane at the 2017 Paris Marathon. But running alone from just after halfway when the last pacemaker Mbuleli Mathanga stepped off the road, Ramakongoana had to face the stiff breeze alone as his precious seconds were blown away on an overcast and slightly wet day eThekwini.

Ramakgoana crosses the finish line at the Moses Mabhida People's Park to win the 2023 Durban International Marathon. Photo Credit: Xcel Running Club.

In the end the man who is the holder of a 1:01:23 21km lifetime best set at the 2022 Nelson Mandela Bay Half Marathon was rewarded with a new 42,2km lifetime best to eclipse the 2:10:24 he set when he finished in third place at the 2021 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon as the words he spoke in the buildup to the race defined the outcome. “What will help us is if we work together - so that we can achieve our goal. But if we don’t work together the time will defeat us.”

Ramakongoana was nevertheless pleased with his efforts as he won by nearly two minutes from second-placed Simon Sibeko. It means that in the last 12 months alone the man from The Mountain Kingdom has set three new personal bests over 5 000m (14:14.17), 15km (45:40), 21km and now the marathon to underline his status as one of the top marathoners of the SADC region.

Ramakongoana pictured here at the 2021 Hollywoodbets Durban Summer 10k where he set his personal best of 28:45. Photo Credit: Hollywoodbets Durban Summer 10k.

“My training went very well indeed. I respected my training very well. You can be in good form, but it’s all about your behaviour and your work ethic. You have to work hard and be disciplined then you’ll perform well. But if you are not disciplined, you won’t go anywhere,” said the man who is coached by US-based James Francis McKirdy and assisted by Telang Andries in Maseru.

Because the 2023 Durban International Marathon incorporated the ASA Marathon Championships, Sibeko’s runner-up finished (2:12:06) meant that he won the national marathon title for 2023 for Central Gauteng Athletics (CGA). Last year’s champion Tumelo Motlagale who was fourth overall earned the silver medal (2:17:06) for Athletics Central North West (ACNW) while local runner Bonginkosi Mavuso was fifth overall in 2:17:47 to take the bronze for KwaZulu-Natal Athletics (KZNA).

In the women’s race Annie Bothma destroyed her personal best by over three minutes when she won the overall race (2:30:31) by 5 seconds from Ethiopia’s Chaltu Bedo Negashu and took home the national title. Bothma walks away with R50 000 for winning the race plus an additional R20 000 for coming home as the first South African.

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