Comrades Marathon champion Mthembu will be difficult to beat‚ says coach Hamlett

Bongumusa Mthembu celebrates at the finish line at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban after winning the 2018 Comrades Marathon.
Bongumusa Mthembu celebrates at the finish line at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban after winning the 2018 Comrades Marathon.
Image: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

Team Entsika coach John Hamlett says defending Comrades Marathon up-run champion Bong'musa Mthembu will be difficult to beat.

Speaking at the Team Entsika's launch in Dullstroom in Mpumalanga on Thursday‚ Hamlett‚ who has coached five Comrades Marathon winners since 2001‚ said Mthembu will be hard-pressed to defend his 2017 title because of his recent Two Oceans Marathon win.

“He's a tough athlete and there's nothing wrong with the man.

"It would be wonderful for him to win because it would make him into a legend.

"However‚ he's got a problem in reality because the guys feel exactly the way he does. They're hungry‚” Hamlett said.

Team Entsika‚ which replaced the Tom-Tom Athletics team two years ago‚ has the likes of Gordon Lesetedi‚ Gift Kelehe and Siya Mqambeli to call on.

Kelehe followed in his brother Andrew's footsteps by winning the 2015 up-run in a time of 5.38.36 while his brother won the 2001 down-run in a time of 5.25.51.

Lesetedi (sixth)‚ down-run record holder David Gatebe (eighth) and Kelehe (ninth) were part of a Team Entsika trio that finished in the top 10 in last year's down-run that was won by Mthembu in a time of 5.26.34.

Mthembu won the 2017 up-run in a time of 5.35.34 in a race where Kelehe was third in a time of 5.41.48.

Mthembu won last month's Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town in a time of 3.08.40.

“We've given him the bonus for the past two years but as a coach‚ I am concerned by the fact that he's run and won the Two Oceans Marathon so close to the Comrades‚" he said.

"It doesn't help you too much but we'll talk after 65kms.”

This year's Comrades Marathon up from Durban to Pietermaritzburg will take place on June 9.

That doesn't leave much time for those who haven't prepared adequately.

With his team in the high altitudes of Dullstroom‚ a small town that's 257kms from Johannesburg‚ Hamlett said his charges were ready for the climbs that await them in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

The climb from Durban to Pietermaritzburg is 596m‚ far below Dullstroom's 2000m perch.

Hamlett also coaches the 2018 down-run champion Ann Ashworth‚ who runs for Team Entsika's sister club Massmart Athletics Club.

Ashworth wasn't part of the day's proceedings but Hamlett said she should be ready for the Pietermaritzburg assault.

“If you do what we do here for eight weeks‚ you'll feel like you're part of the furniture and the altitude will not bug you.

"You don't get headaches like you often do in the first week‚” Hamlett said.

*Khanyiso is in Dullstroom as a guest of Team Entsika

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