Cancellations hit Bong'musa Mthembu in pocket

Ultramarathon star Bong'musa Mthembu.
Ultramarathon star Bong'musa Mthembu.
Image: Peter Heeger/Gallo Images

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on the income of three-time Comrades Marathon champion Bong'musa Mthembu.

After both the 100km World Championships and Two Oceans Marathon were cancelled earlier in April, Mthembu has suffered a huge financial setback as Comrades Marathon has also followed suit.

This year's Comrades Marathon winners in the men's and women's races were set to bag a whooping prize money of R570,000.

In addition to that, in the case of winners being South African, additional bonus of R200,000 was guaranteed.

Even though one cannot know what would have happened at the Comrades event, Mthembu's fine form in recent years vouched for his chances for another fine showing in the KZN classic.

Last year, the 36-year-old from Bulwer in the mountainous region of KZN midlands, won the 56km Two Oceans Ultra Marathon in Cape Town and finished second at Comrades. His combined income from these feats was R510,000.

Mthembu also pocketed R45,000 for becoming the first KwaZulu-Natal athlete to cross the finish line last year at Comrades finish in Pietermaritzburg.

Mthembu's coach Xola Mabhida admitted that the cancellation of ultra-marathons is having an impact on his client.

"At least there is something that is coming in, especially from his running club. He has a contract with Arthur Ford, so they pay him a certain amount," Mabhida said.

"We also have some money from the government [social relief fund where he got R20,000].

"It's not enough, to be honest, but it is better to save lives than to cry for money," added Mthembu.

While the cancellation of the Comrades will hit Mthembu hard in his pocket, Mabhida added that they welcomed the decision and that it was not going to be possible to run the 90km distance in summer had they postponed it.

"It is something that was expected. We also wanted it to happen because it could have ruined our plans," Mabhida continued.

"Running Comrades in November... the weather conditions were going to be very hot and it was going to be difficult for other athletes to finish the race.

"Had they postponed Comrades to November, it was going to disturb Soweto Marathon, Cape Town Marathon and Two Oceans next year because there is no way where you can run 90km in November and then Two Oceans in three or four months."

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