April 23, 2018


Mkhonto aims to make history at Comrades Marathon

Tough road ahead…20 000 runners will round off their trek from Durban at Scottsville Racecourse as they all gun for victory.

Tough road ahead…20 000 runners will round off their trek from Durban at Scottsville Racecourse as they all gun for victory.

When it comes to the Comrades Marathon, there are few judges of potential and talent as good as John Hamlett.

So, when he tells you a particular athlete is going to do well at the ultimate human race, you take notice and jot the name down in anticipation.

Ahead of the 92nd edition of the famous KwaZulu-Natal ultra, Hamlett has mentioned Charles Mkhonto as a dark horse.

“Watch out for Charles,” Hamlett’s face lights up. “He can easily be the next David Gatebe. The boy’s got talent and I think he is going to do very well this year.”

The fact that Mkhonto will be making his debut doesn’t seem to dissuade the Comrades kingmaker from making bold pronouncements.

Like Gatebe was when he teamed up with Hamlett years ago, Mkhonto is currently a petrol attendant who just loves to run. And he is pretty good at it.

“I always say that an athlete must have an essence of talent before I can work with them. After all, I can’t put in what God has left out. Talent though, is but just a small percentage of it, they need to have a work ethic. And Charles has that.”

Prepared by the best in the business, Mkhonto has his sights set on the big one.

“I want to be the first black man to win Comrades at the first attempt,” Mkhonto says unflinchingly. “I joined the champions because I want to be one of them. It is possible, that is why I am here.”
“Here” is in the Lowveld, out in Dullstroom, where Hamlett is fine-tuning no less than seven men and one woman for a serious assault on the 87km run from Durban up to Pieteremaritzburg.

And the champions Mkhonto refers to, are last year’s record breaker Gatebe, as well as defending up-run champion Gift Kelehe. Along with the likes of Prodigal Khumalo, Surprise Mokofane, Gordon Lesetedi, Thabiso Bontsi and others, these champions are in their sixth of eight weeks preparation for Comrades.

The Comrades’ specialist coach does not only believe he will produce a champion for the third year in a row, he is also confident his athletes can fill the top five.

And Mkhonto would love to help make Hamlett’s pronouncements true. “John has shown faith in me and the only way I can repay him is to do well with my running. His training sessions are tough, but I am enjoying them because I know that it is through these hard and tough sessions that I will become a champion.”

Incredibly, the 32-year-old only became aware of his running talent recently.

“My brother James took me to the Benoni Northerns 21km race last year and I kept up with the top athletes but suffered cramps and had to pull out. I then finished eighth at the Johnson Crane marathon, my first competitive race.”

Earlier this year he finished second at the Edenvale Marathon only to be disqualified for using a temporary licence.

“It hurt but the club is still fighting the case,” he lamented.

That he is super-talented was proven when he completed the tough Soweto Marathon in a sub-three hour time, unheard of for a novice.

And now, under Hamlett’s tutelage, Mkhonto is set to surprise at the Comrades. – IOL

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