The South African Broadcasting Corporation’s (SABC) athletics team says it hopes to do well at the 97th edition of the Comrades Marathon on Sunday. The 39-member team says it is more than ready to compete in the up-hill marathon between Durban and Pietermaritzburg on Sunday. One of the team’s top runners, who will be competing in the event for the fourth time, is Xolisa Ntombini from Bisho. He says he is well prepared for the showpiece.

“Preparations for Comrades for this year, I think they went well, no major injuries. During the training we ran local races about three marathons. We ran Two Oceans then after Two Oceans we had another ultra-marathon. I think I am ready, my preparations were good, the target for this year is seven hours thirty minutes, a silver medal. If I can get a silver medal I will be happy. Running is addictive, now the target is to have a permanent number. If you run ten Comrades you get a permanent number, so I want that number to show my kids.”

Meanwhile, five time Comrades winner Jackie Mekler, who is the oldest living Comrades winner, has documented his journey in a book entitled “Running Alone”. Mekler won the comrades in 1958, 1960, 1963, 1964, and 1968 – at a time when support structures for runners was little to none.

He signed copies of his book at the launch at the Comrades Marathon Expo in Durban. Eighty-seven-year-old Mekler was orphaned at just nine years-old.

“The first time I ran the Comrades, you didn’t know that you were running against people that you have never met before, not so sure, what’s going to be happening. It’s a completely different race now; they had to look after themselves throughout the race. The course was only marked at four points. I did almost all my training alone. I used to run to and from work. My nature is very much on the lonely side. I enjoy the peace, tranquility, the open air, the freshness, running in the mountains, in the bush, it’s a wonderful experience,” says Mekler, explaining the title of his book.

Almost 4500 women between the ages of 20 and 70 will be running the Comrades Marathon this weekend. The Comrades Marathon Association says that since the participation of women in the race from 1975, numbers from the fairer sex have grown exponentially. Thirty-nine-year-old Thokozile Khanyile, who now lives in Saudi Arabia, travelled to Durban with her husband, to run her third marathon.

“I’m hoping for a sub ten hours. I haven’t been training that much because I am staying outside South Africa in Saudi Arabia so I have not had that much training. I tried to push a lot when I can. For me, I have strong mental fitness. Training for me is 20% and mental fitness is 80%.  Nobody can tell me anything, I will just run my  Comrades, whether I am limping, I will just run my Comrades. That’s my strategy – just have that strong mental fitness.” Click below for more on the story: