Three-time Comrades Marathon champion Bongmusa Mthembu and his Midlands-based training unit received another major knock to their 2020 plans when the 100km World Championships were cancelled due to Covid-19.
The Bulwer-born Pietermaritzburg resident was in training for the Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town this month, the Comrades Marathon in June and the 100km World Championships in Holland on 12 September.
But soon after he won the inaugural Capital City Marathon in Pietermaritzburg in February, Covid-19 impacted the aforementioned races - and his sources of income.
The race organisers, the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU), confirmed they had considered the health and well-being of athletes, officials and spectators before cancelling the 100km World Championships.
“Even if the situation eases before September, any capability for international participation would be considerably reduced,” the IAU said in a statement.
Mthembu finished third in the 2018 edition in Croatia and second in the previous version in Spain in 2016.
His city-based trainer, Xolani Mabhida, confirmed the IAU’s decision was another huge blow to Mthembu, as well as his training partner Thuso Mosiea from Impendle and himself, after the earlier cancellation of Two Oceans.
That’s because aside from potential running glory in those events, all their pockets would be affected as professionals in the athletics world.
“We are all affected by these issues, including Mthembu’s other training partner from Bulwer, Ndumiso Sokhela, who was planning to run Two Oceans, Comrades and the African 50km Championships later this year,” said Mabhida.
“We are now forced to apply for financial relief from the new fund created by the Ministry of Sport.
“I don’t know how much we each stand to receive, but it’s a consolation for us. I think Comrades is going to be postponed, as well, so again our training plans have to change.”
The government fund is open to athletes and coaches.
Mabhida, who guided the successful South African team in the 50km World Championships last year, said it was another consolation for Mthembu, Mosiea and Sokhela that they all had huge yards in which to keep training. This would also limit the danger of “cabin fever” setting in during the lockdown.
“Bongmusa and Ndumiso are training in Bulwer, not together but separately in their own yards, which are quite spacious, and Thuso has a huge space around his house in Impendle in which to train.”
Mabhida said he believed there was a lot of pressure on the Comrades Marathon Association to keep 14 June as their race date. For this reason, he expects a date change to be announced soon.
“I can see it happening in September or October at the latest, because you can’t have Comrades in the peak of summer. But I am sure we will soon learn what’s going to happen with the race.”
Athletics South Africa said it will provide an update on the Comrades Marathon on 15 April.