Kelehe’s speed could be the gift that secures glory
GIFT KELEHE hits the gas, opening up a metre long distance between himself and the rest of us.
It is the effortless way he does it that leaves me gasping. How does anyone make running look so easy? We were going at about three minutes a kilometre for Pete’s sake!
As we go through the speed training session, it quickly becomes clear that Kelehe is the ‘leader’ of this Tom Tom Athletics Club group that is expected to dominate the 92nd edition of the Comrades Marathon.
It was to him that coach Tom Hamlett gave the instructions of how the session should go while he drove behind us on an early evening out in Dullstroom. And he took charge, saying when we should speed up and when we should slow down.
He goes into the race on Sunday as the holder of the up run title having won the race from Durban to Pietermaritzburg two years ago.
It is the fact that this will be his 10th Comrades that makes Kelehe all the more excited and eager to be the first man to arrive at the Scottsville Racecourse.
“I am going for a green number,” he said of that special privilege given to those who complete 10 Comrades. “So I want to make it memorable by winning.”
Of course he faces stiff competition from teammate David Gatebe, who won last year’s down run in record time. He is the club’s senior citizen though and should be able to bring his experience to bear on race day.
Inspired by his brother Andrew’s win in 2001, Gift teamed up with Hamlett in 2005 and worked his way to the title through toil, discipline and belief.
“I was Andrew’s training partner the year he won Comrades. I used to help him with speed training and seeing him win encouraged me a lot.
“I learnt that with dedication and discipline one can achieve his goals.”
Hamlett has fond memories of their first meeting.
“He was a pretty scrawny lad and he told me he could run and that he wanted to win Comrades like his brother did. It took us 10 years to realise that goal but that’s how it goes. And I believe he has what it takes to not only win but to break the record too.”
Kelehe is also confident that he can shatter Leonid Shvetsov’s 5:24:49 mark that has been standing since 2008.
“I reckon I can do it. I believe it is possible. But I will need the guys to push me to the limit,” he says, adding that with the kind of preparation he was having anything was possible.
I always knew that we women could multi-task but that day I took it to another level. I was running, I was praying, I was screaming, I was crying all at the same time. When I eventually got to the stadium and could see the clock, it was on 11:58 and ticking. I ran and I ran and my official time was 11 hours 59 minutes and three seconds.
At any point I could have given up. But something within me said I should keep going. You really need to understand what you are doing it for because that is what will pull you towards yourself when it gets tough, and it will get tough. And for me it was to inspire people.