HE WAS prepared to stretch the pain barrier in his objective of finishing one of the country’s most enduring and prestigious races – the Comrades Marathon.
For Melikhaya Sithuba, from NU2 in Mdantsane, the 10 years of sweat, blood and tears finally paid off.
The 23-year-old athlete made his Mdantsane community proud when he ran h is first Comrades in the remarkable time of 5 hours and 37 minutes.
The official time limit for the race is 12 hours.
Sithuba finished in 12th position overall and took third place in the U24 division.
The marathon is raced between Durban and Pietermaritzburg each year – alternating between the “up” and “down” runs – over a gruelling 89km.
But where did it all start for this young man?
Sithuba took an interest in sports by playing soccer in 1996 and 1997 for a community side.
His interest waned and in 1998 he took up running, particularly marathons, after he heard of the prizes, certificates and medals he could potentially receive for his efforts.
He started off at the Mdantsane Athletics Club and, by 2008, had become a member of Mr Price Transkei.
He has kept his roots firmly in Mdantsane by staying in the region.
Sithuba was proud of his achievement as he displayed his medals.
“These medals will stand as a reminder to my children of what their father got up to when he was young. I have over 100 medals since 1998,” he said.
He said it was not easy financially and his main challenge was getting kit for the marathon and also to register as a licensed runner.
His performance did not go unnoticed.
Fellow Mdantsane marathon participant, Alex Kambule was the first to applaud Sithuba on his achievement.
“I believe that he is capable of doing better should he get the proper guidance.
“If he could get a coach now, considering this is his first attempt in the Comrades, Melikhaya is going very far. Age is still on his side,” said Kambule.
Former Comrades runner Bob Norris also thought Sithuba did well considering it was his first run, but advised the athlete not to let this result make him lose sight of what he can still achieve.
“Look at this position and see how you can improve on it. Ask those with experience in this field as it all needs discipline,” advised Norris.
The Comrades Marathon began as an idea by World War I veteran Vic Clapham to honour all the fallen soldiers by setting up a marathon with the term “Comrades”, because that is what soldiers were known as during the war years.
It started on May 24, 1921, and to this day continues with an international audience embracing the concept of the ultra-distance run.
Ask Sithuba and he will certainly agree.