Running shoes were Mathibelle’s Achilles heel

NTHAKO MAJORO

MASERU – When defending Soweto Marathon champion Tšepo Mathibelle threw in the towel 4km before the finish line in the last Sunday’s Mandela Day Marathon, scores of his fans were immensely let down as they had pinned their hopes on him. But the normally vivacious Mathibelle who had led the way until he hit the 38km mark says the nip of his new pair of running shoes was getting too much for his feet to bear.

When he finally ran out of steam, he made way for his Ethiopian rival Sintayehu Legese Yinesu to take the lead, with Mabuthile Lebopo following closely behind. Yinesu won the race in 02:28:05 while Lebopo came second 1 minute and 6 seconds later. “My new running shoes were too uncomfortable to carry me the remaining distance in the same pace. I flunked out when I had 4km left before the finish line after leading from 15km,” said Mathibelle in an interview with Public Eye on Tuesday.

He added: “The shoes were so uncomfortable that it felt like I was running barefooted. I had never used that type of running shoe called Maxed before. They were too soft, as a result they hurt my feet.” He also said: “I started feeling excruciating pain after 30km, and from that point I tried to force myself to race to the finish line but I could not bear the pain anymore.”

Mathibelle said he agreed to compete in those shoes because had he won, he stood a chance to pocket R20 000 for position one, or M15 000 in second place, and M10 000 in third position on top of the overall prize. Over and above that the sponsors Maxed, formerly Mr Price, had also pledged to sign a contract with him if he performed well in the race.

“Several other athletes who competed in the shoes also complained about their discomfort,” Mathibelle also explained. The 27-year-old long-distance runner was, however, adamant that he would never compete in those uncomfortable shoes again, adding he had already discussed the matter with Maxed.

“I have already given the shoes to someone,” he said. Mathibelle is now looking to defend his title in the Soweto Marathon, to be held in South Africa in November. In a bid to complete his preparation for the Soweto race, he plans to compete in a South African half marathon soon.

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