Inspired by the long and lonely hours on the road, Nelson Mandela University distance runner Mariano Eesou is targeting a podium in the half marathon at the World Student Games next week.

The 25-year-old Bestmed Madibaz star is determined to finish the race in Taipei, Taiwan, strongly after collapsing at the finish in South Korea two years ago.

“Last time I got very dehydrated during the race and I still can’t remember the last kilometre,” said the second-year sports management student, who hails from Uitenhage but currently lives on-campus in Port Elizabeth.

“I collapsed as I went over the line and when I opened my eyes I was in the hospital on a drip.

“It shows how hard I worked,” he laughed. “I had just about enough left in me to get to the finish.”

Despite fading towards the end, Eesou finished 18th and the team third and he said the experience was something he still couldn’t adequately put into words.

“It was great and really overwhelming.”

Having taken some valuable lessons from his first experience, he said he felt confident ahead of this year’s championships as he’d had a solid block of training in the build-up.

“I’ve been competing a lot with some of the top athletes so I’ve been learning about how to deal with the half marathon,” said Eesou, who finished eighth in the Two Oceans half marathon in April.

He will represent South Africa in both the half marathon and 10 000m and while he didn’t have high expectations for the latter, he said he hoped to shine in the longer race.

“For the 10 000m I’m just hoping to finish in the top 10 but for the half marathon I believe, not hope, that I will finish on the podium.”

Eesou explained that he was covering an average of 110km per week in preparation and that his training sessions were split into two per day, seven days per week.

“This week I’ve run all seven days but Friday will be my easiest day and I’ll do just one session.

“I’ve started with my tapering so I’m cutting down on some training and sharpening up to get ready for the competition.”

He explained morning sessions consisted of an “easy” run combined with some core work, with his second session bringing up his total distance to about 20km.

Eesou said this training regime would continue all the way through to the Games, which start on August 19.

He divided his attention between rugby and athletics during his school career, but in 2008 he gave rugby the boot to focus on his running.

The many hours spent on the road could become lonely, he admitted, but he used the time to “think about the little things”.

“I always think of my background and where I’m heading in life. That’s what really pushes me.”

CAPTION: Bestmed Madibaz distance runner Mariano Eesou is hoping for a podium finish in the half marathon at the World Student Games in Taipei, Taiwan. Photo: Supplied