Training in the midday heat is just one of the tactics the Madibaz cross country runners have adopted to prepare for the USSA championships in Bloemfontein from December 6 to 8.
Senior Mandela University runner Sicelo Mashaba said they realised that they would have to acclimatise swiftly to the higher temperatures and altitude if they wanted to be in with a shout against the upcountry teams.
Eight men and four women will compete in the Free State capital and they have been putting in the hard yards in the build-up.
“Because of the heat you can experience in Bloem, and the altitude, we have been trying to condition ourselves by running when the sun is at its peak in Gqeberha,” Mashaba said.
Despite the expected conditions, the team will be buoyed by a number of podiums and PB’s this season.
Teams such as University of Johannesburg, Tshwane University of Technology and UP-Tuks will no doubt come out with all guns blazing but the Madibaz are on a mission of their own.
Athletics manager Bernard Petersen said Mashaba, a member of the Eastern Province cross country team, would be supported by a number of athletes who had stood out this year.
Mashaba’s provincial teammate Bongani Pacson Banda and one of the top juniors in the region, Sakhe Mahote, are the ones most expected to lead the way alongside their elder statesman.
Petersen said the women’s contingent consisted of the talented Simone Schoonbee and top triathlete Chelsea Cooke, whom the Madibaz had recruited.
“From having no women’s team, this is a step in the right direction. We are looking forward to seeing how they compare against some of the best in the country.”
He added that it was essential for their runners to test themselves against their peers.
“The university programme lends itself to compete at various levels and it is important for athletes who aspire to greater things to have this exposure.
“It will be a proper test because the university competitions are normally the second best in the country after the national events.”
The 4km and 10km races for men and women feature on the opening day. A maximum of four runners is allowed per gender per team.
This following day will see a short mixed relay, with teams consisting of two men and two women.
There is also a long mixed relay with two men and two women. They will do 10 laps of the 2km course, with the first two athletes running three laps apiece and the rest two.