The stretch of gravel road between Mackay’s Neck village near Whittlesea and the nearest tar road is 6km. Emihle Mketo runs it twice a day.
“Right now I just want to work on my endurance. In June I will start working on my time,” said the 19-year-old Old Queenian.
Last year Mketo was number one at the Eastern Cape School Championships in both the 800m and the 400m track races. In the 400m he came in in a time of 48.25, two seconds off the best time at the South African Schools National Championships. However, injuries blighted his season and he was unable to make his mark at the nationals.
“If I can take another second off my time in the 400m this year I will be happy.”
Mketo has been competing in track competitions since 2011. His aunt and former school teacher was the first to spot his talent. “I really did not have a choice about it. One day they sat me down and told me I would be running.”
The middle distance runner said before that he was more enthusiastic about soccer but, looking back, did not regret the decision.
“They told me everything that happens on the track is entirely up to me. If I fail it is on me, if I succeed it is because I put in the work.”
He first competed at the national championships in 2014, running the 800m only. He was then approached by the Sport Academy in Port Elizabeth in 2016 and in 2018 was privately funded to study at Queen’s .
While the nationals have been cancelled this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mketo is not deterred from reaching his targets.
“I have been without a coach since 2017 when I was under the tutelage of Simone Jongile from Phakama Athletics Club. Many people are surprised when I say I do not have a coach.
“At the end of the day it is about being persistent, being humble and always willing to learn. Keeping yourself motivated, regardless of what happens also goes a long way.
Next year Mketo wants to go to the University of the Free State and fulfill his dream of working with his idol, Wayde van Niekerk.