“I started following the Comrades Marathon whilst still in school. I was in standard 7 back then in 1989, when history was made with the first black South African by the name of Sam Tshabalala being crowned the champion of The Ultimate Human Race.
From then I timed when the race was to end in Durban and visit my mother on the 16th of June to get a glimpse of the race all the way from the Eastern Cape. I used to stand on top of the bridge near the Workshop shopping centre after watching the race on TV in the early hours of the morning. My highlights were the fact that most people had a cause to run for.
I am naturally a health-conscious person who runs every now and again just to maintain physical fitness. Fast-forward to 2015 when I was motivated by my colleague, Lebeko Seleso, to start running the Comrades Marathon.
Lebeko is a seasoned ultra-runner who stops at nothing to encourage people to participate in the Comrades Marathon. He further goes a long way to support ultra-runners of the SABC Athletics Club to prepare for the races. It took me just few seconds to nod and say, ‘Yes I will run Comrades in 2016’.
As a novice in 2016 I learnt so much from the seasoned runners on all the social media platforms. In 2017, I achieved my Back-to-Back medal. Whilst training for the following year’s Down Run, I was attacked by two thugs wielding a gun and a screwdriver near Centurion.
They knocked me down with a gun to my forehead. One my way down, I made a very short prayer that I must not faint because I don’t know what they are up to. After hitting the ground hard, I woke up to see the other guy stabbing my right leg four times with the fifth stab wound through my kidneys. I then started fighting back with one hand and one leg.
They could not stand my hard blows, in a desperate bid to save my life. I limped to an open spacewalk. The area security car just ignored my request for help. The same happened with the construction guys who just drove their car further when I requested help until a gentleman riding a bicycle called for help.
The ambulance took me to Unitas Hospital in Centurion. I was hospitalized for 4 days. My wounds were dressed and stitched. I was soon discharged but back home, the pain was unbearable and I could hardly sleep at night. I consulted with Dr Prinsloo who himself has run the Comrades Marathon. He operated my leg after diagnosing the injured nerve that goes to the right foot. I felt sharp pains on the bottom of my foot. I could not stand on it. I lost complete control of all my toes on my right foot.
I was operated on my right leg two weeks before #Comrades2018. The doctor prescribed very strong medication for six months which was also incredibly expensive. I went to Durban against my wife’s, my doctor’s and my teammates’ advice.
I secretly planned to go to the start in Pietermaritzburg, listen to Chariots of Fire, sing the national anthem and Shosholoza, before going out to watch the race. But it was never to be because I had a different mission to accomplish.
After the gun went off, I run-walked. I passed the Lion Park cut-off and pulled out at the second cut-off which was around 30km. I got into the bus a happy man because my mission was accomplished. I was never going to allow the thugs to rob me of my opportunity to experience the race.
I did not feel bad about getting a DNF result because I always knew that I was not going to finish that race but I did attain spiritual healing. I felt released of a huge baggage that I was carrying.
My doctor had told me that the damaged nerve was going to take almost a year to heal naturally. I made worked out that when the Comrades Marathon celebrates 100 years, I would be receiving my Green Number but I have lost a whole year. Now I have to work even harder to get some silver medals to make up for the lost time.
My state of readiness for this year’s Comrades Marathon is promising. I stopped taking very strong pain killers in December 2018 and have slowly started running easy. I missed my first annual marathon this year which used to be called Pick n Pay Marathon but is now Jeppy Marathon.
My teammate whom I had shared a room with during the 2017 Up Run, Abed Masinga, was unable to run Irene Marathon and offered me his running licence for the 48km. I grabbed it with both hands and finished the race in time to qualify for the Comrades. Don't tell my wife that I attempted and finished the ‘People's Race’ known as Soweto Marathon last November in a time of 4hr40.
Ultra-running is not the most affordable sport. The running shoes, watches, the apps, the kit, the vitamin supplements and the nutritious food takes it out of you. Some of these also make us fall prey to thugs and criminals.
Besides the ordinary thugs who steal our things to sell them for quick cash, there is now a scary practice of people travelling in fancy cars, who then stop and hold runners at gunpoint on the road, just to rob them. To try and counter this, some runners carry knives while others stick to running groups. On the other hand, there are notorious roads such as R55 in the west of Pretoria, where taxis and reckless drivers are competing with runners on the pavement in the mornings and evenings. This is the runner’s life!”
This month’s winner of the Arnica Ice hamper is Joe Manciya.