“I had always considered boxing as the best individual sport. I had been involved with the fistic game since the age of 12 until I retired in 1997, aged 28, undefeated as the KZN lightweight boxing champion. I told myself there was no sport that could offer me any challenge close to what I had experienced in boxing.
After 17 years of no-sport activity I decided to start with some jogging just to shed some unnecessary weight. An advertisement of a race in my town, Ermelo, just caught my eye. I decided to take part in the 21km distance to show whoever was following me that I was made of sterner stuff.
Though I finished the race, I got humbled as male and female athletes of different ages and shapes passed me with ease. That race taught me to respect every athlete and every sport code as each demands fitness and tactics of its own. I took up the challenge of learning more about the sport and got tips from my friend, Ray Buthelezi and Chairman, Petros Ndlangamandla and started to enjoy every race I participated in.
I began to set myself targets for each race and graduated to longer distances. It was also revealing to meet my old friends in several races. My long-time friend, Tshepo Nsibande, challenged me to run the Comrades (the race I had never imagined myself running) as he was registered for his first in 2015.
I registered for my first Comrades Marathon in 2016 but got injured and did not recover soon enough to run it. I was inspired to register for the 2017 edition after my friend, Russel Sibiya, whom I had given my entry to via “susbstitution”, finished his first. I trained hard with my team mate Shadrack “Sge” Nhlapho.
The race itself became a family affair as all the members were involved; my wife, Busi and the Xhakaza family friends were encouraging me along the way, while my children in different schools kept updating each other using information from the app. It was exciting for all when I finished the ultramarathon and earned a bronze medal.
The race was really humbling BUT the feeling of completing it is incomparable. When congratulating me, my 14 year old son confided his wish of one day running the Comrades side by side with me. I hope I will realise my aspiration of attaining the green number and running it with my son.”
This month’s winner of the Arnica Ice hamper is Bheki Daniel Shongwe.