From humble beginnings to SA cult hero status

2011-04-30 16:20

Running is George Ntshiliza’s only source of income. So when he clinched the Old Mutual Two Oceans title last weekend, its R250 000 first prize purse plus an incentive of R100 000 each from his club and technical sponsor was no doubt the biggest payday in the 31-year-old’s 12-year running career.

By his own admission, Ntshiliza has never won anything big since he started running professionally in 1999. Well, last weekend it all changed for the better for the man from Port Elizabeth in Eastern Cape.

In addition to the R250 000 prize, his running club, Nedbank, also pledged a R100 000 bonus and Nike also paid him the same amount for running in their shoes.

“I was just going crazy after I crossed the line. I did not even know how to celebrate my moment of glory,” the Nedbank Running Club Eastern Cape runner told City Press.

“It was the first time that I had won something so big in my life.”

As to how he would splash out on his winnings, Ntshiliza said he would invest the money in the education of his two children – Masonwabe (12) and Monwabisi (9), whose names loosely translate to “let’s be happy” and “the one who brings happiness” respectively.

“I would also like to further my studies as I only went as far as matric. Otherwise, I won’t rush on how I spend the rest of my winnings,” he said.

Ntshiliza did not want to talk much about his love life except to say: “I am a single father”. He stays in an RDP house in Motherwell township.

While victory in the Two Oceans catapulted Ntshiliza to cult hero status, the marathon specialist was not a complete stranger on the podium in the 56km race. He was the first South African home in the 2003 edition of this race when he came third. But then he was running in the colours of Liberty Life Running Club.

Nick Bester, team manager for Nedbank Running Club, said the club was very proud of Ntshiliza, who has been with them for two years.

“We are very excited at what George did for the club and he will be well looked after,” said Bester, himself a legendary multiple ultramarathon
champion. In addition to the already hefty bonuses, Bester said Ntshiliza, having brought home the sought-after title to the club, had earned himself a monthly retainer, meaning that the runner will now have a regular income.

“He will now train without being under any pressure of chasing the prize money,” said Bester. Unlike other runners who have won the Two Oceans and felt they could now take on longer distances, Ntshiliza, who has mostly specialised in the 42km, was quick to say he was not yet ready to lace up his running shoes for the upcoming 89km Comrades Marathon on May 29.

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