Running is my life?–?Bong’musa Mthembu

2014-06-08 15:00

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While growing up in Bulwer, a small town in KwaZulu-Natal’s Midlands region, Bong’musa Mthembu followed the Comrades Marathon with keen interest, but never really imagined making a living out of running.

“For a person like myself who grew up in a rural environment, I aspired to be a teacher,” said Mthembu.

“I could not afford to go to university after I finished matric in 2002. But I discovered I had a talent that could change my life and that of my family for the better. There is nothing else that I do as running is my life now.”

Mthembu is the fourth child in a family of seven children?–?four boys and three girls. His father died in 1997 and they were raised by his mother.

“We are a big family and although I am not the sole breadwinner, I bring a bigger share to the house,” said the man who earned R725?000 in cash incentives in a matter of five hours, 28 minutes and 34 seconds last Sunday. (See box)

“This is the biggest thing to have ever happened to me,” said the man who debuted in the “ultimate human race” in 2006 as a 22-year-old.

Mthembu, who turns 31 on June 27, revealed that his prerace meal was uphuthu, baby potatoes and chicken.

The Nedbank Running Club athlete has enjoyed steady progress through the years, ­picking up eight medals, including being ­runner-up to Ludwick Mamabolo in 2012.

The roles were reversed this year as Mamabolo –?now Mthembu’s club mate?–?came second, more than four minutes later.

“After he crossed the line, he said: ‘I’m proud of you, you deserve it,’” said Mthembu of the man whose victory was overshadowed by doping ­controversy.

“I admire Ludwick because he is full of confidence. He advised me to improve on my finishing and there is a huge difference now.”

Mamabolo (5:33:14), Gift Kelehe (5:34:39), ­Rufus Photo (5:35:30), Mncedisi Mkhize (5:36:06), William Mokwalakwala (5:39:29) and Latudi Makofane (5:40:41) handed South Africa seven finishers in the top 10. Kelehe is the younger brother of 2001 ­champion Andrew.?For Mthembu, it was through the guidance of 1992 New York Marathon champion Willie Mtolo that KZN ushered in its first runner to win the race since Shaun Meiklejohn in 1995. But not many could have predicted Zola Budd Pieterse, who at 48 finished seventh in a time of 6:55:55, a mark that placed her as the second South African home behind Caroline Wostmann.

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