Hooters lands Budd

2014-04-10 00:00

SOUTH African running legend Zola Budd, now residing in Myrtle Beach, Florida, in the U.S., was in Umhlanga yesterday to launch the new Hooters Athletic Club.

She became the first big signing for the club and she will take on her second Comrades Marathon this year in the club’s colours which are appropriately white and orange, Free State colours, where she originally hails from.

A middle distance athlete by her own admission, Budd created interest in 2012 when she announced she was taking on the gruelling Comrades, a down run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.

Great interest was generated as followers and supporters of the race were keen to see how she would adapt to nearly 90 km on the road.

She did not disappoint, finishing in just over eight hours, running the final lap at Kingsmead with Comrades legend Bruce Fordyce. They were picked up by the television cameras in images never to be forgotten.

“I happened to catch up to Bruce on the day and he was battling, going through a tough patch,” said Budd. “I suddenly thought I could beat him but we stuck together and finished together. It was hard going and people must not be fooled at how comfortable we looked.”

Last year, Budd was set for the up run, but flu in the lead up to the race forced her to pull out.

“This year, I’m set to go once more. I will be on my own this time as Bruce is not running,” said Budd. “I would like to better my time, possibly finish within silver medal range (7:30) but it all depends on what goes on the day, the weather, how I feel … lots of factors.”

This time around, Budd is also taking on the Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town next Saturday, her second run in the event where she hopes to better her four-and-a-half hour finish in 2012 where heavy rain hampered her effort.

But weather should not be too much of a concern for the mother of three. “My preparation this year has gone well and I qualified at the Charleston Marathon in sub-zero temperatures,” she said. “I ran 2:59 and won the women’s race.

“I’ve become more consistent in my long runs and recover better from them. I have always been a slow learner so maybe after a few more Comrades I will be able to predict how I will perform.”

Dividing her time between her home in the U.S. and family in SA, Budd is still recognised by people as one of this country’s running legends, her achievements as a barefoot teenager in breaking national and international records in the mid 1980s and beyond still fresh in the memory. “People recognised my struggle in being recognised for my running achievements as similar to theirs in apartheid South Africa,” she said. “The late Brenda Fassie even wrote a song about me and I still get people shouting my name here in SA whenever they see me.”

In that light, Budd’s afternoon was rounded off on Umhlanga Beach when, dressed in her new running colours, three of the staff from Hooters in Umhlanga — Joyce Ntuli, Pretty Gumede and Thulile Mtshali — joined her and sang the Fassie song for her.

Budd returns to the U.S. after Two Oceans and is back in South Africa about two weeks before the Comrades Marathon.

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