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TIKZN staffer conquers ultimate human race

2023-06-12 14:46:14

"Now I'm running with my heart, my legs are done,” said Vusi Ndlovu, IT Specialist at Trade & Investment KwaZulu-Natal, as he trudged past a colleague cheering on the sidelines of this year’s Comrades Marathon.

The 39-year-old Ndlovu conquered the Ultimate Human Race, running from Pietermaritzburg to Durban on 11 June 2023.

“This is my fifth run but my fourth medal. I didn't make it the first time,” he said. It had been an up-run in 2017, during which Ndlovu suffered a cramp around the 70km mark. “It was difficult and disappointing to have to drop out, but I took the lessons with me and came back the following year with a game plan.”

This year’s 96th Comrades, won by Tete Dijana (male) and Gerda Steyn (female), was 87.701km,  the shortest in history but by no means any less gruelling.

Ndlovu was aiming to finish under 11 hours, but this goal was thwarted by a hamstring cramp. “I had to run through the pain from Inchanga to the finish, stopping for massages and deep heat sprays every now and then. I came in at 11:46, the medal almost slipped through my fingers but thankfully, I made it,” he said.  

The relief of reaching the finish line is an emotional experience, even for a stoic Ndlovu.  “At that point most of us would have been grinding for 9, 10 or 11 hours. First, you’re able to finally stop running and rest, but then there is the realisation that you have just finished one of the biggest and most challenging marathons in the world. That sense of achievement makes it all worth it,” he added.

He attributes his perseverance not only to his own determination, but to the support of the many people who come out to cheer runners on, on race day. “It is even more special when your family and friends support along the route. When your body fails, your heart pushes you to continue to put one foot in front of the other, because you don’t want to disappoint the people who believe in you,” said Ndlovu.

Congratulating him, Menzi Dlamini, Executive Manager: Knowledge Management, said the fortitude it took to run long distance was a trait Ndlovu demonstrated even in the workplace. “He is disciplined and troubleshoots until he pinpoints the problem then works diligently to resolve it. We wish him many more successful runs and as his team, we support him all the way.”

Fellow athletics enthusiast Zamasomi Msomi, Chief Financial Officer, said she was excited to have another runner at TIKZN. “Running is not just about physical fitness, which is very important, but it also helps in life. If you are stressed and you go for a run, you come back with a clear mind and likely to have resolved the issue while on the road.” 

Ndlovu is on the road training three times a week. On Saturdays, he does a longer run with his club Team Vitality and other social running clubs. Sundays are dedicated to recovery and Monday and Friday reserved for rest.

Running is now “in my blood,” though he started it “just for fun”. “I’m still running for fun,” he quips, subconsciously stretching his injured hamstring.

His first sporting love was soccer but when it proved too strenuous, he turned to jogging. Along his route, was a group who were training for a marathon who invited him to join them. “I joined their club and started running half marathons, the 21kms. As I found my stride, I progressed to marathons which are 42km and eventually the ultramarathons.”

In the past five years, Ndlovu has participated in marathons in seven of the country’s nine provinces, including Two Oceans (Western Cape), Kaapsehoop (Mpumalanga), Soweto (Gauteng) and several in his home province. His ultimate goal is to run all the marathon in South Africa.  


Fun facts

·         Ndlovu was the second most common surname among this year’s Comrades runners.

·         Information Technology was the third most common occupation.

·         KZN had the second highest number of entrants from SA, just under 4100.
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