Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 168 May 2024 | Page 20

Love For Running

The Late Bloomer

Despite only starting to take his running more seriously two years ago , Thabang Mathebula is on top of the world as he keeps getting better thanks to the hard work he puts into training , accompanied by the brilliant job done by his coach . – BY TATHE MSIMANGO

Once they reach their 30s , most top marathon runners are either entering the twilight of their competitive careers , or considering stepping up to the ultramarathon distances , but not Thabang Mathebula . Instead of slowing down , he is actually getting faster , and over the last two years , he has gone from a marathon best of 2 hours 56 minutes , to a 2:19:53 PB , which he clocked as he won the Durban City Marathon in March . That ’ s a massive swing of around 36 minutes , and he believes this is just the start of better performances yet to come !

“ I ’ m so grateful for the way I have been performing over the last two years . In my mind , I knew I was capable of running good times , but it was a matter of delivering on the road ,” explains an elated Thabang , when asked about his big win in Durban , but he is quick to add that the new heights he has achieved in his running career are thanks to the fact that he has invested more time in his training and taken significant steps to up his game .
“ I think to improve as a runner is all based on your mindset and other factors , including discipline and the amount of effort you put into training . I train twice a day because I have specific targets in my mind . Sometimes the alarm rings at 4am , and I feel like my body is not willing to go to training , but I decide to go anyway to chase my dreams ,” he says . “ Don ’ t think good things come to people who don ’ t want to put effort into things they do . But all these sacrifices I have been making are starting to bring good results , and I don ’ t think I ’ m done as yet . I know people are surprised , seeing me improving this way , but they don ’ t understand the work done in the background .”

Love For Running

Born in Polokwane in Limpopo province , Thabang has devoted his life to sports . In his school days , he participated in athletics , particularly in the 800m and 1500m middle distances . “ I fell in love with athletics from a very young age . In lower and high school days , I was a good runner in the long distances , even though in our area , we didn ’ t have good facilities to train ,” he recalls . However , it was when he relocated to Pretoria , to further his varsity studies by completing a Diploma in Journalism from Boston Media House , that things took another turn .
“ After school , I put a stop to athletics a bit to have full focus on my studies . I didn ’ t have much time to train , and I felt athletics was taking my time , so I was just keeping myself fit by running a couple of races and staying healthy . It was a decision I had to take because I had to make sure that I ended up graduating from varsity , plus I couldn ’ t afford to participate in sports regularly , as it required more money for running shoes , nutrition and entry fees , which I couldn ’ t afford at that time . But I made a promise that I won ’ t leave sport completely , as it is something I ’ m passionate about ,” he says .
It wasn ’ t till 2016 , when Thabang moved to Pietermaritzburg to start his career as a reporter at The Witness newspaper , that he reignited his love for athletics . “ When I moved to Pietermaritzburg , I started all over again . Most people in the city treat running as their culture , so I fell in love with it again ,” he elaborates . This saw him join one of the local clubs , Save Orien Atheltics Club , and he says the fit was just right . “ I felt at home , and I met such good human
Images : Instapix & courtesy Thabang Mathebula
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