'Above all, running makes me happy' - Lizzy Ramadimetja Babili after breakthrough Comrades 2022 run
Of all the celebrated performances at the 2022 Comrades Marathon, perhaps the most joyful was that of Lizzy Ramadimetja Babili. The 32-year-old produced here best run yet, clocking 07:02:42 to finish in 11th place wearing what was likely the broadest smile of any to have crossed the finish line in Durban after starting in Pietermaritzburg. What's even more impressive is that the iKhaya Lethu Athletic Club top runner was one of a precious few handful of athletes that managed a negative split for the 90 gruelling kilometres. Just how did she manage to run the second half faster than the first? The woman from Limpopo says she had excellent preparation and a near perfect race day.
"When the gun went off I felt like a warrior. A few kilometres into the race, I suddenly realised that I'm actually running with the A seeding batch and this boosted my confidence even more to push. When I got to Inchanga some runners hinted that I'm too fast, I felt comfortable and did not change my pace. I managed keep the same pace to 70km. At 19km to go I passed my partner and this reassured me that I am on the right track. Getting into Moses Mabhida stadium a lot of emotions flared up, above all I was grateful for my position and time," explained the former Team Massmart top runner who spent 8-weeks in a pre-race training camp under the guidance of legendary ultra marathon coach Peter Gaebetse.
What makes the mother of two's run on race day even more remarkable is that it comes in what just her third Comrades race. 8:44:32 on debut in 2018 was followed by a maiden Isavel Roche-Kelly medal (7:20:21) in 2019 as she continued to improve rapidly. And even more surprising is that this early ultra marathon success which also includes a coveted top ten finish (10th in 3:59:32) at the 2019 Two Oceans Ultra Marathon, came just four years after she ran her first 42,2km race.
"When I was younger, my brother used to run and I would always wonder why, and he told me that it shapes up his mental and physical wellbeing. I started running at the age of 13 at school, where we did track and cross country. In 2010 I started to do road running. Then I took a leap of faith in 2017 to race Vaal marathon and I won. This lead to aspirations of ultra marathons and I participated in the first of its kind in 2018," said Ramadimetja who is the holder of a 2:49:45 standard marathon personal best which was set in Amsterdam in 2019.
Having now come within two and a half minutes of claiming her first gold medal at the Ultimate Human Race, the woman with the big smile can dream of bigger and better in 2023 - especially with the support of a running club like iKhaya Lethu. Founded on the principle of belonging, the Johannesburg-based club offers runners a second home - especially when it comes to looking after the needs of their elite athletes.
"Sis Brenda Marolen linked me up with the management of iKhaya Lethu. Their main vision is to see black women in the Top 10 of Comrades. This vision resonated so well with me and the support is amazing. It really feels like home. I'm looking forward to a good 2023. I'm hoping for the best run and a touch of a gold medal. Above all, running makes me happy," she smiled.