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  • Writer's pictureThathe Msimango

'After that Comrades victory, my life changed completely' - Sipho Ngomane reflects on that special day in 2005

In the build up to 2005 Comrades Marathon, there were too many names being thrown around as contenders for the men's title. The strongest of these were those of defending champion Vladimir Kotov as well as former winners Fusi Nhlapo and Andrew Kelehe. But in the end, the race saw a young Sipho Ngomane, who was just 23 years old at the time, emerge as a surprise winner as he dismantled a quality field on his way to cross the finish line at the Kingsmead Stadium in Durban in the time of 5:27:11. His victory was so dominant that the second placed Oleg Kharitonov of Russia followed home only two minutes later. Now 42, Ngomane is no longer running competitively these days having suffered injuries throughout his career. But he still remembers that June day vividly.


"That day remains one of the best days of my life. Not only, did I run a very good race on but everything worked according to plan. I consider that day as one of the luckiest day in my life. In fact I surprised myself with the performance I pulled on the day," explains a smiling Ngomane.


Ngomane and Russian Tatiana Zirkova celebrate victory on 16 June 2005. Photo Credit: Sipho Ngomane.

While his maiden Comrades victory may have surprised some, it wasn't completely unexpected. Ngomane had showed some excellent form when he took second position behind three-time winner Marco Mambo at the Two Oceans Marathon in a splendid time of 3:08:00 nine weeks earlier. He also obtained a silver medal at the South African Marathon Championships in 2:19:54 clocking, while his standard marathon lifetime best of 2:14:06 was run in March, just three months before his triumph on June 16. But did he consider himself a contender for the title? 


" No," he tells #TheTopRunner. "Even though I was in great shape that year, I had trained well and I was running perfectly, I still didn't think that things would go that way at Comrades. I think at around 50km, I started to realise that I can do it. I found the courage to push harder. I had run the race before but things became different on the day. Not just physically but mentally too. I had this burning desire to be the first to arrive in Durban."


Ngomane cruising into the University of Cape Town's Upper Campus to claim second place at the 2005 Two Oceans Marathon. Photo Credit: Supplied.

"As the race drew to an end, I started to get the feeling that I could be the champion. By the time I entered the stadium, I was overwhelmed with a sense of joy that I had finally conquered the race. So I was happy to become the champion and people will always remember my name," he recalls.

 

Pocketing R200 000 for his victory plus incentives from his club at that time, Harmony Athletics Club, Ngomane who hails from Mbombela in Mpumalanga Province, chose to invest the money wisely. 


"I won't lie to you - after that Comrades victory, my life changed completely. I managed to get good advice on how to spend the money. As athletes having a good manager is crucial. So I took a portion of it and invested it. You must remember that sport is a short career. You can't be a runner forever," he warned.

 


Ngomane still enjoys running even though he has been troubled by constant injury. Here he is pictured training in Mpumalanga at the Bells Athletics Club long run in 2022. Photo Credit: Bellas Athletic Club.

"Then I bought my own house, renovated my family house to make it look better. Another good thing, is that I came from a good family. I managed to buy cars which I still have today. They transport kids to school in the area which allows me to put bread on the table. Plus I'm renting out some rooms here too. Its not too much but it sustains me and my family. So I would say the Comrades victory had a positive impact on my life," he said.

 

With this year's race scheduled for June 9, the first up run since 2019, Ngomane, says that the Two Oceans reigning champion Onalenna Khonkhobe is his favourite to win the race. "That boy who won Two Oceans (Khonkhobe) is dangerous and can give the field problems on the day. He is still young and has more good years to perform at the highest level. He's got a bright future and I believe it is going to be difficult to stop him." 

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