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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

"Age is no limitation" says 63 year old runner and Karateka

When Josia Thugwane won the closest ever Olympic Marathon at Atlanta in 1996 to become South Africa's first black gold medalist, he had earned selection to the squad by winning the SA Marathon championships in Cape Town earlier that year in 2:11:46. Following Thugwane home on that blustery day in February was Nixon Nkodima who was just 3 seconds adrift. His second place made him a non-travelling reserve and although he became overshadowed by Thugwane's historical achievement, Nkodima remains a great source of pride for the man who discovered him.

Saul Raphiri is a 63 year old karateka who fell in love with running after watching the Comrades Marathon during the 1980’s. Inspired by what he saw on the road between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, Raphiri took up running and then ran his first race (the JSE 50km ultra Marathon from Pretoria to Johannesburg) during the mid eighties. He then moved to Mabopane on the boarder of Pretoria and North West where he founded the township’s first running club and that's where discovered a young Nixon Nkodima.

"I saw him playing soccer," he explains. "But he was too fast and he kept on running past the ball," says the man affectionately known as Bra Saul. He recruited Nkodima to join the Mapobane Athletic Club and started training the young man who would go on to become one of the most fearsome Top Runners of the mid nineties and early 2000's, winning races both local and abroad (he won the Singapore Marathon in 2000).

Nixon Nkodima and Josia Thugwane go shoulder-to-shoulder during the closing stages of the 1996 SA Marathon Championships in Cape Town. Photo Credit: Runners' World.

But what makes Raphiri even more remarkable is still that he remains an active runner himself, more than 35 years after he started running. Having last completed the Comrades Marathon in 2019, this energetic senior citizen is also still involved in Karate, while he keeps active by participating in speed walking and aerobics. “Don't give up!" is his advice to his peers. "Life is what you make it. Age has no limitations!’

Tune into SuperSport channel 207 at 6pm tonight to hear Bra Saul's story on #TheTopRunner where we have teamed up with THRESHHold during the month of June to share the inspiring stories of remarkable senior citizens whose athletic feats seem to defy age.

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