Commitment is key to Nosipho Dlamini's dramatic improvement with much more to come
It is a truism that for the talented athlete, the first venture into the sport is met with instant success. Athletics is no different, where there are countless examples of top runners who only laced up their first pair of running shoes well into adulthood yet soon found themselves on the podium. And it seems this 'dormant talent' phenomenon may be more prevalent in women. Take Priscilla Welch for example who was sixth (2:28:54) in the very first women's Olympic Marathon back in 1984 at the age of 39; she had only started running four years earlier. Closer to home Gerda Steyn's story of going from weekend warrior to Comrades and Two Oceans Marathon record holder is well-documented. And it looks like there could be another one - Nosipho Dlamini.
"I started running with a friend in 2016," said the 35-year-old. "It was easy jogging because I just wanted to do something different from the usual thing of going the gym. Before running I used to do aerobics, not really strength training. And then when I started running, I then joined a Crossfit training club. So they do help me a lot with all the running related strength exercises. Since then I developed the love for running because it gives me mental and physical fulfilment."
Her love for running soon led Nosipho to join a club. Inspired by the way they supported their runners on race day, she enlisted as one of the latest members of the #RedSkippa family, Fats Cats Athletic Club. And not too long after becoming a licensed club runner, she made the decision to enter her first Comrades Marathon. Just three years after she had taken up the sport, Dlamini completed The Ultimate Human Race in a comfortable 10:27:32 in June 2019.
But just as she was finding her feet in running scene, lockdown happened. Because she lived in Parkview at the time, Nosipho decided to try running in one Johannesburg's most famous parks - Zoo Lake. Little did she know that this has been the training ground for some of the country's most sought after international runners for over 25 years. Under the watchful eye of 2004 New York Marathon champion Hendrik Ramaala and running alongside the likes of Olympian Desmond Mokgobu and World Championship marathoner Zongamele Dyubeni, Dlamini trained hard during late 2020 and early 2021.
"It was really great meeting such incredible runners and how welcoming they were to me. I would often go there for sessions to improve my running and I would meet these super fast runners. I remember coach Ramaala coming to me and saying to me that he sees potential and that I was more than welcome to join then for a few sessions. Then I started going quite often and they would lap me twice, but each time they would lap me they would say: well done my lady, you're doing quite well," she explained.
Those months of hard training have begun paying dividends. In March Dlamini finished as the runner-up in the 42km race (3:27:59) at the Kosmos 3-in-1, then took second behind 2016 Comrades Champion Charne Bosman at the Alan Robb 32km in April. Her best performance was an impressive 3:11:15 for ninth place at the Dolphin Coast Marathon earlier this month.
But the success has not been without sacrifice. Although single and without children, this full-time nurse manager at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg has a demanding schedule of work and studies.
"I'm up at 03H30 everyday and I'm out for my runs from 04H30 to 05H30 so that I can make it at work on time. Then on my way back from work to home, I will pass by the gym and do at least a forty minute session and I do this at about three or four times a week. I always try and do two hours of studying from 20H00 to 22H00 and then I'm sleeping so that I can be awake for my run the next morning. It's not easy, it's not easy. It's a lot of commitment especially with the studies. You just need to love the running to be able to do it."
With that commitment and the experience of having graced podiums, Dlamini has her sights set on a better performance on the 28th of August. "My next race is Comrades and the aim scares me, but they always say if your dreams don't scare you then they aren't big enough. I'm looking at a silver medal. That's what I wanna get at the end of the 2022 Comrades Marathon."