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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

Dijana works as a security guard surviving on 2 hours of sleep while chasing his running dream

That Tete Morena Dijana's breakthrough run comes at the age of 33, tells you all you need to know about the lack of structured and organised athletics development programmes in South Africa's more rural and peri-urban areas. Hailing from Mahikeng in the North West province, the Nedbank Running Club man surprised many when he finished second behind Stephen Mokoka during Sunday's Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km ultramarathon to beat a host of big names including defending Comrades Marathon champion Edward Mothibi. Dijana believes that his journey to becoming a top runner has been slowed by the lack of opportunity in his hometown.

"I started running in 2005 at school but my progress was slow because of a lack of exposure, development and sponsors," said the man who completed his schooling at Lapologang High School in Mmabatho. "You must remember that athletics is still small in Mahikeng when compared with Potchefstroom and Klerksdorp, so I that's when I decided to move to Rustenburg two years ago and now you can see that there is progress," he told #TheTopRunner minutes after his groundbreaking performance in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.

Dijana in the lead bunch having the race of his life! Photo Credit: Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 5km ultramarathon/Tobias Ginsberg

Moving to Rustenburg was exactly the change that Morena needed. There he caught the eye of Comrades Marathon elite athlete turned Platinum Financial Services club Peter Gaebetse coach who took him under his wing. Gaebetse who was a part of John Hamlett's stable alongside the likes of Gift Kelehe and Gordon Lesetedi when David Gatebe won the 2016 Comrades Marathon, began polishing Dijana with the help of former SA 5000m record holder Shadrack Hoff.

At the beginning of this year, Dijana made another change. Mindful of his need to make a living out his running talent, he left PFS and join Mpolokeng Pio's group in Klerksdorp. Now back in Mafikeng, he travels the two hour journey from Rustenburg to Klerksdorp every Thursday when he is off so that he can spend two or three days training with his coach and teammates. And all the while, the diminutive Dijana continues working as a security guard at the North West University campus Mahikeng campus where he would sometimes leave his night shift post to report to training in the morning and then again in the afternoon.

Dijana (right) poses with Stephen Mokoka (centre) and Edward Mothibi (left) after grabbing the runner-up position at the 2022 Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km on Sunday. Photo credit: Edward Mothibi.

"I worked very hard in preparing for this race and I wasn't sleeping," he revealed. "So this year I joined Nedbank to try and move my life forward. I'm very, very, very happy because it's not every one who can make it. Others want to join this club, but they can't," he smiled while holding his cheque of R60 000 for his second place finish which comes with an additional R25 000 for being the second South African athlete across the finish line.

The top three men in Gqeberha on Sunday were all from Mahikeng and Dijana paid tribute to his role models for advising him during the race. "It's very encouraging because even during the race both Mothibi and Mokoka were guiding me. We all know that Mokoka is an international athlete who has experience in the 42km. Maybe I will beat him soon just like I have now beaten Mothibi. Sometimes I wonder what may have happened if I had found a coach when I was younger? I think I would be much further along in my running by now," he shared.

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