"I am blessed and I thank Him' - says evergreen Johannes Kekana
Less than six months before his fiftieth birthday and Johannes Kekana continues to feature on the podium ahead of senior athletes in local races. The Boxer Athletic Club runner took third position behind winner Sbusiso Nzima (32:23) when he ran a scorching 33:37 at the Solomon Mahlangu Memorial 10km race in Mpumalanga on Saturday morning. In completing the course just over one minute slower than an Olympian fifteen years his junior, the 49-year old underlined his longevity and class as one of the country's most consistent distance running athletes of the last two decades.
"Since am a veteran I do more of speed endurance as pure speed doesn't keep up with this old muscles anymore, that's the way to avoid injuries," he revealed to #TheTopRunner when questioned about how he has altered his training regime as he has gotten older. The winner of the 2003 All Africa Games marathon also points to training with younger athletes as part of the secret to his veteran success.
You see even though he still considers himself an elite athlete, Kekana has always been one to share his knowledge with younger runners. Having developed SA champions like Lucky Mohale and Olympian Desmond Mokgobu when he was based in Thembisa ten years ago, he now works in the Mpumalanga township of KwaMhlangu on the border of Tshwane, where he is guiding a new generation of top runners."I don't think I am as fast as I used to be because I covered many sub 30mins 10km during my senior level, so running 3:10-3:15/km is normal for my age now," he explains.
And his ability to do that rests in part on the fact that he trains with juniors and twenty-year olds. But even though Kekana is in the twilight of his career, he says his body still feels fresh and that's largely because he only started serious running in his late twenties as opposed to his teens as most other elite athletes do."I think starting late helped because many athletes who started their running career at junior level they hit the wall around 36yrs," says the 2005 SA Marathon champion.
But ultimately performing well as you get older is all about your mindset says the man who has also acquitted himself well over the ultra marathon distance with wins at the City to City 50km and a Comrades Marathon gold. "Keep troubles and family problems as far away from your running as you can. I take much of my time away from my wife to work for her and the kids. One word - CAMPING as a sportsman is really important especially for a runner or other individual sports. Running is more than just a sports career, as you can see by how many social runners we have these days. It's a lifestyle activity so why not kill two birds with one stone by looking after my health and finances while God still gives me power to do that. I am blessed and I thank Him," he concluded.