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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'I'm looking forward to explore' - Dijana and Mothibi to take on Fortress Running Series in Venda

With the ultra marathon season behind us many of South Africa's elite athletes are taking a break from high mileage to focus on speed. This is also true of Tete Dijana who defended his Comrades Marathon title in a new Down Run record of 5:13:58 on June 11. Dijana, along with fellow Comrades Marathon champion and training partner Edward Mothibi have confirmed their participation in the Fortress Running Series 21km race which takes place at the Venda Plaza in Limpopo on 16 July. Mothibi says returning to action begins with tackling the shorter distances first.

"My body is still a bit tired and not full recovered yet," said the 2019 champion who earned a fourth gold medal when he took third place during the 87,7km race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. "After Comrades I usually stay for a month without running too much, just light jogs once a week. I'll only start doing proper runs after a month," explained the 38-year-old ultra marathon specialist who can still run at 3min/km as he did when he took second place at the Nedbank Running Club Skosana Race 10km in 30:50 in January.

Mothibi celebrates after winning the Fortress Running Series 21km race (1:05:39) in Rustenburg in May 2022 as part of his buildup to the 2022 Comrades Marathon in August where he took second place. Mothibi will return to the run the series this year. Photo Credit: Tumelo Mabua.

It means that the first Fortress Running Series race of 2023, will be the Nedbank Running Club top runner's first post-Comrades race, where he will be able to gauge just how badly his body was battered by the world's oldest ultra marathon as he tries to rebuild his speed. Aside from running though, because the series was started by Israel Morake in his hometown of Sterkspruit in 2018 in order to take quality road running events to the rural and peri-urban areas of the country, Mothibi says he decided to take up the race organiser's invitation because he wants to visit Venda.

"Honestly I've never been to Thohoyandou, I'm looking forward to explore Venda and see nature and the fresh fruits. We will see how it goes because we are not coming to compete but rather to support and encourage the young athletes. Maybe I will do 10km, then Tete will do the 21km," he shared.

Morake conducts an athletics coach clinic at one of the local schools ahead of the Fortress Runnign Series race at the Venda Plaza on 16 July. Photo Credit: Supplied.

Both Mothibi and Dijana are returning to the series which they raced in 2022 when one of the events was staged in Rustenburg where the pair train under the guidance of coach Dave Adams. Their decision to take part once again is a feather in the cap of race organiser Dorah Mngwevu whose brainchild this is along with Olympic silver medalist Hezekiel Sepeng and 1992 Two Oceans gold medalist Israel Morake. Born in the rural Eastern Cape town of Sterkspruit, Morake knows how difficult it can be to make it as a top runner when you are from a small town. That's why he is so passionate about the Fortress Running Series.

"South Africa has such an abundance of talent. When I was running, there were many clubs that helped and provided us with opportunities. The running environment has changed, and it is now up to us former runners to introduce the sport to the next generation. We identified a gap in rural areas where there is a lack of well-managed sponsored athletics and rural development events. The Fortress Running Series bridges this gap because most of the major events take place in the big cities, but these races give exposure to athletes from rural areas," he said.

Click HERE to enter the Venda race.

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