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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'I'm still strong' - From Bill Rowan to Champion: The Claude Moshiywa story

Of all the memorable Comrades Marathon victories, one remains etched in the mind of many South Africans. You see it is rare, at least in the professional era that a male runner starts off as a social athlete and goes on to win the race. Yet Claude Moshiywa did it when he went from an 8 hour debut to becoming the first South African to win the Up Run in over two decades. And with sixteen medals to his name, the man from Soweto is going back for another on the 28th of August. What's more - he believes he can add to his tally of seven gold medals.

"I love running. I think the other thing that has kept me going is that I don't believe in putting foreign objects in my body," said the 48-year-old in conversation with #TheTopRunner. "I've been running since 1998. I'm still strong and I'm also passing my experience to the other guys."

Moshiywa wins the 2013 Comrades Marathon Up Run which had been dominated by the Russians. Photo Credit: CMA Media.

And that experience includes running his first Comrades 22 years ago as a social runner in the colours of Diepkloof Athletic Club. Knowing very little about ultra distance running at the time, Moshiywa was challenged by one of his club mates to see who would finish first. And instead of beating just the challenger he went on to become the first DAC runner to complete the Ultimate Human Race in the year 2000, when he crossed the finish line 08:04:44 to earn a Bill Rowan medal.

"When I started running I didn't go there for money. I just went there to challenge myself because the first Comrades I was running for Diepkloof and there was this madala who challenged me that by the time he finishes, I'll only be at halfway. So I said: no ways! I'll be the first one to finish Comrades. And I was the first from the club and I was so happy that I felt like I won the race. But I didn't know how to train for Comrades, so for me it was hard to come where I am today," he laughed.

Moshiywa (back) eating up the asphalt on the long run with his Mpolompolo training group which includes Jonas Makhele (leading). Photo Credit: Claude Moshiywa.

The Nedbank Running Club athlete gradually learnt how to get the best out of himself. He would spend every January training with Hendrick Ramaala and his squad of speedsters at Zoo Lake, while also joining them for track sessions in the last few weeks before the race. Thanking Ramaala along with former champion Andrew Kelehe and Walter Nkosi for their advice, Moshiywa went on to produce a celebrated victory when he bested Johannes Kekana in a titanic battle to win the Up Run in 5:32:09 in 2013. And now he's sharing that advice with younger runners in his Mpolompolo training group based in the South of Johannesburg.

"I've taken leave so in the last three weeks before the race, I will polish up. For now we have to take it easy, don't try to change my diet. You have to sleep a lot and drink a lot of water. Most athletes make a mistake the day before the race. Don't eat because you see something for the first time. If you want pap, go and buy pap and eat pap and chicken - like you are used to, otherwise you won't finish the race," he concluded.

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