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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'I want to inspire the youth' - Tete Dijana to take on Fortress Running Series Venda race on Sunday

After winning the race when it took place in Rustenburg last year, Tete Dijana has confirmed that he will once again be taking part in the Fortress Running Series. This time around though he will be things are a bit different. In 2022 the race in the North West was run in May meaning that Dijana used it as part of his buildup to his maiden Comrades Marathon victory, whereas this year the 21km and 10km event at the Venda Plaza in Limpopo happens a month after the Nedbank Running Club ace defended his Comrades title in a new record time.

Dijana celebrates victory in the 10km event during the 2022 Fortress Running Series race in Rustenburg. Photo Credit: Tumelo Mabua.

"It's changed my life because my name is in the history books," he told #TheTopRunner as he reflected on a wonderful 2023 which also saw him break the 50km World Record. "Setting two records in a short period of just five months makes me someone that people love and now the world knows me. I felt honoured to be invited to come and hold the flag for the Springboks. It's great feeling and a priceless moment to share field with the rugby players, especially while holding the South African flag," he said after being given the flag bearing duties during South Africa's Rugby Championship clash against Australia at Loftus on Saturday.

Dijana carrying the flag at Loftus. Photo Credit: Nick Bester.

His popularity which also grew when the South African and global running public learned about his story of his journey from humble beginnings as a security guard at the North West University to Comrades Marathon champion, means that his signature is the prized possession of most race organizers. That he choses to race in Limpopo on Sunday 16 July as opposed to somewhere else shows that this relatively knew running series is one that is increasingly close to Dijana's heart.

"Yes I do get invitations to run other races but I choose Fortress because I wanna inspire and encourage young upcoming athletes. I will be running 21km in Venda. I have been resting a lot since Comrades. Although I am recovering from the race, I'm still a bit tired because I am traveling a lot. But I have started training again," explained the man who holds a 1:05:46 half marathon personal best.

Tete Dijana became the first man to successfully defend a Comrades Marathon title since Stephen Muzhingi in 2011. Photo Credit: Nedbank Running Club.

Dijana will be running the race with training partner and fellow Comrades Marathon champion Edward Mothibi who is likely to race the 10km event. 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.

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.

Click HERE to enter the Venda race.

Fortress Running Series Venda Plaza, Limpopo – 16 July 2023

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Fortress Running Series Sterkspruit Plaza, Sterkspruit, Eastern Cape – 8 October 2023

Fortress Running Series Flamwood Walk, Klerksdorp, North West Province – 19 November 2023

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