'I wanted to run well so that I can find a new club' - Photo celebrates fourth gold & Comrades PB
After Murray & Roberts that they would not be continuing their sponsorship of the running club beyond the 2023 Comrades Marathon, top runners who had been counting on the monthly retainer to survive were left uncertain about their future. Those who could for example Adele Broodryk managed to find other elite clubs, but many were left running in the black and yellow while hoping to attract the attentions of other professional clubs. One such athlete was Rufus Photo who knew that he would have to perform well on 11 June in order to find a new club.
"It didn't stress me out that much because I knew from December that I would be leaving Murray & Roberts at the end of June," he told #TheTopRunner. "The big thing that pushed me to perform well wasn't that I wanted a good time or a good position. I wanted to run well so that I can find a new club because you can't find a club with poor results."
And he did just that running 5:21:48 to take fifth place during the 87,7km run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. This was the man from Polokwane's fourth gold medal having a achieved two other fifth place finishes in 2014 and 2016 while running in the colours of Pietersburg Road Runners under the mentorship of Johan van der Merwe. The man who represented South Africa at the 2016 World 100km Championships says perhaps what was most satisfying about his performance at the 96th edition of The Ultimate Human race is that it is his first gold medal in his forties, his fastest time and a massive improvement on the 6:03:13 he ran last year.
"I knew after completing my programme that I was fit and ready to do well. I'm very happy because last year I didn't run well as I had a bit of a flu. My performance makes me very happy because I also managed to improve on my previous best time which was 5:35, which I bettered by almost thirteen minutes. What also makes me happy is that I have done that at an advanced age. I'm still using the same programme that I used as a senior and although I'm getting older my age doesn't bother me" said the 43-year-old who also finished as the first veteran.
Having showed that he is still capable of running fast times, Photo is confident of attracting the interest of one or two professional clubs. Most of all though, he is simply satisfied that he was able to deliver on the big day. "I came to Durban with the aim of running at 3:40 per kilometre and when I checked my watch at the finish it said 3:41 per kilometre. So I'm happy with that. My goal was to run 5:30, so I'm very happy because I broke that."