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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'If you love what you're doing, it becomes easy' - Oldest 2022 Comrades gold medalist Charles Tjiane

This time last week Charles Dibate Tjiane was still basking in the glory of earning yet another Comrades Marathon gold medal. Originally from Limpopo, but a long-time resident of Alexandra Township north of Johannesburg, the Maxed Elite top runner stopped the clock in 5:47:04 for his fifth gold from fifteen starts. What's more, at 48 years old Tjiane was the oldest 2022 Comrades gold medalist and he believes he could have run even faster.

"I had prepared very well and my plan was to win the race. But the problems started as we approached halfway. My stomach began to bother me forcing me to stop for three toilet breaks," he told #TheTopRunner. "I was just behind the leading bunch at halfway and realised that because of my running stomach I would have to reduce my pace or face not finishing. So I just took it at my pace and got faster until I ended up in the top ten," said the man who would eventually take ninth place during the 95th running of The Ultimate Human race.

Tjiane running his beloved Comrades Marathon in 2017 where he finished in fifth place in 5:45:26. Photo credit: Mr. Price Sport.

Having run his first 90km odyssey between the two KwaZulu-Natal cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg way back in 2005, Tjiane's fourteen Comrades medals (5 Gold, 3 Wally Hayward and 6 Silver) are a study in patience. With a best performance of 5:34:21 in 2009 when he lead for much of the race only to settle for third place when Leonid Shvetsov and eventual winner Stephen Muzhingi went past him, the evergreen Tjiane says love is the key to his longevity.

"It's all about love for the sport. If you love what you are doing and put everything into it, then it becomes easy. I run with love and that's why I am able to sacrifice. My family also supports me because they can see my love for running. For example when my shoes are starting to get worn out, my wife is the first to point it out. And on top of that, I'm still going strong because of the excellent treatment I get at Maxed Elite. I have given long service to Mr Price and I'm one of the only older guys left," said the man who first ran a Comrades in Maxed Elite colours in 2008 having joined the club from Liberty Nike AC.

Tjiane celebrates after winning the 2017 Forever Resorts Loskop Dam 50km ultra marathon. Photo Credit: Loskop Marathon.

And because he loves his club so much, Tjiane is dissatisfied with the lack of recent success. He was the only Maxed Elite gold medalist this year. But not content with complaining about it, the man who first made a name for himself running in the colours of Gauteng Striders has started developing future champions in Alex to bring back the glory days when the red and white of Mr Price dominated South African ultra marathons.

"I don't think I would be what I am today without Maxed. I get whatever I need which allows me to achieve my goals because if you don't get what you need you end up giving up. Even the guys that I am training with, I believe that we can all get gold medals next year. Not just one gold because these guys are top runners and they are promising. What Nedbank did this year, we must do next year and take all the gold medals to Gauteng," he concluded.

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