Doctors told Musa Zweni that he would never run again but he went from 8:56 to 5:58 at Comrades 2023
When Musa Zweni tore his ACL his dreams of becoming a professional footballer were dashed. Told that he would never play football again, the man the Eastern Cape resolved to do precisely the opposite. And although the medical professionals were right about his football dream, they were wrong to tell him that he would never run again because in a few short years Zweni has gone from weekend warrior to a sub six hour Comrades Marathon top runner.
"Growing up my dream was to be a soccer player," he told #TheTopRunner. "Unfortunately in 2012, I got an injury. I went for an operation and was told that I would never be able to run and I was never gonna be able to play soccer again. I tried to prove that wrong because I played soccer, but I would play one or two games and then it would come back. So then I decided that let me focus on my academics and that's how I built a career for myself in corporate."
That career at one of the country's most well established financial services companies Rand Merchant Bank, would have been enough for most people to forget entirely about chasing the goal of gracing the podiums of South Africa's most revered ultra marathons. Not Musa though, because after finishing his first 10km race in Cape Town the bug had bitten him and he began to nurture his dream of achieving sporting excellence once more.
"To my surprise I race 46 minutes for my first 10km and I wasn't training. My friends said I could run but I didn't believe it. So I went from 10km, 15km etc. But during Covid, I was one of those people who was hit hard emotionally. So I used o go out and run everyday and I started noticing that I'm PB's during training. From there I started doing trails where I started getting podiums and I said to myself if I can do this on trail then I said it can transfer to the road. So when races opened, I was very fit," he explained.
"Then I left Cape Town and went to PE. I started thinking that I could run and I joined Mr. Mbambani's camp - Ikhamva. That's where I met Mzwanele Maphekula and Alec Riddle and all those guys who helped me. That's also when I started understanding the importance of altitude and looked for an opportunity in Joburg. Lucky RMB moved me this side and the rest is history," said the accountant from Mthata who works full-time while juggling his fledgling athletic career.
The move to Highveld proved to be just the change he needed because after completing his first Comrades in 8:56:57 in 2019, the Boxer Athletic Club man sliced almost an hour and a half off his time when he returned with a 6:30:57 last year. That emboldened him with the belief that he could break into the upper echelons of elite Comrades performances by running a sub six hour race to earn the coveted Wally Hayward medal. After spending some time in Dullstroom training at altitude before this year's 87,7km Down Run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, the Puma Ambassador followed his coach Lindsey Parry's programme and produced 5:58:46 to smash his Comrades personal best.
"For me it was all about the change in my mindset. There was a point where I didn't believe I could do this but the moment I told myself I could do it then it started happening. I just told myself that I need to be consistent in my training and I kept doing that and started asking people for advice. I went to a camp in Dullstroom where I met Dan Matshailwe and Tete Dijana and they shared so much knowledge, even though I was not training with them. So I went to the race this year with the goal of going sub 6 and it happened so now I think there's more that I can do with a group and no longer training alone."