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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

Never too late for Comrades Gold medalist Manduwa who signs first pro contract with Entsika at 47

It may be hard for some to believe that at 47 years old, Solicitor Manduwa has just signed his first professional contract. Affectionately known as Solly in KZN running circles, the Malawian-born, Pietermaritzburg-based top runner proved that age ain’t nothin’ but a number when he took an unexpected eighth place at the 2023 Comrades Marathon in 5:46:10 to earn Phantane Athletic Club their first Comrades gold medal since Mahlomola Sekhonyana's fourth position in 2019.

Manduwa crosses the finish line at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban after running 90km from Pietermaritzburg to earn his first Comrades Marathon gold medal. Photo Credit: Cuan Walker.

“In my early young age I was a top soccer player. But at primary school I also used to participate in running during cross country competitions,” he told #TheTopRunner. “Then when I came to South Africa in the year 2000 I was in Johannesburg where I started lifting weights. It wasn’t until I came to Pietermaritzburg that I was exposed to so many sports activities. One day we were playing soccer next to a ground where runners like Bongumusa Mthembu and Sandile Makhaye were doing their speed sessions. I was impressed the way they were doing their thing the following morning I decided to start running.”

The rest was history. Having initially started by running alone, Solly soon found himself participating in time trails which were organized by Eskom Gijimas - a club he later joined in 2011. The success came almost immediately. In his first race running for Gijimas, Manduwa took eighth place and broke one hour at the Capital Climb 16 km I come position 8th under 1hr.

“I did it without proper training and it's when I noticed that I can run. From then I start taking it serious. I also started training with William Mtolo and developed a lot of confidence,” he said sharing his journey. But his fledgling running career would suffer setbacks which came in the form of injury. Those injuries forced him off the road and onto the trails where he produced some excellent results including victory at the Karkloof 100 50 mile race in 2020.

Manduwa taking part in the RMB Ultra-trail Cape Town 100km where he took 9th place overall in 11:46:52. Photo Credit: RMB Ultra-trail Cape Town.

Returning to the road, Manduwa prepared for Comrades and delivered a sterling performance as he sliced just under half an hour off his 2019 time to win a maiden gold medal - the oldest gold medalist (47 years old) in the top ten. More remarkable is that he did most of the training on his own as he balanced work and running.

“I performed so well, I couldn't believe it. I have to give thanks to God Almighty for extending my mental strength because I got injured a month before the race. My training for the 2022 Comrades Marathon was not easy because I was doing most of the sessions alone but I think my previous coach Mdu Khumalo made it easy for me by giving me a good programme. He told me what I had to do for each session so that when I meet up and train with the rest of the team on long runs, I didn't struggle much.”

Manduwa poses for a photo with his gold medal after winning his first Comrades gold medal. Solly ran his first Comrades in 2012 which he completed in 8:01:57. Photo Credit: Solly Manduwa.

His perseverance and hard work was rewarded with an offer from Entsika Athletic Club. Manduwa signed on the dotted line and is looking forward to running his first race in his new colours on the 26th of February at the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km in Gqeberha.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Entsika Athletic Club and the whole management for the recognition it means a lot to me especially my age - its not easy. But for me age it's just a number. I like challenging myself not competing with anyone. my main focus for the year 2023 is to do better than before as I'm having all the support I couldn't get back then. I just want to see improvement that's all.”

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Andile Ngcongo
Andile Ngcongo
Jan 13, 2023

A phantane athelete Mahlomola Sekhonyane came position 4 in 2019, therefore Solly's Gold medal was not the first for the phantane club, as mentioned in the article.

Mosibodi Whitehead
Mosibodi Whitehead
Jan 14, 2023
Replying to

He corrected us and then we changed it to the current version. He helped us by pointing out our mistake. Dankie members!

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