'The young ones get to see the athletes they admire' - Mzazi to run Fortress Race in hometown
GLADWIN MZAZI has vivid memories of his youth in Jouberton, Klerksdorp looking up to Hezekiel Sepeng and Shadrack Hoff as his heroes. Not in his wildest dreams did he imagine himself becoming the one admired by the youngsters of his hometown. But such are the rewards for talented individuals who determinedly work hard on their chosen fields and live a disciplined life.
Now one of the country’s top athletes having worn Team South Africa’s colours at numerous international events, the Boxer Athletic Club top runner is a role model to many. And tomorrow he gets the opportunity to inspire his homeboys and girls at close range when he runs in the Fortress Running Series’ race in Klerksdorp.
”I’m very happy that there is this race taking place in Klerksdorp, especially in the short distances (the Fortress Running Series includes half marathon, 10km and 5km races) because there are very few such races that get hosted at home. I think there are less than five races in a year that are hosted in Klerksdorp, so it’s great that Fortress is taking it there,” the Summer Universiades double gold medallist explained.
Mzazi was still undecided as to whether to run the half marathon or the 10km given he has just done the African Bank Soweto Marathon and followed that up with victory at the inaugural Chillies Running Club 10km race last weekend. But for him, it is more about being on the road with aspiring young athletes from his hometown.
“It is exciting because the young ones get to see the athletes they admire and run with them in their own backyard. I will there with Lebo Phalula,” he said of his wife – the one half of the renowned Phalula twins who have for years been the gold standard for women's middle distance running in the country.
He was not as lucky as many of the current youngsters will be to rub shoulders with their heores – with the likes of Elroy Gelant and Cornelia Joubert who were winners at the Evaton leg of the Fortress Series, as well as Galaletsang Mekgoe (2022 Comrades Marathon gold medallist) as well as the renowned Mapaseka Makhanya of Diepkloof Athleics Club set to participate in the North West province on Sunday 19 November. Back then, Mzazi had to go to nearby Potchefstroom to see his heroes up close.
“One of the top athletes I looked up to was Hezekiel Sepeng, as I used to see him during the Absa track meetings. His younger brother Samuel was my friend. And I loved Shadrack Hoff who was always invited to the top 10km races in Potchefstroom.”
And as fate would have it, Sepeng is actually involved in the Fortress Running Series being a member of the founding trio of the ISMO Athletics Club – Israel Morake and Dorah Mngwevu are the other two - that is organising the four-race Fortress Series. The Klerksdorp event taking place on Sunday morning at Flamwood Walk, the Fortress-owned Shopping Mall in Klerksdorp – is the last for the year with Venda Plaza, Evaton Mall and Sterkspruit Plaza having hosted successful events already.
The organisers are going to honour running legends – Matthews Temane, Jan Tau and Adam Motlagale to mention just three and some current stars – Comrades champions Tete Dijana and Edward Mothibi plus the inimitable marathon great Stephen Mokoka - from the province at a gala dinner on Saturday night.
Mzazi, meanwhile, will be out to inspire by mingling with aspiring local runners in his hometown. Having ran for South Africa at international cross-country, track and road events including the World Half Marathon Championships, Mzazi is fresh off some disappointment and is looking to just shrug it off with some fun runs. The 35-year-old had been included in the South African team that was meant to participate in the IAU World 50km Championships in India on Sunday, November 5. But a mess up by Athletics South Africa meant he and eight other athletes of the 12 selected could not travel.
He had expressed his disappointment at missing out on such a huge event but chose to move on and ran the Soweto Marathon where he jogged to a 2:31 finish after ‘the hills dealt with me’.
“I was literally jogging after 35km,” he laughed.
He is likely to be jogging again on Sunday, if only so the future stars get to experience running with their hero.