Competing in the Comrades Marathon is a dream for every long distance runner and it is no different for Gaborone Striders athletes, who have consistently run in the world’s oldest ultra-marathon.
The club, formed in 2010 by Seleke Dintwe, Lere Matebesi and Jonathan Pelopedi, has managed to send runners to the South African event since 2011.
Striders chairperson, Tsholofelo Mvungama told Mmegi Sport the club founders decided to take part in the Comrades Marathon after the inaugural Gaborone Steinmetz Marathon.
The Comrades Marathon is an ultra-marathon of approximately 89 km, which is run annually in the KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
Striders runners have been competing in the Comrades since 2011 with three participants each year, but this year, 41 registered.
Striders member and former chairperson, Shirley Mosiakgabo completed the race in 9:48:03.
Mosiakgabo said after the first experience of Comrades in 2011, people started showing interest in joining the club.
“As more people showed interest in running the Comrades, they needed running partners. The group started growing.
Striders is a long distance running club, but we still accommodate people who do 5km but they eventually graduate to longer distances,” she said.
Mosiakgabo said their aim is to cultivate an active lifestyle in the society. She said the members run all the races across the country.
She said long distance running is becoming popular in Botswana, but in the past they used to run a lot in South Africa.
“It is part of the Comrades journey because it is better to join longer races to get the feel of a marathon. When we prepare for the Comrades, we hold races from January to May while other runners, target races in South Africa,” Mosiakgabo said.
The 50-year-old Jonathan Baumake was part of the Striders team and he managed to complete the race. He joined the club when it was still called Nkaikela.
“I joined the club due to health reasons. I was diagnosed with asthma in 1994 and by 1998 I was on fulltime medication. In 2007, my doctor informed me that they have done everything they could to assist me. He told me that it was up to me to decide if I want to exercise as a way of keeping or wait for my final day,” he said.
Baumake said after taking up running, in 2008 he had quit medication and the asthma was completely healed. He said up to now he has never gone back to
“I failed to complete the race. I told myself that I was no longer going back,” he said. However, Baumake trained hard for the following edition, but again, he failed to complete the race in 2014.
“I did not give up but unfortunately in 2015 I did not attend. In 2016, I went back for the down run and passed the half way mark. At 59km I stopped running. I thought I would never complete Comrades,” he said. He said in 2016 they were joined by a coach who motivated him. The following year he completed the monstrous race in 11:54:54, which was five minutes before the cut off time. He returned home with a medal.
Baumake said this year they were more organised and he managed to complete the race in 10:46:43, bagging another medal. He said the club has a programme that has helped shape them as athletes.
Keamogetse Mojapelo (25) joined Striders in January and made his Comrades debut this year.
“It was not easy when I joined the club. I always finished last during our events. I liked running no matter the times I was doing. I wanted to be a better runner, maintaining same pace to the end,” he said.
Mojapelo said when he registered for the Comrades, he did not mind even if he did not complete the race, all he wanted was the experience.
“There was a man who was supposed to be my pacer but got lost due to the large crowd of runners. I was confused. I decided to reduce my pace to try and reserve my energy. That was a mistake,” he said.
Mojapelo said he realised that he was not going to get a medal when he passed the 68.8km peg, with two minutes of the race remaining.
“I was left with 11km and I was exhausted. With 5km left, my mind was telling me that I was exhausted and could no longer run anymore. Along the way I could not even swing my arms. As I entered the stadium I heard the gun going off. I had missed the medal cut off by six minutes,” Mojapelo said.