DURBAN — Athletes from around the world will converge in Durban,South Africa, next weekend to run up the near 87-kilometre steep incline to Pietermaritzburg for the Comrades Ultra-marathon.
One of the top athletes from Zimbabwe will take part in the event, but Stephen Muzhingi’s race last year is one to forget. This is a man who has travelled a long road to get to where he is.
For those that do not know, Muzhingi is an ultra-marathon runner, he knows what it is like to be hungry to be poor. But running has helped him find a new life. That is because Stephen has won the 54-mile-long Comrades and South Africa’s premier ultra-marathon, not just once, but three times. The impact that success has had on his life has been overwhelming.
“Comrades changed my life so I think it is special. It made me feel nice and changed my life. I get recognised everywhere in Zimbabwe, everywhere, people recognise me. For winning three times I was honoured by the President (Robert Mugabe),” Muzhingi said.
The fourth win was expected last year, but that hope was put into perspective when his wife was hospitalised on the eve of the race and Muzhingi stayed up all night to be by her side.
“Actually I was not likely to go to the starting point, because I thought my wife was dead when I saw her at the hospital. In the race I came number sixth and I was shocked to finish the race. I didn’t know how I finished the race because my condition was not 100%,” Muzhingi said.
Although Muzhingi is determined to come back this year and show his peers a clean pair of heels, a niggling injury to his right calf threatens to derail that goal. His coach Craig Fry believes that should Muzhingi win, it would be his crowning achievement.
“I think the previous three wins were fantastic. Great for him and great for his life, but I think this one, number four, if he’s able to do it, will probably be the best one yet. We are not looking at time what he wins. Just a case of crossing the line first. I think it will be great for him based on his issues last year,” Fry said.
For now, Muzhingi is just focused on finishing the near-87-kilometre Comrades course ahead of his rivals and adding yet another notable achievement to an already impressive ultra-marathon.