The Comrades Marathon finish line was the end of hours of pain and determination for thousands of competitors but, for an elderly Pretoria gardener, the finish line was the beginning of a long walk home.
Philemon Maboya, 56, was forced to walk home when he missed his lift back to Pretoria after the marathon last Thursday.
The journey took him close to four days. A fatigued Maboya completed his first Comrades Marathon last week in a time of 10:21:02, lay down in the stadium to rest and awoke to find that everyone had left.
Daan du Toit, chairperson of Maboya's running club, said club members searched for him without success. Maboya then slept at a police station on the Durban beachfront and on Friday morning phoned a friend in Pretoria. He told her that he had nowhere to sleep and had spent the night wandering.
Maboya asked her to contact his club members to pick him up.
Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) acting chief executive Cheryl Winn said: "Unfortunately, Maboya either failed to mention, or the friend failed to recall, the name of the police station, and so another frantic and ultimately fruitless search began."
Maboya returned to the hotel where he and the other runners had stayed but everyone had left.
"His club members visited every police station they could find in Durban, then proceeded to hospitals, the stadium, the station and taxi ranks," she said.
Maboya said he decided to start walking towards Pretoria because he did not know anybody in Durban.
He said he walked along the Comrades route and on Sunday morning passed through Pietermaritzburg.
He then hitched a lift to Villiers on the border of the Free State. Maboya walked for four more hours before hitching another lift. He was then dropped off on the outskirts of Johannesburg, near Soweto, where he slept in an open field until Monday.
Winn said the CMA was contacted by Maboya's club on Monday and reported missing.
While searches were frantically carried out in Durban, Maboya was already heading home on foot. He arrived home in Pretoria at 1.30pm on Monday.
Maboya had been given R10 which he used to buy bread and a cooldrink. This was all he ate and drank during his ordeal. But he was still in good shape when he reached home and has not shown no signs of exposure despite having slept in the veld for two whole nights.