Zola Budd

A famous face is set to join the thousands of runners attempting this year’s Comrades marathon.

Zola Budd, made famous for her track feats, said this week that the Comrades Marathon was the ultimate test of ability and endurance.

“I’m very excited, but also very apprehensive. You’ve got to respect the distance,” said Budd in an interview on Friday.

The legendary athlete is heading for Durban this weekend to realise a life-long dream of competing in the ultra-marathon. She has been coached for the race by Comrades legend Bruce Fordyce.

Budd will run in the colours of the Durban-based insurance and lifestyle company, The Unlimited, and will team up with other staff members for The Unlimited Running Club.

She said that what had drawn her to the company was the charities it supported, such as the Unlimited Child, which helped support 20 000 children, 751 caregivers and 252 crèches in the Valley of 1 000 Hills.

“Being a mother myself, it is something that I would want to be part of.”

She said she was concerned about her hypoglycaemia (a medical condition that occurs when blood sugar is too low).

“My biggest issue is learning to eat enough so that my blood sugar levels are maintained, without making me feel sluggish,” she said.

Budd was initiated into ultra-distance running earlier this year when she competed first in the Two Oceans Marathon, and then the Loskop Ultra Marathon.

She finished in under four-and-a-half hours in both races and at Loskop, Budd took her first ultra-marathon title by being first lady veteran across the finish line and fifth female overall.

“I was extremely satisfied with my performances in the two 56km distances, as I’ve never pushed my body that far before. I am looking forward to attempting the 89km of the Comrades with both excitement and trepidation, but Bruce is convinced that I’ve trained sufficiently – and I trust the advice of a 9-times champion,” said Budd.

She said that she had learnt that around 45km and 60km into the race was when she felt tired.

“It’s all about pacing yourself. The preparation is also more mental than physical,” she said.

Budd catapulted herself into the athletics history books when she broke the 5 000m long distance world record as a barefoot teenager during the 1980s.

She became a household name with fleets of taxis being named after her and the hugely popular singer Brenda Fassie even recording a song about her.

A period of political turmoil followed before she once again shot to stardom as a world cross-country champion during the early 1990s.

After moving to the US and starting a family, Budd had a 10-year hiatus from competitive running.

Follow the rest of Budd’s journey to the Comrades on Twitter @UnlimitedZola or at TheUnlimitedZolaBudd on Facebook.