Athletics / 10 September 2019, 3:30pm / Matshelane Mamabolo
The prospects of a road race in Cape Town always brings delight for the members of the Fat Cats Athletic Club. And with good reason too.
You see, whenever, the “#RedSkippa” army descend upon the Mother City for a run, the club’s PB (Personal Best) always falls. And more often than not, it is one man who reaches the finishing line before the rest of the club’s runners – Bongani Bilankulu.
He is not a man of many words. But boy can he run. So much so that most in the club refer to him - and his crew - as the Kenyans.
His incredible runs in the Mother City began back in 2017 when he became the first member of the club to dip under the three hour mark in a marathon.
In social running circles, a sub three run over the 42.2km is a big deal and so it was with great joy that we celebrated his feat.
I still remember that race, Bilas – as we affectionately call him at the club – going past me with a little over a kilometre to go and clocking a 2:57. I came in a few seconds later.
But you see whereas I run for fun, without a watch, a plan and a target - our club’s former chairman is a consummate running man who plans each and everyone of his races to the tiniest detail. He walks at exactly the time and distance he has planned to and his training sessions are precisely designed for the particular target he is going for.
Having ran the club’s first sub three, Bilas went for Comrades Marathon silver last year but missed it badly and was actually ridiculed for a while in the club for having dared to “walk” into the Moses Mabhida Stadium after the target eluded him.
He could so easily have been broken by that. But no, he went back to work and set himself the target of a sub 2:50 finish at last year’s Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. To say he smashed that race would be an understatement. Bilas ran home in 2:46 and I remember him flying past me at the halfway mark looking like he had just started the race while I was huffing and puffing as I raided the waterpoint of energy drinks looking to replace my electrolytes.
He ran what we still refer to as “the perfect negative splits” and the delight in the club knew no bounds.
As if that was not enough, he went to this year’s Two Oceans with the goal of running a 3:50 and true to form and his planning he completed the 56km race in exactly that time - although there was another Cat who got to the finish before him ...
Bilas skipped the Comrades this year and has had an amazing preparation for Sunday’s Cape Town Marathon where he plans to run a 2:40. No-one doubts that he will achieve his goal. He has proven time and time again that he loves running in Cape Town and that the Mother Coty is generally kind to him.
“It’s got to do with the altitude,” he says “It’s an advantage if you train inland then go run on the coast. I will also enjoy the maximum altitude since I will only be going that side the night before the race. I did the same in 2018 as well as OMTOM.”
That could well be. But those of us who have seen just how much work he puts into his training know that Bilas deserves every great run he has. The Cats will be celebrating another club marathon PB on Sunday - thanks to Bongani Bilankulu.