Gerda Steyn, Ntsindiso Mphakathi says ‘Tata’ to 2023 with huge smiles

Gerda Steyn enjoyed a top year on the road. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky / BackpagePix

Gerda Steyn enjoyed a top year on the road. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky / BackpagePix

Published Dec 17, 2023


Unlike Gerda Steyn, Tete Dijana, Givemore Mudzinganyama or Ntsindiso Mphakathi, who will have huge smiles on their faces as they reflect on the running year that was 2023, I have nothing to look back on.

The runner in me was non-existent this year. Damn, he was non-existent last year too. Sad as that makes me feel, it was for a good reason that I did no real running in these two years.

Back in 2022 it was largely due to doctor’s orders that I stayed off the road. I was recovered this year, but chose to watch from the sidelines. And what a view it has been.

I was not in Cape Town for the TotalSports Two Oceans Marathon shortly after the Easter weekend. But I was up early with a cup of tea in hand to watch as Steyn obliterated the record she had set last year as she made history to win a fourth successive title at the World’s Most Beautiful Marathon.

While Steyn’s victory was expected, Mudzinganyama’s win came out of left field and I still get goosebumps remembering the excitement I felt at seeing a young man I knew personally breaking away to register his first major victory after many years of trying.

No doubt the breakthrough came about largely due to him finally joining a professional club – Entsika Athletics Club – where he received the wise coaching and counsel of the former New York Marathon champion and South African running legend that is Hendrick Ramaala.

Another athlete who finally came right was also a member of the famed Ramaala Zoo Lake training group. Mphakathi eventually won the Soweto Marathon following many years of carrying the South African torch, the lad they fondly refer to as Tata (he’s originally from the Eastern Cape and loves to call people Tata, hence the nickname) having generally been the first local to finish as athletes from Lesotho and Ethiopia dominated the race.

I ran the Soweto Marathon, only my second 42.2km race in two years after I’d jogged the CDM Marathon in Polokwane pacing a friend who was looking for a Two Oceans qualifier. And because I was in the race, I missed Tata’s epic run that saw him finally beat the Ethiopians – one of whom was the winner last year.

It excited me that Tata had won because I’d interviewed him on a number of occasions after he’d missed out on the glory and I knew just how much he wanted the win and the effort he had put in to try and achieve the goal.

That it was the first time I had ‘witnessed’ a South African man winning the race made Tata’s success all the sweeter because the last time a local reigned victorious was way back in 2011 via Michael Mazibuko. Back then I had no interest in road running.

As for my race, well, the less said about it the better – safe to say that I was derailed by the sight of an athlete – Galaletsang Mekgoe – I’ve come to like suffering by the roadside. I did finish, though.

I’m now training and really enjoying it as I anticipate next year when I’ll be running with the Masters’ tag on my vest. And the plan is to climb up on a number of podiums. Of course I will not be emulating a Gerda, Givemore or Tata. But you can bet I am going to shine.