JOHANNESBURG - Three time Comrades Marathon gold medallist Rufus Photo is eager to emulate his homeboy Ludwick Mamabolo and win the world famous KwaZulu Natal ultra on Sunday.
“People back home want me to win Comrades for them just like Mamabolo did back in 2012. Since he became champion, I’ve been under pressure from the people to win it too and I believe this is my year.”
Photo, like Mamabolo, is from the Limpopo Province and while he is from Moletjie and Ludwick from GaMamabolo, they both fall under the Capricorn District Municipality. The municipality has been very supportive of the two runners and Photo is keen to thank them with a winning performance in this year’s down run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.
“The municipality covers for the flights to Durban for the two of us every year. They even host a farewell function for us before our departure and they even provide food for us. They also use us as ambassadors for the municipality of sports. We really appreciate the support we are getting here and the best way to show it is through doing well at the race,” said Photo.
He has generally done well over the years, finishing in the top 10 three times, twice in fifth spot (in the down runs of 2014 and 2016) and also earning gold in 2013 by coming in ninth. Clearly strong on the down run, the 38-year-old is confident of doing well.
“I like the fact that it is a down run. I always do well there. I got two of my three gold medals in the down run,” said KPMG athlete. “It is easy for me as I do not work that much if it is down, but I struggle when it is an up run as it demands a lot of hard work."
Rufus Photo has won 3 Comrades Gold medals since he began running #TheUltimateHumanRace in 2012. Two of those Top 10 finishes have come in the down run. Watch him on #Comrades2018 race day, going towards @MMStadium, as one of the #TopContenders this year pic.twitter.com/wo3L2YxDO7
In an era when proper nutrition is deemed just as important as good training, Photo has remained true to the diet that has served him over the years. “I enjoy a lot of cooked meat and pap with lots of fruits and vegetables. I also have endurance and recovery drinks from my sponsor 32GI which really help me. On race day I eat meat and bread and my 32GI drink before going on to the road. It has been working for me.”
Unlike most of the elite athletes, Photo did not enjoy the advantage of a month-long training camp and leave from work. But that, he says, is not a disadvantage. “I train just before I go to work as I start at 7am,” said the man who works as an assistant driver at Volkswagen Polokwane. “I then train again after work. My bosses at work are very supportive of me.”
With former winner Sam Tshabalala having predicted that Sunday’s race will be won by a dark horse, could Photo be the one to shine?