Lungile Gongqa crosses the Two Oceans Marathon finish line at the UCT Sports Fields. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky, BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN – Two days after the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon, Cape Town’s latest running celebrity Lungile Gongqa was relaxing with his family at his Khayelitsha home and looking ahead to his next distance running challenges.

Totally depleted at the Two Oceans finish, having given his all to secure the biggest victory of his career, Gongqa’s quick recovery has been remarkable.

Although he had not laced a pair of running shoes since his victory, the 37-year-old was feeling fresh and ready for more.

“I feel good – I’ve recovered and feeling strong again,” Gongqa remarked on Monday.

“I was pretty exhausted at the end of the race, but I luckily I recover quickly! My legs are not stiff or sore today.”

Many were applauding Gongqa’s win as his ultra-marathon debut, but the Cape star previously completed the Oceans, placing a modest 29th in 3 hrs 25 min 04 sec (3:25.04) in 2012.

That experience and knowledge of the course came in handy in the latter stages of the race on Saturday as he won in 3:09.43.

“I was not confident of winning and at 42km in Hout Bay, I was just trying to keep up with the leaders,” admitted Gongqa.

“But I remembered the climb up Constantia Nek and started to feel more confident. Just after the top of the climb I passed around some water sachets to the others in the group.

“I like to help, but it was also to test them, to see how strong they were and to show I was feeling good.”

The tactic proved a masterstroke, as Gongqa accelerated away shortly after, with only Lesotho’s Warinyane Lebopo able to stay in contention.

The two matched strides until another Gongqa surge 4km from the finish decided the race.

That Gongqa became the first Cape Town athlete to win the Two Oceans 56km marathon since Don Hartley broke the tape in 1973 seemed of little consequence to the diminutive Nedbank WP athlete, who was more excited about the prospect of relatively rare time with his wife and eight-month-old son.

“I spend much of my time as a professional athlete training with my coach, Hendrick Ramaala, and his squad in Johannesburg.

“So it’s good to be able to take a break for a week or two and spend time with my family before returning to Johannesburg.”

Gongqa’s wife Ivy, an investigating officer with the police based in Khayelitsha, is herself an impressive distance athlete, having recently posted a top-10 position in the Cape Peninsula Half-Marathon, just five months after the birth of their first son.

“We met through athletics in the Eastern Cape. Our families are from Ngcobo, and we still have strong connections there,” explained Ivy.

“I left for Cape Town in 2007 and Lungile followed a year or two later. We’ve been here since, living in a flat in Litha Park.

“It’s not been easy, with me working fulltime and Lungile away, but God has been good and my mother looks after the baby during the day,” continued Ivy.

“Lungile’s second place at the Cape Town Marathon in 2015 and now his Two Oceans win has been life-changing. We are so grateful.”

Gongqa’s earnings for first overall, first South African and first WP athlete totalled R267 000, and with additional bonuses typically paid by his club, the Gongqa family can plan for a more comfortable and secure future.

“My next race will be the Cape Town 12km in May,” Gongqa remarked. “I’m sure I’ll be ready for it – I already feel recovered, and it is still over a month away.”

While Gongqa’s primary running base is in Johannesburg, he enjoys racing in the Cape and won the WP Half-Marathon title in Tokai in February this year and the Milkwood Half-Marathon title last month, in addition to placing second in the Cape Peninsula Half Marathon.

Gongqa travelled to India in January to race the 14th Mumbai Marathon, a race which has close links with his coach Ramaala, who won the inaugural event in 2004.

“We sent Lungile over in January as preparation for the Two Oceans,” explained Ramaala.

“Unfortunately he suffered from stomach problems with the Indian diet, and only placed 12th in 2:18:52. But perhaps that worked out well, as he was not at all depleted after the race.”

Independent Media