First-timer wins

Endurance, strategy and good weather were key factors in the second edition of the Real Gijimas 50km Ultra Marathon which started in Zwelitsha on Sunday morning before finishing off in Mdantsane.

Runners such as Bulelani Mgubo, Siyabulela Madlavana, Bric Sigxashe, Gift Chigomararwa and Mziwonke Ngwendu ran together along the R102 past Walter Sisulu University, Fort Jackson and into Mdantsane.

This ultra marathon is the last local qualifier for the Comrades Marathon to be run in June.

The first 15km of the route proved to be quite difficult with its many hills and a steady ascent, before reaching the R102 and branching off into Berlin.

Mdantsane’s uphills and downhills proved to challenge the runners one by one as some fell behind, while others started to break away to inch ever closer to the finish – with some really picking up the pace over the last 2km.

TACT AND ENDURANCE: Men’s winner, Mziwonke Ngwendu from Nedbank Running Club. Picture: AMANDA NANO

Ngcobo-born Ngwendu, who was experiencing the route for the first time, came in first place in a time of 3:01:23.

“This race needs a lot of training rather than speed in order to keep a steady pace. Gift [Chigomararwa] put a lot of pressure on me and I had to up my speed. At 42km I didn’t want anyone behind me although I really felt the hills,” Ngwendu said.

A determined Ngwendu will take part in the Comrades Marathon in June and hopes to be “high up in the finishers’ list”.

TACT AND ENDURANCE: Women’s winner Nokholo Hlezupondo from SANDF. Picture: AMANDA NANO

Coming in just over an hour later, was ladies’ podium winner Nokholo Hlezupondo in 4:06:25.

A first-time participant in the ultra marathon, her strategy was to analyse the course closely and take it easy.

“I had no pressure at all because at about 26km I was running alone. I negotiated the uphills and downhills at an easy pace, running all the way, although I must say that the last 2km was tough,” Hlezupondo said.

Hlezupondo is no stranger to ultra marathons and will participate in her eighth Two Oceans and Comrades marathons later this year.

“I started running in 2012 because I wanted to lose weight. It grew on me and I slowly started to build my pace, now I’m here,” she said.

Real Gijimas chairperson Alex Kambule said the race has grown exponentially since its inception in 2018 with positive feedback.

“The race has a lot potential and it’s also the only ultra marathon owned by a club.

“Finances have been a huge challenge, and in order to attract more athletes, the prize money needs to be upped,” Kambule said.

Kambule said the race couldn’t have been possible without sponsors, the community, SAPS, traffic services and the commitment of all club members.

Results are as follows:

MEN’S WINNERS:

1. Mziwonke Ngwendu; 3:01:23 – Nedbank Running Club

2. Gift Chigomararwa; 3:02:28 – Nedbank Running Club

3. Bric Sigxashe; 3:08:26 – Youth FC

LADIES’ WINNERS:

1. Nokholo Hlezupondo; 4:06:25 – SANDF EPC

2. Xoliswa Bici; 4:25:03 – Hlazo Athletics Club

3. Thembela van der Berg; 4:26:22 – Nedbank Running Club

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