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Nothando our Comrades champion

iMonday, Feb 24th, 2014 comments by Tayana

On the morning of the Comrades marathon, I saw some of SAWomEng volunteers wishing Nothando Mungwe well for the Comrades marathon over Facebook. Nothando, being her usual effacing self, did not feel the need to broadcast her participation in the full marathon. But it made me question what is exactly the commotion was about, and how Nothando came to run the Comrades successfully, finishing in the amazing time of 10hrs22min.

The saying “dynamite comes in small packages” has never held more true than when you get to know Nothando. She is a coordinator for SAWomEng in the Mentorship division, originally from the small town of Mtunzini in KwaZulu-Natal, and has taken everything I assumed about runners and turned it on its head.

When I watch the Comrades, I admire the pure dedication and athleticism displayed…however; this admiration comes from the safety of my couch. I don’t know any person that would ran 89km willingly…unless it is a woman running to take cover from rain after a salon appointment.

When she started her chemistry studies in 2002 at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), she explored various options for keeping fit.  At this point she joined aerobics team which jogged only on Wednesday mornings. When she joined UCT in 2008 to pursue her post graduate studies in chemical engineering she had to find an alternative activity to keep fit, and, unlike most of us that joined the gym and never darkened their doors, she took her running shoes and started jogging. In 2009 she joined the UCT athletics club and never looked back.

She discloses to not being much disciplined initially; after all, Cape Town winters will turn anyone off outdoor activities. In April 2009, she did her first 5km Spar women’s race and in the same month did the 5km Old Mutual Two Oceans fun run. After receiving her first medal, our girl was hooked!

Training is an on-going process and the 2013 saw Nothando progress to tackle marathons, the Comrades first and later that year, the Two Oceans. To qualify for either of these two marathons you need to have finished a 42.2km marathon within 5 hours. She had planned to run 2012 Cape Town 42.2km marathon as her qualifier, but an injury prevented her from competing. She got another opportunity to qualify at the Peninsula 42.1km marathon at a remarkable 03h40 min.

The starting line has over fourteen thousand people from different parts of the world with different motivation for running this gruelling marathon. With a prayer and a realization of how big this was, Nothando confesses to feeling scary and excited. On her seeing the 39 km-left-to-go sign she felt such a relief as she realized that nothing could prevent her from finishing the marathon. She was so happy that screamed it out to the people around her; she had just been running for 60km!

The support of her family and friends, and seeing them at the finishing line made finishing a very special moment. “It is impossible to put into words the feeling after finishing comrades marathon..,’ she says. The sense of achievement, the victory, the camaraderie between the runners, everyone working together to achieve the same goal of getting to Pietermaritzburg before the 12 hours (5:30pm) cut-off time!

To add to her accolades, Nothando is currently completing her PhD in Chemical Engineering at UCT while working full time. She also enjoys dancing and has added salsa and belly dancing to her repertoire. She is full of admiration for anyone who manages to perform well in running while working full time as it requires dedication. Pressed to name just one person she admires though, it has to be 2013 Comrades Marathon winner Claude Moshiywa. She also pays tributes to Bruce Fordyce (9 times winner of Comrades). 

SAWomEng believes in celebrating he achievements of its volunteers and beneficiaries.

Nothando is a beautiful person inside and out, an inspiration to all who meet her, and SAWomEng is proud to have her on the team.

By: Andriannah Mbandi

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