Sometimes life doesn’t pan out the way we planned. Edward Mothibi dreamed of competing against the world’s best marathoners over the challenging 42.2km race distance, but his career didn’t pan out that way.
But rather than give up on his dream, this father of three from Magogoe Koikoi village in Mahikeng, in the North West, decided to venture into uncertain territory and become an ultra-distance runner. And, as they say, fortune favours the brave…
Picking the running path
Edward started running at an early age, representing his schools on the track and at cross country races.
After he finished school and moved to Rustenberg to work for various mining companies, he joined the mine clubs and continued racing, following an elite runner’s natural progression.
“I started as a track runner and developed my speed over the 5,000m and 10,000m distances, with lots of cross country racing as well. I then progressed to 10km and 21.1km road races.”
Edward ran his first marathon in 2012. “My dream was always to become a world-class marathoner,” he says.
While he tasted success, with top 10 finishes at the Soweto Marathon, Edward never got the opportunity to race internationally.
“After a few years, I chose to divert my dream and began training for ultra-distance events, which are very popular in South Africa.”
Edward ran his first ultra event in 2014 – the 50km Om Die Dam – and finished in 3h15. It was clear that he had a talent for the longer distances, but Edward confesses that the 90km Comrades marathon remained a daunting challenge.
“I was always concerned about the distance, so I focused on races like the 56km Two Oceans marathon for a few years.”
The Comrades challenge
Following numerous top 20 finishes at Cape Town’s iconic ultra-distance event, Edward eventually decided to tackle the greatest ultra-marathon of them all, the Comrades.
Edward got encouragement from 2016 Comrades champion David Gatebe, who is a work colleague at the Impala Platinum Mine in Rustenburg.
“I wanted to see if I could finish in under 6 hours,” recalls Edward.
Now racing in the green colours of the Biogen-backed Nedbank Running Club, Edward finished fourth in his debut race, which was an unimaginable result.
“After that, I thought there is no reason why I can’t go back to the drawing board with my coach and come back to win.”
And that’s exactly what he did. Following a focused year of dedicated ultra-marathon training, which included running 250-300km a week during his peak training phase, Edward managed to run away from multiple Comrades winner and defending champion Bongmusa Mthembu in the closing 8km to win in a time of 5:31:33.
How champions train & fuel
While Edward has become a running sensation on the local circuit since his win, he is quick to point out that this wasn’t an overnight success.
“You don’t just wake up one day and decide that you are going to win the Comrades Marathon. It is an extremely challenging distance and you must build up to that performance.”
Under the guidance of coach Dave Adams, Edward progressively built up his training volume, reaching peak milage in May.
“I’ve been doing 60km+ long runs for over five years now and only took my long run distance over 70km in preparation for my Comrades win,” explains Edward.
It is also challenging to train at this volume while working a full-time job, where Edward works as a clerk on the mines. “I work from 6 am to 2 pm, which makes it difficult to run in the morning. I do most of my training in the afternoon and evening.”
A typical week for Edward during his peak Comrades training phase includes:
- Monday: Speed session
- Tuesday: Tempo run – fartleks
- Wednesday: Long run – up to 45km
- Thursday: Speed
- Friday: Hill repeats
- Saturday: Tempo
- Sunday: Long run 60-80km
Edward’s Biogen supplement stack:
- Biogen Iso Premium Whey: To aid recovery
- Biogen Recovergen: After training and racing
- Biogen Carbogen: During hard training and racing
- Biogen Real Energy Gels: During hard training and racing
- Age: 36
- Hometown: Mafikeng
- Lives: Rustenberg
- Club: Nedbank Running Club
- Sponsors: Nedbank, Biogen, Futurelife, Nike, Bavaria
Images by Tobias Ginsberg