Mapaseka Makhanya – keeping her Olympic dream alive
01 January 1970
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Brad Brown: You’re listening to Old Mutual Live Running. I’m Brad Brown and it’s good to have you with us once again. We’re joined by one of the stars of the South African road running scene and she’s been around for a few years.
She burst onto it and has just really made a name for herself and it’s a wonderful pleasure to welcome onto the podcast today Mapaseka Makhanya. Mapaseka welcome. Thanks for taking the time to chat to us today.
Mapaseka Makhanya: Thank you so much for allowing me to have this time with the Old Mutual podcast, thank you so much.
BB: Mapaseka, this year is a big year for you personally in your running career, it’s Rio 2016. You’re currently sitting with the third fastest qualifying time out of the South African ladies. Are you pretty confident that’s good enough to get you to Rio?
MM: I think you know for some odd reason I believe that I’m going to Rio no matter what happens. I still have faith. I’m third right now, still waiting for a few athletes to run marathons but whatever happens I believe that I’m on that plane to Rio.
Women are coming to the fore
BB: Mapaseka, I love what’s happening in, particularly South African ladies running at the moment. There’s just so much competition between all of you and we can rattle the names off. I mean there’s so many South African women that are running well.
I think of yourself, I think of Irvette van Zyl who obviously still has a shot in London, Rene Kalmer, Christine Kalmer, there’s the Palula twins. Everyone is just running so, so well and that is good for the sport in general because everyone’s pushing each other to run faster.
MM: I think it’s about time hey. We have been so apathetic in South Africa, especially on the women’s division. It was so stable that you would know who the winner of the race is. But these days you can never be too sure. With ladies competing against each other, pushing each other to run faster times it brings more attention into the female sports in South Africa.
BB: Mapaseka, what do you think has been the drive behind this because it hasn’t happened overnight. These performances and this competition amongst all of you has been coming for the last few seasons now. What do you think’s been the cause of it?
MM: I think you know with the Spar ladies’ races; they had played a major role in developing the female’s drive into running. Because there’s no attention into it and it’s more into the public’s eyes than when we run on the track. I think the more the money is, the better the chances of athletes running faster and nobody doesn’t want to go to the Olympics.
You know everybody wants to qualify for the Olympics and to go there or to win the biggest prize you have to run faster. It’s not like I go to a race knowing that I’m going to win. You need to train hard and you need to run faster. You need to focus on the main goal and the sponsorships around athletics, our clubs, our managers, they do whatever they can to help us to be on top of the game all the time.
Just couldn’t heat up in Korea
BB: Looking at your qualifying time and what you hope to achieve this year, I know you wanted to run one more but the weather just didn’t play its part in Korea. Tell us a little bit about your final qualifying and what happened there.
MM: I went to Korea, I believe that I was in a good shape to run, in fact 2:33 because at the Two Oceans I thought, you know what I’ll just jog the race. Just be in the top ten, that’s what I did. Everything went according to plan.
But going to Korea, it was so cold that the further I went, the colder I get. The first two kilometres I thought no, it’s cold but as I run through the race I would get warmer. But instead I was getting colder and colder and colder. I could have finished the race and it could have been a 2:50 or three hours for me, which wouldn’t be good enough.
It wouldn’t be good enough for anyone even if the selectors were to consider me. Why would you consider a three-hour marathon person over a person who has run a 2:35, a 2:37, you know what I mean? So I don’t want to go out there and have the worst race of my life. I would have rather felt sad not finishing than felt sad have ran at three hours.
I was so hurt because I think that was the first race I have ever not finished and it was an international race, so it’s one of those things. Probably I believe that it was stopping me from something else, you know. The recovery process. If I’m in the Olympics team, training to start all over again, so I was at peace with it.
Professional athletes need to keep the future in mind
BB: I think you make an important point there for elite athletes and I think a lot of average athletes don’t actually realise that. You guys make a living out of doing this and going and racing a marathon. Obviously you had goals and expectations of what you are hoping for. If things don’t go according to plan, for me there’s no point in going and pushing yourself like you say, for a three-hour marathon.
Because your recovery process is going to be so much longer after that. That you’re not going to have the opportunity to race another marathon potentially, soon after that. Whether it’s an Olympic year or not. But you’ve got to think about the long-term ramifications and the impact it’s going to have on your career going and finishing a marathon just for the sake of finishing it.
MM: A lot of athletes don’t think about all those things, all those factors. It’s not just the body recovering, even the mind. Mentally you need to recover for the next race because if you have a bad race your confidence will be as down as your first kilometre or anything. I thought about all those things and I believe that now I’m fine. I can race any time; I’ve healed my body.
I didn’t take much except the cold and the little bit of flu that I got from there. But other than that I feel that we need to take all those things into consideration. Even going to the Olympics, we have been running, athletes have been running races and marathons. Now it’s about three and a half months to the Olympics and you need to start another cycle. Train for the Olympics if you are in the team or if you are planning to run another marathon overseas toward the end of the year.
BB: Yes, could not agree more. Mapaseka, for people who don’t know much about your running background, where did it all start for you, as a little girl were you pretty active, were you always running around?
Mapaseka’s running pedigree
MM: I started running at the age of 13. For me it was not necessarily about running. Growing up from Soweto, when they say there was a teacher who was an official who, she’s still an official to this day. She’s about 84 years right now, she used to take me to cross country races.
For me it was more of an outing going to Boksburg, going to Randburg than going to actually run a cross country race. But I think I fell in love with going out than running, before I could start running. You know maybe over a year I would go to cross country races, track races and not run.
But at the end of the day I started running and I think it paid off. Got a scholarship to run for the school, for instance my school and the coach there which is the principal had showed more interest in building the athlete’s careers.
Giving them better education which is more, I’m going to work for that. Because coming from Soweto and going to a so-called model C school, and not having to pay the fees, and doing what you love at that moment, it was a bonus for me. You know so running for me has done so much that I could have even done for myself.
BB: You’ve managed to win quite a few races in your career, you’ve run some incredible times. What would you say so far has been the highlight and the biggest moment of your running career?
MM: I would say 2013 was. I have so many moments but 2013 was one of the highlights of my career breaking from a track athlete to a roadrunner. Smashing the Spar ladies records and running my first marathon. Being the South African Sportswoman of the Year, which is something that I have never even thought in my wildest dreams. You know that I would become South African Sportswoman of the Year in that year.
It’s the moment that I still cherish to this day. I think 2010, being a South African champion in the 800 metres just after the maternity leave, it has changed my life and brought life into my life. Knowing that I can still be an athlete and that led me to resign from my job knowing that I am better than I thought I was. I can still be a good athlete amongst the best in South Africa or in the world.
Gunning for the SA Marathon record
BB: What do you still want to achieve in your running career?
MM: I think the records, especially the marathon record has stayed way too long in those books. I feel that someday and one day will come because last year in Hannover I was on time for that record. Most of the race. But I think the cold gets to me as well over in Hannover where I ran my 2:31. But I still think with commitment and training that record must just move from those record books. I believe that I’m one person that will break that record, personally.
BB: Well Mapaseka, I love your ambition and your drive and just your work ethic. I know how hard you train and how hard you race. You just look like you’re enjoying it every minute of the day. So I want to wish you best of luck in the build-up to Rio.
I’m keeping fingers crossed that you do get onto that plane and that qualifying time of yours is quick enough. Yes, we look forward to seeing you performing and racing and representing South Africa, not just here but around the world as well, best of luck.
MM: Thank you so much and thank you so much for the time that you have given me.