By Ayanda Frances Felem
From a small village called Nkayi in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe long-distance runner Nobukhosi Tshuma is working hard to achieve her Olympic participation dream.
The 27-year-old mother says she’s working hard to improve her marathon time, as she knows exactly what needs to be done to achieve her goals and to qualify for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
She believes hard work, dedication and diligence are the only way to achieve this. Tshuma is a hairdresser in her free time when she’s not running but depending on the booing she gets.
Tshuma who is running for the Ensika AC club in Johannesburg is being coached by the four-time Olympian Hendrick Ramaala. And her dream is to qualify for the 2024 Olympics.
In 2019, Tshuma was among four athletes announced by Under Armour for their squad of UA Elite Runners to join their athlete family for the 2020 season. Something she calls a blessing in disguise because Tshuma says running without a sponsor was the toughest thing she had to endure growing up.
“I’m now working hard so that I can improve my marathon times as the qualifying time is two hours and twenty-nine minutes for the marathon to the ladies race,” said a wife and a mother of three kids.
“With my career right now I want to improve my times and I want to see myself running international competitions like – but for one to do that you have to work hard and overcome a lot of things. Growing up in Zimbabwe without a proper running team and structure was a struggle for me and my family.
“It was hard running without the support back home, I was struggling to get running shoes and some other basic stuff. But I was happy after getting a sponsor from Under Armour. That is the biggest fortune that happened in my life last year.”
Being adopted at an early age
Tshuma moved to Johannesburg from her hometown of Nkayi at an early age after she was adopted. An Eswatini woman adopted her when her parents passed away when she was 12-year-old. It’s in Johannesburg that Tshuma realised her potential for running.
“I started my running here in South Africa after I moved from Zimbabwe when I was 12-years-old. I was adopted by another lady called Swazi Gama from Swaziland,” she said.
“She’s the one who was looking after me for many years. She’s the one who was supporting me through my training and helping me with some training clothes and shoes.”
Taking running career seriously
Tshuma has since won several races since kick starting her career as a runner. It has since become a success because of her hard work and dedication.
It was at the age of 18 that she decided to lose weight through running and discovered her long-distance running potential. Something she describes as a miracle and life-changing moment.
She believes high altitude practice works best for her preparations and being in Johannesburg has added to her advantage to do better. Although many athletes would prefer the likes of Kenya and Ethiopia, for her South Africa is still her best place to camp and prepare for any big race.
“I started running in 2012 at the age of 18, I was doing it because I wanted to lose weight. But I ended up enjoying the training – I became a full-time athlete and I started taking running seriously in 2014 so that I started training hard to achieve my goals,” she said.
“Since I have started running I have won many races including big marathons. So far I have achieved a lot in running, I have improved my times and my distance from 10km to 42km and that’s a big achievement.
“For my preparation, I don’t choose the country even here in South Africa. I can qualify, what I need is to work hard and get more support like training gear and supplements. If I can do that then it’s all possible.”
Struggling during Covid-19 and financial support from the club
The coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult for Tshuma to keep her ends meet and to survive financially. Her running and training pattern was interrupted as she was forced to do things at home, something she calls stressful.
She said her team is still thinking about taking part in this year’s Two Oceans Marathon and Comrades Marathon after the two marathons were held virtually for the past two years due to coronavirus, but no decision has been taken yet.
“Before the lockdown, the majority of my training was running without exercises, it took me a very long time to adjust with strength exercises. I was not able to visit my coach and training partners to push hard,” she said.
“My training before was based on many short term goals which have now changed. Thankfully the situation is getting better now we can train free in parks which brings better focus.
“My club has been supporting me financially but it’s been difficult to survive without competing in races. I used to earn good prize money which is no longer there. But now that things are back to normal, things are much better – being able to run outside and partake in big races/marathons has been huge and amazing.
“I am keen and would love to run them but it’s in the hands of my coach, we will decide soon if we will be taking part or not but it would be great to finally after a two-year break to hit the road again and realize my dream – chase what I want to achieve, working towards my dream goal to be able to be in the team heading to France in 2024.”