The three times consecutive winner of the world’s hardest marathon, the runner of the second fastest Comrades ever and the Jabu Sports Star of the Month, Stephen Muzhingi agreed to an exclusive interview with All Things Jabu. And here it is
All Things Jabu (ATJ): Hi Stephen. Congratulations on winning the toughest road race known to man for a third consecutive time!
Stephen Muzinghi (SM): Thank you!
ATJ: So lets start at the beginning. What made you want to conquer the ultra marathon?
Stephen Muzhingi: I loved running, and thought I could do well at it. After my first attempt, I think I finished in position 157 (ATJ: The comrades website has Stephen listed as 115 in 2005), it brought me back to earth. I suppose the seed had then been planted and I felt I had a point to prove not only to me, but aso for my family. I decided that I will work really hard to win this race.
ATJ:You have just emulated Alan Robb and Bruce Fordyce by winning 3 in a row, whats your next goal with the race?
Stephen Muzhingi:I would love to make it four in a row and become only the second person to do this (ATJ: Bruce Fordyce won 8 in a row in the 80′s). If all goes according to plan then I would have to say that I want to chase Bruce Fordyce record.
ATJ: Do you think you could beat Bruces record of 9 wins?
Stephen Muzhingi:: I have to say yes because I want this very badly! Make no mistake it will be extremely hard to do, but I will give it a good go nonetheless.
ATJ: You famously ran the second fastest time in history of 05h23 in 2009, do you think you can beat this?
Stephen Muzhingi: Yes, I know I can beat this. I was trained to run a 5H20 this year. I had to secure the win before chasing the record and this years race was very different from previous years. Fanie (ATJ: Matsipa finished second 2 minutes behind Stephen) went out early and I couldn’t let him get away. As a result we ran far to0 fast in the beginning stages. I went through half way 7 minutes faster than planned. But I’ve learnt a lot from this. I now know that I can run at a higher pace earlier in the race, so will just work on being bale to maintain that high pace for as long a period as possible. Then hopefully I will be able to break Leonid Shestov’s record (ATJ: Leonid Shestov rand a 5h20 in 2007) which is another one of my goals.
ATJ: Can you tell us about your training programs?
Stephen Muzhingi: Unfortunately I cant say to much about these! But I have a typical programme of strength, speed and endurance work. I also have secret training that I do on my own which I think gives me the edge for now. But its not easy, as I train for many hours on my own and sometimes do runs of 4 hours with no water. I always push hard and remember that saying: “No pain, no gain!”
ATJ: What about your diet?
Stephen Muzhingi:Nothing really special there. I eat sadza, chicken and meat but you cant beat sadza the Zimbabwean way. Its my power and energy booster. I also use supplements such as 32GI in training.
ATJ:If you werent a marathon runner, what would you be doing?
I would probably have a regular job like being a barber because I can cut hair and used to do this. But I think I would want to be a cameraman. I just love filming things and taking photos. My family often shout at me because I always want to film them around the house and doing things.
ATJ: Speaking of your family, I saw that they were with you at the Comrades this year, did that motivate you further?
Stephen Muzhingi:: Of course. This is one of the reasons why I run. I have a responsibility to my wife and son (ATJ: Erina and Methane) to look after them as well as I can. I spend a lot of time away from them so I must win so that it is worth the time spent away from them.
ATJ: Would you advise Methane to take up ultra marathon running?
SM: He must. He is a Muzinghi and its in our genes. It would be great to see his name on the Comrades winners board too. That being said I will encourage him to do what he desires, because if he doesnt like running then he wont enjoy it and wont excel. He will, in time, make up his mind and I will support him in whatever he wants to do.
ATJ:As you are aware, All Things Jabu is a blog about all sport, so what other sport are you a fan of?
Stephen Muzhingi:: I love soccer and since being in South Africa a lot, I have also started watching cricket and rugby.
ATJ: Favourite teams?
Stephen Muzhingi: In rugby its the Sharks and in cricket the Dolphins (ATJ: He does train in Kwazulu natal). I have to say that in soccer I support Pirates (ATJ: Nooooooooooooo!) in South Africa, much to the disappointment of my agent, Craig Fry, as he is as Kaizer Chiefs man (ATJ: Good man!). We often have a go at each other about this, but all in good humour.
ATJ: Okay Stephen, please put on your Paul and the Octopus hat and tell us which team you think will win the World Cup?
Stephen Muzhingi:Ahh, I must say I support the Amabokoboko (I think thats how you say it) the Springboks, as they are my home from home. Go John Smit and the boys. Do it again!!!
ATJ: Thank you for your time Stephen! Good luck for your future races!
Stephen Muzhingi:: Thank you too! It is always a pleasure! I’d also like to share a word of thanks to everyone that has supported me. Since winning the 3rd time, I have been completely overwhelmed and humbled by the amount of support I have received. I never in my wildest dreams would have expected this. Thank you, thank you to Everyone. Special thanks to Cliff (my coach), Craig (my Manager) and Donnette (ATJ: You can follow her on twitter) (helping with all my social media things Face Book, Blogs, Videos, Twitter. I am learning a lot from this) Lastly thanks to my sponsors, Nike, 32GI. You are all awesome and important in my life.
Last but not least, to my family Erina & Methane I love you and thank you for giving so much to me whilst I follow my dream!
If you think that training for a marathon is hard, what would you say to running 250 miles per week? That is what it takes to become a three-time winner of the world’s best-known ultramarathon, the Comrades race in South Africa.
Stephen Muzhingi, who will run his first big 26.2-mile event in New York on November 6, in May became the first athlete for 23 years to win the Comrades three years in succession.
Is he satisfied? “I am going for 10,” says Muzhingi, who wants to beat Bruce Fordyce’s record nine wins.
Muzhingi's Comrades preparation involves a period when he runs 250 miles per week. He then works on strength, speed, and endurance.
Muzhingi’s Comrades preparation involves a period when he runs 250 miles per week. He then works on strength, speed, and endurance. Although his mileage drops, he still does two long runs each week, including one between 25 and 45 miles on the Comrades route between Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
And to think that when he left his birth home in Zimbabwe to try running in South Africa, giving up his job as a barber, his nickname was “fat rat” He was slightly overweight and had a marathon PR of 2:50.
Now Muzhingi runs the equivalent of more than two consecutive marathons at 2:32 pace. His 2009 Comrades winning time was 5:23:27, the second fastest in the history of the race, which was first held in 1921 as a memorial to the soldiers of World War I. The distance is 89K (56 miles) and the direction alternates between the “up” run from Durban and the “down” run from Pietermaritzburg. When American Alberto Salazar, the three-time New York City Marathon winner, won the “up” Comrades in 1994, he recorded 5:38:39. Muzhingi’s “up” victory this year came in 5:32:45.
Muzhingi hopes to break 2:12 in New York, running 125 miles per week in preparation. Ah yes, the easy life of the mere marathon runner.
Three-time Comrades Marathon winner Stephen Muzhingi has been busy on the property market. Muzhingi, who is preparing for life after athletics, has acquired a house in Tynwald suburb with the cash gift from President Robert Mugabe for winning the Comrades Marathon.
Muzhingi was presented with US$50 000 by President Mugabe who also splashed the same amount to Big Brother Africa winner Wendall Parson last month. Another BBA housemate Vimbai Mutinhiri got US$10 000 .
Muzhingi already owns two houses in Chitungwiza bought with earnings from the Comrades Marathon prize money won in 2009 and 2010.
"I have since bought another 11-roomed house in Tynwald suburb. The house cost me US$55 000 and is part of the money from the Comrades Marathon cash purse and the President's (Mugabe) gift," said Muzhingi.
"I also bought a Nissan Hard body, 3.0 double cab vehicle for US$18 000. I know we are going to meet one day (with President Mugabe) and he is going to ask me what I did with the money that he gave me," Muzhingi said.
Muzhingi's wife Erina Magwaza is the happiest person under the sun after the family managed to buy their third property.
She could not hide her joy when our news crew visited the couple at their Chitungwiza home on Tuesday.
"You know this sport of athletics will one day come to an end for Stephen and since my husband does not have formal work, we have to invest in properties so that we will be able to send our children to school. Stephen still has six or more years of running," she said.
The two were clear that theywere preparing for a new life in Tynwald and are ready to kiss goodbye to life in Chitungwiza.
"We will be leaving this place as soon as possible. The houses we have here have become too small for our property, so we need a spacious home," Erina said.
Muzhingi also clinched a car deal with automobile manufacturer VW South Africa and is given a courtesy vehicle off the production line after every four months. However, the vehicle remains in South Africa since it has not been registered in Zimbabwe.
"You know I had signed a lucrative deal to even use the cars here at home, but the police are always behind me so I have to enjoy fruits of my sweat when I go to South Africa. As I speak the car is in South Africa," Muzhingi said.
The athlete said he was also still pursuing a diplomatic passport offered by the government.
"I have done all the procedures that I was asked to do, by now I think the passport is out. I am told the guys were looking for me when the President met Team Zimbabwe that had just come back from the All Africa Games that were held in Mozambique," he added.
Team Zimbabwe was given US$100 000 cash by Mugabe with swimming pool queen Kirsty Coventry being the greatest beneficiary as she pocketed US$32 000 cash after chalking four gold medals and a silver.
A tragedy hit the Muzhingi family when his mother Siyai (66) died last Thursday at her rural home in Gutu.
She was buried last weekend.
Siyai's death left Muzhingi without any of his parents since his father died when he was still in Grade Two leaving behind six children. Muzhingi said it was disheartening to lose a parent.
"At least she should have seen some of the things that the government of this country has done for me," he said. Recently Muzhingi got another car from the President.