London Marathon calls for Durban running gardener, Michael Ndlovu
The 34km that KwaZulu-Natal gardener Michael Ndlovu runs to work and back almost daily has been preparing him for the biggest race of his life. Ndlovu, 52, is set to run the 39th London Marathon on April 28, joining 38,000 others. This is quite a feat as 386,050 runners applied for a spot.
His dedication to his running has touched his employer, businessman Jonny Friedman, who knew he had to help Ndlovu get to London.
"Running is my life. I have to run every day, I need to run every day," Ndlovu said. His previous marathon times also put him near the top of his age group.
"Michael is exceptional," said Friedman. "There is a quietness and strength about him. When we learnt he runs the equivalent of a marathon almost every day, we knew we had to help him."
Ndlovu has been competing in the Comrades Marathon for more than 20 years, but in 2017 he achieved his personal best time of 6:49:41, finishing first in his age group and 48th overall.
From Tuesday to Friday, Ndlovu runs from his home in Ntuzuma in Durban to Morningside, and back.
Speaking through a Zulu interpreter, Ndlovu said: "I've never been overseas. I'm so excited to get to the marathon. I'm going to try for a time of two hours 35 minutes, depending on the weather."
The current men's record for the marathon was set by Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge in 2016 in a time of 2:02:05.
Friedman says he has no doubt Ndlovu will do well.
"My brother-in-law works for the public sporting body Sport England, and when I gave him Michael's age and marathon times he informed us that Michael would easily make the top 30 in his age category in the London Marathon.
"So we invested in two really serious pairs of running shoes for him and we're sending him to compete," Friedman said.
Besides the Comrades, Ndlovu ran the Durban City Marathon last year in 2:41:31, finishing first in his age category and 15th overall. He also came first in his age category and seventh overall in the Zululand Marathon with a time of 79:02.
Ndlovu said he began running as a means of getting to work and only entered his first race in 1997, at the age of 30. He is a member of the Zakhele Running Club."I started to train in 2013 when I met fellow runner Michael Langa. Now we run together every weekend. He has helped me work on my technique and speed."Growing up in Mandeni on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast, one of nine siblings, he remembers happy days playing soccer with his brothers on the streets. One of the local players encouraged him to get fit by running. And he's been doing it ever since.Ndlovu will travel on his own to London, but Friedman said they had been overwhelmed with people offering to assist Ndlovu while he's there."People are really excited for me. It does make me nervous because I want to make them all proud," Ndlovu said.