Trail Hero of the Month: June - Thabang Madiba

It's time for Rockhoppin' Trail's Trail Hero of the Month. No more appropriate a time for Thabang Madiba, this month crowned South African Trail Champion (long distance), for the second year running. He blitzed the 38km SA long distance champs course, the Outeniqua Traverse, beating his speedster buddy Lucky Miya by almost 3 mins, and securing his crown as champ for the second consecutive year.

I chatted across the miles with Thabang to find out what makes this champ tick.

Age:   30 years
Occupation:   Line Operator at Nissan SA main plant in Rosslyn, Pretoria

LD:  Where were you born, raised and schooled? 
TM:  I was born, raised and schooled in Ga-Rankuwa, north of Pretoria.

LD:   How many years have you been running? 
Thabang on his way to securing his 2nd title as SA trail champ
TM:   I started running in 1999 when I was in Std 6 (Grade 8). After winning my first bronze medal in the boys U17 1500m, I started taking my running seriously. I qualified for the South African cross country champs in 2001 and performed very well, placing 7th overall in the boys 4km. Cross country was always my favourite type of running - I was never a good road or track runner, and I think that’s why I enjoy trail running so much. 
In 2009 I did my first trail race, the New Balance Maxi Cross 15km in Groenkloof Nature Reserve. I won it with a 3 min gap, defeating one of SA’s best road runners. That afternoon I ran the 4km cross country race and came 3rd overall. That’s when I realised my potential. From then I started doing more trail races, with the Winter and Summer Trail Series in Gauteng.

LD:   How did your trail running progress from there? 
TM:   Winning my first trail series race really motivated me, and I started searching the Internet for other races to do. My first big trail race was in Cape Town, the Two Oceans Trail Run 2012, and I placed 3rd overall. I'm now a Salomon sponsored athlete and I love being part of the Salomon team. My love for trail running is growing every day. I enjoy being outdoors because I feel free and connected to nature.

LD:   What are your trail running hopes and dreams? 
TM:   My dream and wish is to run for Salomon International, win an international Skymarathon, and run as many mountains as possible, especially in Europe because most of the world class runners are in Europe and there are plenty of big mountains there. It also brings joy to my heart to think of racing against the world's best - I hope one day I will live my dream.

LD:  Who are your trail running heroes - local and international? 
TM:   Kilian Jornet, Marco De Gasperi, Ryan Sandes, Lucky Miya, and AJ Calitz.

LD:   What other races will you be running this year? 
TM:   The World Champs in Colorado, the Otter, and maybe the Oman 6-day desert race.

LD:   What's your motto in life?
TM:   Always live life to the full.

LD:   Who is your role model?
TM:   Kilian Jornet. He changed my views on trail running. After meeting him and the Salomon team (Ryan, Anna Frost and Greg Vollet) at the Salomon seminar in Groenkloof Nature Reserve in 2011,  I started to take trail running very seriously and dreaming big. I'd love to race against Kilian some day. Listening to him speak and watching him run really changed my life, and made me want to run up every mountain I see.

Photo credits to Hayley Hagen and to Peter Kirk Media.

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