HARARE – Reigning Two Oceans champion Mike Fokoroni is not despondent after failing to add the Comrades Marathon to his trophy cabinet.
For the veteran long distance runner, who rose from a mine groundsman to a respected long distance runner, it is no so much about the accolades than it is about the money.
“Every time I lace my spikes it’s racing to survive,” Fokoroni tells the Daily News.
“Remember I am not employed. I run in order for me to survive. Finance remains a big challenge but at the moment I am happy nemari dzandiri kuhwina zviri nani (with the monies I am getting it’s okay).”
Fokoroni, who is known as the Fox, raced to a hard-fought fourth place finish at the Comrades Marathon held two weeks ago which was won by South African David Gatebe.
The South African finished in five hours, 18 minutes and 19 seconds, breaking the existing record of five hours, 19 minutes and 49 seconds.
Fokoroni was not far off, finishing in 5 hours 35 minutes and nine seconds, pocketing close to R80 000 in the process.
“I was in good shape before the race, I was calm and ready for it,” the Bindura-based runner said.
“But the race was very tough, more than it has been before. It was so intense that the 5 hours 20 minutes down run record set by Leinoid from Russia was broken by David Gabede who eventually won in 5 hours 18 minutes.
“My finish time could have got me to second place or so during the past years but not this time.”
At least 22 000 participants took part in the gruelling race in cool and wet conditions in Durban and Fokoroni believes the experience will remain etched in his memory for a long time to come.
“Truly, the ultra-marathon was not just a race but it was big fighting,” he says.
“South Africa dominated the top three but running as team Zimbabwe sometimes doesn’t work because we train in different areas. We tried it but the plan failed.”
Fokoroni sang the praises of the Zimbabwe talent production line saying it was the reason Zimbabweans continued to dominate marathons across the Limpopo.
He, however, noted that lack of local sponsorship and limited funding remained a constant drawback.
Fokoroni is a living testimony of the hardships that befall athletes and their road to success having begun as a part-time groundsman at Bindura’s Trojan Nickel Mine over a decade ago with the art of long distance running only an ambition.
But his road to fame would truly begin after he enlisted the coaching expertise of legendary sprinter Artwell Mandaza.
At that time Mandaza doubled up as an administrative officer and coach for the mine’s athletics club.
Fokoroni’s life-changing moment finally came in 2006 when he ventured into South Africa to compete in the Soweto Marathon.
Spurred by the desire to better his life, Fokoroni attained a commendable eighth place finish which turned out to be the beginning of a roller coaster career.
“That’s a serious problem to the majority of many elite Zimbabwean athlete,” he says.
“We do all the costs on our own and then our South African clubs assist us when we arrive here.”
Among an array of his achievements is a personal best marathon time of 2:13:17 hours, achieved against some of the finest long distance runners at the Beijing Olympics where he placed 11th.
In 2007, Fokoroni finished 16th at the 11th IAAF World Championships in Osaka, Japan finishing that marathon 2:21:52.
He finished eighth at the Comrades ultra-marathon of 87km in June 2013.
The Mount Darwin-raised athlete has participated in a number of marathons all over the world in countries including North Korea, Japan, South Africa and China among others.
At 39, he is not showing signs of slowing down anytime soon.