Port Elizabeth runner Nkosinati Vlakbok, 34, is one of seven men from Walmer Township who did well in the Comrades Marathon last Sunday and he has a dream of developing many more successful athletes in the community.
After getting back to PE with his Comrades silver medal this week he visited his old higher primary school, John Masiza, and asked for 10 promising athletes to train. He is waiting for an answer from the school.
Vlakbok, who is passionate about the Walmer Township community, said in an interview that sport played a major role in keeping young people away from drugs, alcohol and crime which snared so many township youngsters. But he said there was no support or infrastructure for promoting athletics in the township. The seven locals who collected five silver medals and two bronze medals on Sunday had done so without the benefit of sponsors or significant support systems.
He said he wanted to put his energies into creating a strong running culture in Walmer Township. Starting with 10 youngsters, aged from 11-years-old, he planned to start conducting physical training and imparting knowledge about all facets of the sport, including nutrition, shoes, clothing and the right mental approach. A high priority was to find a sponsor for the initiative. He aimed to have a squad of runners ready for the Train Race in September and he wanted to establish a regular fun run through the streets of Walmer Township to raise the profile of the sport in the community.
Vlakbok, who runs for Triangle Athletics Club, began running while at school, after being encouraged to take up the sport by his older brother, Nelson, who earned a bronze last Sunday, and who leads the Holy Spirit International Church in Walmer Township. He has earned hundreds of trophies and medals to date but it is the Comrades that inspires him most. He ran his fourth consecutive Comrades last week and in 2010 he won the Bill Rowan Trophy for the most improved Comrades time.
The key to running a good Comrades was to stick to your game plan and not react to people passing you, he said. “You need to remember that when you are training you are running on your own.”
Typically Vlakbok gets up early to get in a two hour run before work. After work he likes to run for an hour and a half, and on Saturdays he does a two hours and 40 minutes training run. He doesn’t train on Sundays because of his church commitments. He teaches Sunday School classes and believes that his love for young people will be an asset in his dream of becoming a full time running coach.
Currently he works as a fitter at ID Control. He said his employer was very encouraging and the company had paid his Comrades transport costs. He is married to Nontsikelelo and has two children. Anybody interested in supporting Vlakbok’s dream of developing athletics in Walmer township can contact him at 084 998 0304.
The Walmer Township runners who earned silver medals in the Comrades are Nkosinati Vlakbok, Rasme Mutekile, Zolile (surname not available), John Rafaini and Luyanda (surname not available). The bronze medalists are Nelson Vlakbok and Steven Fangela.