Jethro Thebe

Zimbabwea��s grand daddy of marathons

Nkosilathi Sibanda
WHEN others his age spend the day sipping on tea, farming or banter in townships, Jethro Thebe dreams of winning marathons.

At the grand age of 66, Thebe is a mean machine when it comes to marathons. He has taken part since the 1980s and there is no stopping him.

The secret behind his persistence on races lies in his diet. He neither indulges in wine, beer or beef. The athlete has had a palate of purely vegan dishes for more than 30 years.

a�?I eat vegetables, beans and potatoes a lot. I used to eat beef as a proud Ndebele man, but I do not like it anymore. Ask any doctor, they will tell you how bad beef is to an athletea��s body. Bring me anything vegetarian and I will run marathons for life,a�? he said.

The a�?grand daddya�? of athletics always turns heads when he steps up at the starting line. Recently he finished the Tanganda Half Marathon at Mutare Sports Club and the popular Econet Victoria Falls marathon.

Thebe has run and won prized medals at the hardest marathon in the country, the PPC Zimbabwe Matopos 33 Miler as well.

He gave up playing football just after Zimbabwe was declared an independent state. The reasons, as Thebe put it, were that a�?there was no future in being a soccer player at the timea�?.

The old man, a living legend, who continues to inspire people of all age groups, is the countrya��s oldest marathon runner. He has done what a lot of people would deem impossible. But for him, age is just but a number. At 66, Thebe said he has fended for his immediate family and raised many children of his extended relatives but still the pressure of life has not deterred him from running.

a�?It all began when I decided to quit soccer. I played for Highlanders for a brief season or so and also featured for many teams in Bulawayo.

When growing up, football was the only sport that we black people in the townships had interest in. I was indeed a star but soon gave up. I had no future. I went on to advance myself by training for hands-on jobs that would bring enough and healthy food on the table.a�?

Starting a life of running races was a decision that would change his life.

a�?I was a fan of athletics and when I told a friend that I wanted to run a marathon, they laughed. I surprised a lot of people who never thought a gifted soccer player would trade his boots to sweat all day chasing the wind. From that moment I have lived a different life. I do not think I would be alive had I remained a soccer player.a�?

Thebe has an exceptional story of achieving the unachievable and a perfect example of living healthy and happy.

a�?I earn money from running, so I do not expect anyone to make fun of it. I am as fit as many young athletes envied the world over,a�? said Zimbabwea��s grand daddy of marathons.