The fastest man in Africa

img23On the 1st May this year Vincent Rakabaele won a 42 kilometre race in Port Elizabeth. He won the race in 2 hours 11 minutes and 44 seconds. So now he is the fastest runner in Africa in this race.

Learn and Teach went to speak to Vincent Rakabaele at Bracken mine in the Eastern Trans­vaal. “I ran well on that day” Vincent told Learn and Teach. “I passed Bernard Rose after 34 kilometres. Then I knew I was going to be the fastest man in Africa. I also run better at the sea. The air is much better at the sea.”

Vincent Rakabaele was born far away from the sea. He was born in the mountains of the Sefekaneng District in Lesotho 33 years ago. He was the oldest child in a family of four boys and three girls.

In 1960 the Rakabaele family suffered a terrible hardship. Vincent’s father was killed. “My father was working in Germiston” says Vincent. “One day some tsotsis attacked him. Then they tied him on a railway line.”

After Vincent’s father died, the family was short of money. Vincent’s mother sold most of the family cattle to look after her children. In 1969 Vincent left school to help his mother. He only spent six years at school.

img24Vincent went to work in the mines in South Africa. He got a job at the Marievale mine near Nigel. He worked underground for a while. But underground work frightened him. He asked for another job. He got another job in the mine hospital.

One day in 1972 Vincent watched some men running at the Marievale mine. He enjoyed watching the runners. He decided he also wanted to run.

“I trained with the other runners” says Vincent. “My first race was over 100 yards. I came last.”

Some other runners told Vincent to try a longer race. He ran in a race over a mile. He finished fourth. But Vincent was not happy.

Vincent then ran in a three mile race. In this race he finished second. Vincent was still not happy.

Vincent decided to try a longer race. He ran in a marathon. A marathon is a 42 kilometre race. Vincent won the race.

Since that time Vincent has won many more races. He has run for Lesotho in New Zealand, Algeria and Canada. And in 1980 he ran in the Olympic Games in Moscow.

“The Olympic Games were very exciting,” says Vincent. “We stayed in a big village with sportsmen from all over the world. Everybody spoke different languages. We spoke to each other with our hands.

“I did not run well in Moscow. I came 23rd in the marathon. I was sick before the race. I had stomach trouble. And I did not like the weather. One day was hot and the next day was cold. But I will run better in the next Olympic Games in America in 1984.”

Vincent has one big wish. “I want to run the fastest marathon in the world” says Vincent. “But I must still train very hard. And I must run against more runners from other countries.

“I must say one last thing. I like winning races. But winning isn’t everything. I love running. When I run I feel like I’m flying. I feel so free.”

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Vincent Rakabaele with his mother, his daughter Lerato and his son Koni

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