The reigning Comrades Marathon champion Stephen Muzhingi took part in the race for five consecutive years but failed to break into the top 10.
Muzhingi’s big break finally came in 2009 when he won the big prize before repeating the same feat in 2010 and 2011.
But it was a different case for Masiyatsva Chasara, who rose to stardom in his debut participation in the Comrades Marathon.
Born and bred in Torwood, Redcliff near Kwekwe, Chasara shocked many comrades in this year’s edition as he managed to bulldoze into the top 10, subsequently coming sixth in the marathon that he was running for the first time.
In an exclusive interview with Standardsport, Chasara attributed all the success to fellow Zimbabwean athletes, particularly Luwis Masunda, his long-time friend.
Chasara narrated his long but miserable story about his athletics career. From the look of things, if it was not for Masunda, Chasara would have retired from athletics long back due to lack of sponsorship and injuries that threatened his career.
Chasara started accidentally running in grade seven when the athlete who was supposed to run the 3 000m race did not turn up during a schools competition. He said their school needed only one point to beat other schools that had participated in the competitions.
“I was seated on the grandstands with my friends, but I just told myself that I had to go and get that much needed single point,” Chasara said.
He performed extremely well in the race coming out fourth. From that day Chasara started running long distances. Apart from 3 000m, Chasara added another race, the 5 000m to his schedule.
“To be frank, I was like a substitute in these races as the school had other good athletes for the categories,” he added.
Despite being a substitute, Chasara did not look back as he joined Ziscosteel Athletics Club in 1993 as a junior athlete.
His first top race was when he represented Midlands in Harare in a cross-country race where he came out 18th.
“It was my first time to run a marathon after being recommended by Chivaka (late) who was the coach at Zisco then.”
After completing his secondary education at Drake, Chasara was offered employment at the company as a plant operator.
Things started shaping up for the athlete when he came out third in the Themba Musekiwa/Kwekwe Festival 42km half marathon in 2001, which was won by Masunda.
It was that time that Masunda went to South Africa to explore other avenues that saw him joining Nedbank Athletics Club.
When he came back home, Masunda assisted Chasara to get a passport.
“He got a letter that I was to use to get a passport quickly. I had no money to travel to Harare and Masunda again came to my rescue. After getting the passport Masunda organised a ticket for me to travel to South Africa to go and take part in the City-to-City Marathon in 2005. He paid for everything that I needed. I ran the race and came out on number 25 and we both agreed that I needed more time to prepare for the races,” he added.
In 2006 Chasara took part in the Coca Cola half marathon and finished number eight before coming back home to run the Mutare 42km race in which he finished 10th.
He went back to South Africa again to take part in the City-to-City which was from Durban to Pretoria but again he performed dismally.
Zimbabwe Athletes donated athletics equipment to Chasara
After the race two more Zimbabwean athletes donated running shoes to Chasara.
“Tabitha Tsatsa gave me a pair of running shoes. I had no proper running shoes by that time. Sipho Ncube also gave me a pair of racer shoes and advised me not to use the trainer shoes which she said were not good for a race.”
All hell broke loose in 2007 when Chasara started encountering injuries when he was preparing for three races in South Africa which he all missed.
“In 2008 I started training again preparing for City-to-City and Less com. I had to sell all the property that I had for me to travel to South Africa.
Unfortunately I was again injured three weeks before City-to-City and I missed the race for the second time. I had to run a 42km after some months of recovering and came out fifth,” he said.
Chasara has cleared that he is still a Zimbabwean and belongs to Ziscosteel Athletics Club as many things happened when he finished the race.
“My details were not found under the foreigner’s category, so many people thought I had changed my citizenship, No!”
Chasara recorded a time of 5h 44 minutes and pocketed R20 000 for the sterling performance.