ON March 2016, at around 5:30am, Mike Fokorani’s wife Margarete Chinodafuka and her four children woke up to watch their dad in action in the Two Oceans Marathon, which was being broadcast live.
Across the border in Cape Town Fokorani readied himself for the big race with his customary meal, Future — life cereal, a cup of coffee and two pieces of bread with butter.
In exactly three hours 13 minutes and 33 seconds, Fokorani was the first man to pass the ribbon to win the R250 000 in prize money and another R135 000 in sponsorship deals.
Back home there was untold joy and jubilation. Chinodakufa and the children celebrated first because of what their father had done and also because they knew their life would never be the same again.
“I almost smashed the TV set with joy when he romped to victory. Even if we were looking for a top three finish, who on earth would refuse first position with such huge pickings, no one,” Chinodafuka said while sitting next to her husband at their Bindura home last Friday.
Fokorani said after the race he had to pinch himself to prove it was not a mere dream.
“I asked myself, what do I do, cry, laugh, or scream because I was over the moon with joy,” said Fokorani.
The agreement between Fokorani, his family, manager and Nedbank Athletics team was that the long-distance runner was going to use the race as a tonic to the Comrades Marathon, which is one of the biggest races on the marathon calendar. All the parties had agreed that Fokorani was supposed to finish in the top three to prepare for May 31.
The athlete made a choice to join Nedbank Athletics Club at the beginning of the athletics season in January.
The Bindura-based athlete revealed his secret diet ahead of major marathon races.
“Future — life cereal, a cup of coffee and at times two pieces of bread with butter, margarine or jam, I am done.”
Chinodakufa confirmed her husband’s diet before races.
“I have become used to this diet as well. I don’t make a mistake when it comes to his diet, especially when he is preparing for a race. At times I do a little trick and give him macaroni or spaghetti.”
Chinodakufa said she had always known her husband would land it big one day.
“We knew that one day he was going to strike gold. He married me as an athlete so I had to get used to that life. It’s unfortunate we were not there to cheer him, but we watched on TV,” she said.
Fokorani, who was born 39 years ago on January 10, knows very well that his age is on the other side in terms of competitive running, but he is not daunted.
“I know my age has gone to the other side of the competitive line but this is the right time to scoop rewards from ultras. This is the right age to participate in ultras because the bone would have got used to running conditions for a long time.’
But how does Fokorani intend to use the windfall he earned in Cape Town last month.
“I have this nine-roomed house which I won. It needs a lot of touch-ups. I am sure I am going to make it look nice from the money. As a way of paying back to the sport that has eventually given me this small fortune, I have sat down with my wife and we agreed that we are going to channel a certain amount of money to the development of athletics in Bindura. I have a group of youngsters that I train who would also want to eat from the same cake,” said Fokorani.
He added, “But this was not going to be possible without God. I will live to thank God because since [I started] my athletics career, this has been my biggest prize and I hope it will not be my retirement package,” Fokorani said.
Fokorani once won the Podgoris Marathon in Europe but had only $5 000 to show for his effort. Last year he came second in the Soweto marathon where he won R120 000, which he said he has to defend and even do much better if possible.
“There is no way that I cannot defend my name in the Soweto Marathon. I have to be there.”
Apart from the nine-roomed house, Fokorani owns a double cab Mazda vehicle and a small head of cattle.
“I knew that one day my athletics career would come to an end, so I bought a few cattle which I keep at my rural home in Mt Darwin, Dotito, this house and this car. But I have been doing well though.”
Fokorani used to own a motor spares shop in Bindura but he has since closed it down due to the harsh economic conditions.
“Actually, we were now running a loss so we decided to shut it down.”
However, Fokorani finds himself between a rock and a hard place after his handlers made it clear that he has to take part in the Comrades Marathon.
“I am just waiting for my manager who is away in Asia. We had agreed that Two Oceans was an appetiser for the Comrades, but winning it, I had thought I should forego the Comrades. But my club still insists that I should run. It’s all about money; I will have to weigh options.”
He said lack of financial stability forced athletes to do their things in a disorderly manner, participating in any race that comes up because they would be in need of money.
“This is dangerous for our health as sports people. After such a big race, one needs to relax, train to recover for at least three months.”
Asked whether he had the zeal to participate in the Comrades Marathon, Fokorani had this to say; “This year I am super fit. Now that I have a bit of financial back up, I have to take time to prepare for my next race. I am ready.”
Fokorani and Chinodakufa are blessed with four children — three boys and a girl — but the eldest son seems to be going worlds apart from his father’s sporting career.
“I have a passion for cricket. I have watched my dad run and I don’t think I can do it,” the eldest son said.