Tete Dijana may be South Africa’s biggest diamond in the rough to date. Cuan Walker examines his impressive results at Comrades, his 50km world record, and wonders if we’ll see the Comrades record rewritten this June.
Tete Morena Dijana crossed the finish line of the 2019 Comrades Marathon after 6 hours and 25 minutes on the road. It was good enough for 50th place on what was his debut run – yet the tiny man from Mafikeng was not pleased with his race. That day Gerda Steyn had made history by becoming the first woman to finish a Comrades uprun in under 6 hours.
The Comrades Marathon went into a hiatus in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, and when it returned in 2022, South Africa unearthed a new ultra distance star as none other than
Tete Dijana demolished a class field to take victory. A few months earlier he provided a glimpse of what was to come, finishing 2nd in the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km, in which South Africa’s Stephen Mokoka set a new 50km world record.
For a man who was clocking long hours as a security guard, Tete even took unpaid leave in an effort to realise his dreams. “I knew I had to make changes in my running if I wanted to
succeed and joining Nedbank was the first step of my plan,” recalls Tete.
“When I finished 2nd at the 50km I really believed that now I could make it in this sport, and the next step was to join the training group of Dave Adams.”
Adams was the coach of Edward Mothibi who had won Comrades in 2019 when Tete made his debut. “Edward is from the same town as me so his win really motivated me to say one day that will be me,” he recalls.
When Tete joined Coach Adams, his group tackled a tough training regimen which saw them train in the high altitudes of Rustenberg and Dullstroom. On Comrades race day, Tete emerged victorious, with training partners Edward Mothibi and Dan Matshailwe finishing 2nd and 3rd.
“All six of us in the camp ended up getting gold at Comrades and it was an amazing effort,” says Tete.
Many have seen Comrades stars come and go, unable to handle the limelight but Tete showed just how committed to the sport he is by returning to this year’s Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km – taking an emphatic victory and shattering Stephen Mokoka’s world
record from the year before. What’s equally impressive is the fact that he passed the marathon mark in an official time of 2:12:37.
With that speed one would question whether Tete could perhaps become a world-class marathoner if he was not to focus on the ultras – but make no mistake, the 35-year-old returns to Durban on 11 June intent on not only defending his title but perhaps also setting a new course record.