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A World Champion – Collen Makaza Overcomes Hard Times

by on July 19, 2012

Collen has been managed by me for 3 years and I can say he and I have gone through a huge amount together in this short space of time. He is probably the model client for any manager. Loyal, dedicated and honest. Which I can tell you is pretty rare to get all 3 attributes from one athlete.

In 2009 Collen did “Rabbit Duty” for a club at Comrades. He has a PB marathon time of 2H15 so has the credentials and the speed to do this job. His job was to string the field out as much as possible as having the speed as well as more than capable of running the full distance, 89km, many of the top athletes in the race would have seen him as a potential threat. He went through half way in 2H34 and a few seconds which is still the record to half way Comrades.  The same year he went on to claim 2nd position at the then Blue IQ City to City Ultra Marathon, which paid great money that year. 

His form was coming on and he was now developing into a good all round athlete. It was 2010, and the focus was on Collen going all out for the win at Two Oceans Ultra. Training went well and going into the race all the signs were there that he had the complete package to win this race. As racing goes it just wasn’t his day and he went through bad patches during the race but hung in there. He entered the stadium in 10 place and was making his way to the line, and with the crowds gathered cheering he didn’t hear an athlete coming up behind him and was passed with a mere 20 meters from the finish line, so ended in 11th. The man was distraught to say the least. As you know only top 10 positions get paid. So NO PAY DAY for him, or me for that matter L

Go back to the drawing board and focus on the IAU World 50km in Ireland. Collen goes to Ireland and runs the 50km like a Champion would. He smashed the field and won the race in 2H47. A great learning experience for him as the 50km was as very flat course, not something we are used to running on in SA. Now IAU World 50km Champion things are looking good.

Nedbank running Club offer him a Contract and he duly accepts this, and we head on to Soweto Marathon 2010. This is where it all goes wrong. At 27km into the race I was on the road and he stops running. I jump out the car and rush over to him, and he says that he doesn’t feel comfortable and feels he cannot move. My job kicks in, and naturally I must ask if it is a muscle injury, to which he replies, NO. So I push him to get back in the race, and go 3km up the road. Sometimes the guys just need a little extra encouragement and motivation. He reaches the 30km mark and I can see his mind and heart have already checked out of the race and he is not happy. I pull him off the road and into the car. Bad day at the office L

We gear up for Two Oceans 2011, this is his main race for 2011 and this is what he is contracted to Nedbank for. Half way into the race he is struggling, and just not even in contention. Finished in the top 30 somewhere, not a good day, so I prefer to just not remember what the end position was. Collen then gives Comrades a run a few weeks later and just cannot do it so bails at +-45km. He is now injured right hip going into his gluet. Rest REST REST and loads of physio to get this right. We make a decision that defending his 2010 World Title is just not even a consideration so pretty much his year is over from a running point. It gets worse, as Nedbank pretty much cancel his contract straight after Two Oceans even though he had 12 months and went with some arbitory paragraph about reviewing after 3 months, but we were already at the end of 4 months. So we are pretty pissed off with this but cut our losses.

With taking some big hits I think Collen lost his way a bit and was feeling like his running was over at the top level.  I do feel that he had lost his confidence to win races and or the desire wasn’t there anymore.

Collen gets over the injury and we start training very slowly and easy in December 2011. He tells me that he is winning Two Oceans this year. This is his bogey race from the last 2 years, so I back him and we go all out. But always at the back of my mind I am worried about this race. As they say, Horses for Courses. As well as was worried about his mental state. Winning is a habit and he hadn’t won a race for a long time. But I had done what I could do, but never let on that I was concerned. But I back him and have to give him my 200%.

He runs like a machine, and to be honest I haven’t seen him run so confidently and passionately since winning the World Title in 2010. He was there with a chance of winning right up to the last couple of kilometers. He finished in a great 3rd position. I met him when he crossed the line, and I could see that he had given his all. He looked at me and I could see he was overcome with emotion, elated, sad, pride just everything. I hugged him and all he could say to me “we did it, we did it!”

I have to be honest; it was a great thing that it had been raining as I did shed a tear or two, as I was so proud, of him and his achievement. He had overcome his bogey race, and knowing what he went through with his injury being out for over 6 months, this result was better than winning any race.

Collen and I are not merely manager and athlete, Collen is as good as a member of the family, and whilst he is still my client he is like a Son. We have a very good relationship and he even named his new born baby boy, Craig Junior, which I was very much taken aback when he told me.

 To overcome so many obstacles and set backs, a testament that Collen is a TRUE CHAMPION and I have HUGE respect for him and his abilities as an athlete.

I would like to add a special word of thanks to the guys at 32GI who never gave up on Collen and stuck with him through the bad times and always believed in him, which is more than I can say for the others. Loyalty and belief, thanks guys.

Collen is back and can only get better and is hungry again to win, win, win.


Outside of running, Collen is proving to be a good business man as well. He has an established running club in Zimbabwe, Mr Pace AC, and host an annual 10km and 42.2km races in Harare during December each year. This year will see the running of the 3rd annual race, and the response each year from athletes and corporate sponsors has been good and is growing. Its Just fantastic to see and goes to show that if you put in the hard work, it will pay off.

More on Collen Makaza at or follow Collen on Twitter @collenmakazaImage


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