Kashiri still hitting the tracks at 62

HARARE - Winning multiple races each year for four decades is no mean achievement, but finding the strength to get up and continue competing is an even more admirable trait.

Many can be forgiven for counting their last days in the trenches of the single sport with great anticipation, but that is not Freddy Kashiri.

At 62, Zimbabwe’s long distance Grandmaster is still keen on running on. 

“At the moment I have just started preparing for next year’s Two Oceans Marathon (a 56-km ultramarathon held annually in Cape Town, South Africa,” Kashiri tells the Daily News after a morning jog in Norton, where he stays.

“It’s only God who can say ‘it’s over’. Apart from that, I don’t see myself stopping,” he says.

“I am 62, but I am still determined to better my times. Most people use old age as an excuse not to get involved in sport, but I am a living proof that age is no barrier.”

The easy going, unassuming Kashiri has won just about everything on the local scene, putting his winners’ medals to at least 300.

“From 1974 up until now, I have been winning more than five races each year. 300 is just the number of the medals I still have with me,” he adds.

“I have won races all over the world and have a room almost full of trophies, medals, certificates and other prizes.”

Born in Mt Darwin and raised there, Kashiri’s rural background probably contributed to the endurance we see these days. 

“I grew up in my rural home of Mt Darwin. I used to love playing chisveru ne chihwande hwande, that’s when I saw I had it in me to run,” he says.

“Pataizo fudza mombe (when we would head cattle) taidzingirira tsuro nembwa (we would chase down rabbits with our dogs).

“So when I went to school the trend of running continued. I was learning at Katakura Primary School which was 16 kilometres from home. I was running to and fro school.

“By the time I was in standard five (grade six). I was competing in the schools’ 100m, 200m and relay teams. I was also a goalkeeper at that stage but my headmaster advised me to concentrate on running.”

Misfortune would strike when his parents failed to fund his secondary education.

Running would soon become the sprightly youngster’s way out.

“I was supposed to go to secondary but my parents failed to secure money for me to go to school. I had to find something to do. In mind I kept thinking ‘if I compete and get money I could do night school’.

“In 1972, I went to Trojan Nickel Mine in Bindura. I was working in the underground shaft but at the same time I was running 5000m and 10 000m for the mine club.”

From there, Kashiri moved to a series of mine clubs that included Mhangura Mine where he would meet Artwell Mandaza, who shaped his athleticism.

That was followed with stints at Shangani, Alaska, Shabanie Mine before he settled at the Airforce of Zimbabwe in 1984.

His career at Airforce came to an end in June this year after serving the company for 30 years.

Looking back, Kashiri regards the Standard Chartered 100 kilometres Centennial race in 1992 as the pinnacle of his career.

“That race was from Mvurwi Country Club to Harare’s Standard Chartered Sports Club. I came first in a time of 7 hours, 17 minutes and 12 seconds. That achievement gave me a chance to go compete in the London to Brighton 89km race.

“I came fourth in that race with an improved time. I got prizes but no money, it was a charity run.”

Speaking on the future of marathon in the country, the granddad of Zimbabwean athletics says:

“I am impressed by the quality of marathon runners emerging out of Zimbabwe. I want to see them to do better and better on the international marathon circuit but it is only possible through hard work and discipline.”

Kashiri, who has four children and nine grandchildren, says his dominance has, however, not translated to money.

“I can’t say athletics gave me money. At the time I was at my peak there was not as much money as there is now.

“You could just buy your family food and get by, but I can’t say I could afford to buy a car or house because that time there was no money.”

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