Few things make a runner as happy as expert advice from a fellow runner when buying shoes, so having top trail runner Nicholas Rupanga guiding you through the latest models is a real bonus!
Walk into The Sweat Shop branch in Claremont, Cape Town, and chances are you will be served by Nicholas Rupanga, a Zimbabwean national who has lived in South Africa for just over seven years and who divides his time between being a professional runner and professional shoe salesman. The 39-year-old hails from the Mashonaland, about 300km south of Harare, and has been running since his school days, but only took it up professionally once he came to SA to find work. He has a marathon PB of 2:18:41, which he set in Portugal in 2001, and has clocked 30:21 for 10km and 1:05:29 for the half marathon, so this man can run!
Judging by comments posted on Facebook, Nicholas not only knows his shoes, but also offers customers great service in the shop. He has worked at The Sweat Shop for four years, since the Claremont branch opened, and says he loves going to work each day. “I really enjoy working here, because we are like a family and they are so supportive of my running – whenever I want to go training in the mornings, they say go for it and come to work once I’m done. Also, working here means I meet people that I also meet when running, and runners are such nice, friendly people.”
Another thing that people always comment on is that Nicholas is always wearing a smile, even when running, but he is an ultra-competitive athlete, and lists winning the Pronutro AfricanX Trailrun in 2009 with running partner Patrick Cox as the highlight of his career. “That is still my best run, but it was also great to finish second last year with Kane Reilly. I love the AfricanX and had run it every year since 2009, but missed it this year because of a calf injury. I am seeing a physio, but I think it needs complete rest for a few months.”
Looking ahead, Nicholas will be getting married to fiancé Precious in a few months’ time, and then he says he still has big goals to chase in running, once he recovers from the injury. He wants to run some of the big trail runs in the US or Europe, but his sights are firmly set on a local race first. “My goal is to win the Otter Marathon, even though some people say my age is against me, but I am inspired by Ian Don-Warchope – he is even older than me and still came second at Otter, so I believe that I can still win it. There is strong competition in trail running amongst the vets at the moment, and I’ll be 40 soon, but at heart I feel like I’m in my late 20s. I want the youngsters to see that if you look after yourself, you can still run competitively as you get older.”