Teboho Motloung aka The Life of Pablo Diaz
By Jesse (Specs) Spellman
Aluta continua, a victoria acerta.
“The struggle continues; victory is certain”
When I first started out as a runner back in 2014 I always thought it was just me, myself and I. A regular guy working a regular job just jogging to get some miles in to stay fit. I always had a thought that runners who were my skin color that ran were either olympic track runners or marathon distance runners mainly of Kenyan or Ethiopian descent. Little did I know that as I progressed and met more folks in the run community that I would meet folks that looked just like me, that had the same interest in running. Just regular people of color, running regular miles trying to stay fit or simply loving the joy of running. A few years ago during a Black Men Run Sunday run-day, I had the pleasure of meeting Teboho (Pablo) who was visiting from Soweto, a small town outside of Johannesburg South Africa. That morning a random person I’ve never met or spoke with, we found there was one simple commonality that drew us together which is running. After that day I realized that normal folks like us are all over the globe, diverse runners that like to run. Any time Teboho visits he tries his best to come out to a BMR-NYC run and when he does we pick up right where we left off. One of these days i’m going to make it to Soweto to join him for a few runs but for now let’s chat with Teboho.
MSM: My good brother. When we launched this magazine you were one of the first people I wanted to speak with. We only ran together a few times but a few years ago you opened my eyes to how large the running world really is for folks like us. How have you been?
TM: First and foremost, I am honored that you would consider someone like me, a man from Soweto, to be featured in Mid Strike Magazine. Life has been tricky living during a pandemic. When our Government implemented the national lockdown in March we were prohibited from running. This was mentally and physically challenging but they have since eased the lockdown regulations and we are now permitted to run but we are not allowed to run in groups (solo runs only).
MSM: I’ve noticed it seems like you’re a huge sports fan. I have to ask from one sports fanatic to another what are some of the teams you root for? I saw a Chelsea post. I can tell you we’d clash if it came to Premier League soccer as I’m an Arsenal guy. (lol)
TM: Locally, I support a football team called Orlando Pirates. It is a big football club based in my hood Orlando East, Soweto. Lol! Yes, I am a Chelsea fan. I support them because they are one of the few teams in England that has a history of signing African players. Btw, congratulations on your FA Cup win.
MSM: Being such a huge sports fan, how did you fall into the world of running, I’m sure you had other choices of sports?
TM: When I read your intro it felt like something I could have written. Your journey into the world of running is almost parallel to mine. I was attempting to get back to shape so one autumn (fall) morning I laced up my basketball shoes (as I did not own a pair of running shoes then) and I hit the road. Little did I know this would not only bring positive change to my health but it also brought a shift to my lifestyle.
MSM: You currently reside in Orlando East right outside of Soweto which is outside of Johannesburg, an area so rich in history and culture both good and bad. What’s the run culture like out there? Is the run community as heavy as it is here in the States?
TM: The run culture is massive in Soweto. We have run crews and the traditional running clubs. I was attracted to the run crews because of their youthfulness, social responsibilities and the crew culture. The crews in Joburg get together to run for different initiatives i.e., getting school shoes, sanitary towels, school stationery for the less fortunate kids. Other run crews have feeding schemes that help feed their communities.
MSM: Running in such a cultured place what are some of your favorite routes in Soweto?
TM: Running from Orlando Stadium to FNB Stadium, running to the Soweto Towers and running the infamous Soweto Marathon route.
MSM: You’ve been to places such as Brazil, Hong Kong, Accra and NYC to name a few. Each place you’ve visited I’ve noticed you always seem to get a run in. Any favorite places outside of Soweto?
TM: Running in NYC. Hearing the sirens and the yellow cabs honking. There is just something magnificent about running in New York, whether it be in Harlem, The Bronx, Uptown, Brooklyn etc. There is something in the air that gets me going. But I will not forget the day I ran in Prospect Park as it was always in my bucket list.
MSM: You ran your first marathon pretty recently, The Soweto Marathon back in November 2018. I also noticed you ran another one pretty close to your first one in Hong Kong, February 2019. I think it’s safe to say you have the marathon bug. What made you get into marathon running?
TM: I like to challenge myself. It was only natural that I started running marathons once I realized that I could complete half marathons with great ease and I have never looked back.
MSM: I have to ask, is the New York City Marathon on your radar?
TM: Of course it is, without a doubt. Though it would mean I must ditch the Soweto Marathon as both marathons are ran on the first Sunday of November.
MSM: Abram Onkgopotse Tiro, June 16, 1976 and The Sharpeville massacre. You seem like you are a student of our history, Black history, and our struggles where you use running to bring our struggles to light. There are many commonalities, albeit we live on different sides of the globe, yet we still face inequality while also still fighting for equality. What are some of your thoughts seeing this take place all over the globe? Seeing the protest for Black Lives Matter, police brutality, and people being killed by the hands of police.
TM: Honestly, what is happening in the States is a genocide. It is a Black Holocaust and it angers me because I cannot fathom the discrimination Black people experience in America. I am taken aback by the BLM protests and the Run For Justice movement. Aluta continua, a victoria acerta.🏿
Meaning – “The struggle continues; victory is certain”. (Aluta continua, a victoria acerta.)
MSM: I feel like I have to ask everyone this question. The world is currently at somewhat of a standstill, so how have these quarantine months been treating you? Any changes with your run life with no races?
TM: I was disappointed that I could not run the São Paulo marathon because the international borders were closed. The Comrades Marathon in KwaZulu-Natal was also cancelled and this left my family shattered as this was also supposed to a mini-vacation for the family. I do my daily runs to keep fit, but I do miss running with a crew, as solo runs can be lonely.
MSM: Brother, I cannot wait to run some miles with you on your home turf! What’s next in the life of Pablo once Corona and quarantine life go away? Seeing how you travel I feel like you have a 6-star world major medal on your radar.
TM: Once we go back to a new normal, I am going to make certain that you live up to your promise to visit South Africa. We will run the streets of Soweto and seal it off by doing a trail run in a nature reserve just outside of Soweto. Yes, I have my eyes set on a 6 Star world major medal but I would also like to run a few marathons on the continent: Diacore Gaborone Marathon (Botswana), Accra International Marathon (Ghana) , ile ife heritage Marathon (Nigeria), Amazing Maasi Marathon (Kenya) and The High Altitude Summer Marathon (Lesotho).
TM: I would like to end this by sending a shout out to the run crews that I have run with around the world. Thank you for spreading Crew Love and Bridging The Gap. I can’t wait to host you all in my city. Until we meet again. Teboho Motloung.