Kesa Molotsane, queen of the road
For as long as she can remember, Kesa has always preferred running to just plain old walking. So much so, that even her neighbours in Thaba Nchu, where she grew up, preferred sending her to the shops as they knew she’d run as fast as her little legs could carry her. “I would just run só fast. The old woman next door used to call me Zola Budd, but I was still very young and did not know who that was.”
It took losing her first race in Grade 1 during her school’s athletics house meeting to make her realise that running was for her. “I remember crying like a baby after losing the race. My mom was laughing, thinking I could not possibly be in pain. But eventually I accepted that this is probably one of those things that we meet in life, and since then I started running and participating in races every year.”
In her fifth grade she changed schools and her talent for cross country was noticed. “After the house meeting the athletics people called me and told me that I would be joining the cross country runners. I was hesitant, I did not know what that was. At my previous school we just ran. But they explained it to me, saying that I would just be running in the veld. I thought I could do that, and so I was recruited and became part of the team.” Kesa then went on to win all her races at that time, even making it to the national competition.
She said, “To get the level that I’m currently at, took me roughly seven years. I remember when I decided that I also wanted to run like those people I saw on TV and I also wanted to win a car at the Spar Grand Prix like the others. That was years ago. And at that time I was still struggling very much with my health and my fitness was not progressing, my body was so fatigued and I was sick most of the time.”
Her coach, Sarina Cronjé, then encouraged her to just try out at least one or two of the Spar women’s meets, just to get a feel of how it would feel to run with an elite group. “I then got an offer to join the KPMG team for the Spar Women’s Grand Prix, and I ran my first race and won. After having won my first race, I had no choice but to continue. People were saying I could not quit at that stage, I had to finish the series.”
This meant that she now had to familiarise herself with running both track and road races, as she was only used to running track. It also meant that she had to adjust her training programme to fit the demands of the race, preparing three times as hard as the other ladies. She had to keep a balance between the different disciplines (track, cross country and road running) and with more than her usual fans behind her and running for the KPMG team, Kesa was now representing more than herself. “It was something very difficult to adapt to but we took it as a challenge, and every time we would race, we went hard and were well prepared.”
“I’ve always depended on my feet and I knew what they would do for me. Even if someone were to chase me, the first thing that would come to mind is trusting my feet.”
Winning the Grand Prix has catapulted her to stardom status. “I think it’s motivating to other kids, especially those here at home in Bloemfontein and the rest of the Free State. They have run with me before but they never expected the winner to be one of their own community to reach the top. It’s motivating and their support has been humbling.”
When Kesa is not running, you’ll find her in the basement at the Callie Human Centre, where she is currently working as an assistant editor for the director of sports at Kovsie Sport. “I mostly deal with athletics admin, and I help here and there with other sporting codes but my main focus is athletics. And I’m always willing to listen and advise the students when they have questions.”
Kesa added, “I don’t really get my motivation from someone special in athletics. I’ve always depended on my feet and I knew what they would do for me. Even if someone were to chase me, the first thing that would come to mind is trusting my feet.”
Before and after every race, Kesa says a little prayer as a way of staying close to God and staying motivated. “I’m a very self-driven person and the only inspiration that I get is from my mom, because she is the most intelligent person to me, and always gives the best advice, whether it be about life or career. And I’ll forever be grateful for all the sacrifices she has made just to ensure that I would get on a bus and go run a race.”
Although she has not planned out her next move, one thing is sure, Kesa is excited at the possibility of conquering more long-distance trails.