GROWING up in Zhombe where kids had to walk close to eight kilometres to the nearest school every day was tough, but the experience gave Ngoni Ncube the strength to become one of the best athletes in Zimbabwe.
The Zhombe-born athlete is the toast of town after coming from the shadows of other athletes to win the Spar Peter Gradwell Marathon last weekend.
The pencil-slim athlete's 2hours 38 minutes and 11 seconds heralded the emergence of a new king as he eclipsed veterans Gilbert Mutandiro and Kudakwashe Kanduna.
However, despite the success, he remains modest and is cautious of the events that he takes part in.
"I have not yet decided to challenge people like Stephen Muzhingi in the Comrades Marathon or the Two Oceans Marathon. I have my own marathons that I feel I can challenge, like the Cape Town Marathon and The Soweto Marathon that I am busy preparing for," he said.
"I am also targeting the February 21st Movement race which is set for March 4 in Harare. If I win the three races this year, then I can ponder moving to the next level of competition."
For long Ncube had been playing second fiddle to other athletes, but finally his dream of winning a race came true last weekend when he won the Spar Gradwell Marathon in the capital.
"It has been my wish to win a race in my life. There are a lot of things happening in the country as of now, including preparations for the London Olympics. I might make the grade in the team that will represent Zimbabwe in this event," he said.
Born on July 12 1986, Ncube grew up in the western parts of Zhombe in Fafi where he did his primary education before proceeding to Rio Tinto for his secondary education.
"I grew up as an athlete because we used to run close to eight kilometres every morning going to Fafi Primary School. Things became better when I then went to Rio Tinto for my secondary education but I had already started running long distances at school. I used to run the longest distance, that of 5 000 metres and I had no challenge even when we went for inter zonal competitions."
After completion of his Ordinary Level studies, Ncube joined Ziscosteel Athletics Club where he is coached by Melusi Ndlela, an athletics granddad who is still galloping at the age of 50.
His first international assignment was in March last year when he took part in the African Cross Country Marathon held in South Africa on March 6 where he sneaked into the top 20 coming out 20th.
Other events ngoni has competed in
Ncube took part in the Sunshine Marathon that was held in the capital and came third before taking part in the Victoria Falls half marathon where he came fourth.
The soft-spoken athlete also took part in the annual Binga marathon race, the Kujatana Marathon where he finished on position five in September.
In December last year, Ncube also competed in the Mr Pace Marathon where he came fourth winning a prize money of US$50 in the process.
This gave him hope after outpacing a number of renowned athletes in the race in 2hrs 20 minutes and 30 seconds.
"After this race, I knew my career as an athlete had started; hence there was no looking back."
Ncube also runs long distance relays as they took part in the Hope Fountain 3x10km race together with Elmore Sibanda and George Majaji in which they came first.