x THE WMN : Nandipa Mafongosi

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

A while back we featured Nandipa, read her first interview Here. I was inspired by how she was able to handle it all. A doctor, still making time to run, cycle, swim & still report for duty. I had to pick her brain. 

Below is the interview for womens month 2020.

- ON YOU - 

I’m Nandipa Mafongosi
A 35year old woman from qweqwe village,Mthatha , eastern cape .
I’m a medical doctor (pediatrician). I currently work at Nelson Mandela academic hospital.
I’m a mom to a beautiful 8 year old daughter.
I’m an endurance junkie. Everything fitness related. I’m an avid traveler and combining these two is what sets my soul on fire.


I started running after 4 months of having my daughter. I wanted to lose baby weight. Little did I know I would get hooked. I started running inside the complex where we lived. It was 800m but I was so tired I was convinced I was going to die 😅.

I signed up for a 5km race two weeks later, unfit as I was but I wanted a challenge. Getting a medal at the finish line was the most rewarding thing ever. It felt like a grammy award 🥇. Of course I walked a lot of that race as I was still very unfit.
I met friends who introduced me to more 5km races and kept encouraging me. Few months down the line I signed up for my first 10km. Let’s just say it was another moment of death. But I kept going back a the finish
line moment was always epic, knowing I have conquered.

My current relationship with running is still the best . I run atleast twice or thrice a week . To date I’ve done over 40 marathons (I stopped counting), including multiple comrades marathons and two oceans marathon and a few international marathons.

Besides running I also do triathlons and cycling races. I got introduced to it by club mates at Vukani multi sport club in Port Elizabeth. I never knew I’d also be hooked into them. It is quite a long story as I could neither swim nor cycle, and had to learn from scratch 5years ago. Phew story for another day.

Best experience you get from running is how you always feel afterwards. The endorphins, it’s called a runners high. Running keeps me sane, and it’s cheaper than therapy 😉.

Worst experience from running is losing my toenails 😂 especially when I run a marathon. I remember running my first comrades marathon and I was sore, literally every part of me was aching (around 70km mark), then I saw a pluck card written by a group of ladies as spectators. It read “BLISTERS WILL HEAL, TOENAILS WILL REGROW, SO SUCK IT UP AND RUN PRINCESS “It put a huge smile on my face and gave me strength to carry on. Since that day I stopped complaining about my toenails , instead I see them as battle scars.


Balancing sport and my profession. Phew quite hard. Over the years I’ve sort mastered it through experience and routine. Back in 2013 when I was still a registrar( postgraduate student) it was extremely hard to find time to run as I worked 8-5pm, still needed to be on call after hours certain days and weekends, and still be a mom and still study.
So I decided to give up watching television. I have never gone back even after passing my exams.
Also I would go run at midday after a 28hr shift before passing out at home.

Fortunately now since 2014 the shifts I work are less strenuous so I have more time to run.
4 days a week my alarm is set for 4:30am as by 5am I need to be either running or swimming or cycling. We call ourselves “TEAM 5am”. As I have to be at work by 8am. The body adjust to all of this,you just need to commit with your mind.
This allows me to train in the morning while my daughter is still sleeping, work 8-4pm, and be a mom in the afternoon.


Being a woman.....I must say it is quite a confusing phenomenon as a teenager as your body is going through the changes and having good friends and mentors can be your lifesaver.

In your 20s you start getting to know who you are, but somehow need affirmation from friends and family (sometimes without realizing).
In your 30s you then discover who you really are and start pursuing the things you want. Without needing any affirmation from anyone.
In all these phases as a woman, it’s important to love yourself throughout. Self love sounds like a cliche but it’s so important for building confidence, not only for physical appearance but for mental strength as well.

It’s sad in South Africa that there are so many issues affecting women, gender based violence topping the list. Also feminism still remains a big problem in the workplace and even in the sport. I still experience up to this day when someone discovers that I’m an Ironman or comrades finisher. It is really sad.
We still have a long way to fix this.


Women in sports still underrepresented. Especially in triathlons and cycling.
Growing up as a girl I was expected to stay home and cook. While they boys go and swim or ride a bmx or play soccer. This limits opportunities for young girls to acquire swimming skills or cycling skills.

Hence I had to learn these as a 30yr old and overcome stereotypes.
I have made sure my daughter doesn’t go through this. At the age of 8 she’s already a cyclist, and a swimmer. And she’s falling in love with running as well 😄
Of course I don’t want her to be a triathlete if she’s not interested but I want her to have all the necessary skills to make that choice. She even plays tennis and other sports.

The important message we need to send to young girls and other women is that you can achieve anything and you must take up space in society (Zozi Tunzi, our miss universe said this) .

Taking up space is evening doing minority sports. Women are very few in triathlons and cycling. Even worse black women.Most Ironman races you’ll find 2 or 3 black women in a field of 2500 athletes. Shocking, right? Sometimes I’m the only black female in a triathlon race.

Teaching adults to learn to swim is my other side passion that came out of this. As I know how scary it is to learn to swim as an adult.

- ON COVID – 19 -

where do I even start🙆🏽‍♀️
This virus has turned our lives upside down. In every aspect. I sometimes get confused whether I want to discuss COVID-19 as a dr or as an athlete and a mom.

As a doctor it’s so sad that it takes lives of the elderly, we are losing a generation of wisdom. Also the long term effects healthcare will take years to reverse, as now people are sick at home with other diseases and they are neglected since we’re focusing on covid. We will see many complications in months to come.It’s a difficult balance.

Covid has also exposed our weak healthcare system in South Africa and now we’re finding ourselves having to be reactive and chasing our tails. We shall conquer this as a nation. We shall rise above it and come out victorious. 

As a mom,my daughter has been home since 18 March. That’s 4 months now. She misses her friends and her school but this has given us so much quality time as a family.
Our bond has even grown stronger. I’ve taught her how to cook now, and bake. We paint together. We run together, we cycle together. Literally everything. We’re making the best memories.

In this aspect covid has made us to slow down in the rat race. And to focus on other important aspects of our lives that we tend to ignore. I’m also reading a lot than before.

With regards to sport. So many races canceled. My first race cancellation was Ironman in Port Elizabeth in March. I received the email just after I got off my bike having cycled 120km 🤕 so you can imagine how I felt. Since then then each week or month we’d hear news about subsequent races being canceled. I’ve had to cancel international races as well as we may not even be allowed to travel in September or October. Covid has also taught to love my indoor cycling trainer. Bought it two years ago but it’s been collecting dust. During level 5 lockdown I had to use it to train and keep sane. Best thing ever. Now I’m addicted to it.

Basically, I’m not hoping for any races in 2020. We will just take everything as it comes. I was initially sad but not anymore.
We’re dealing with a pandemic so that’s what we need to prioritize right now.

We will race again. For now, health and safety comes first.


The new normal after Covid-19
I will continue training on my indoor as it’s so convenient, I even cycle at 9pm 🤭
I hope the social distancing continues
I hope virtual meetings continue as it can save a lot of money spent on traveling and hotels just for meetings.
Technology has shown us it can be done.
This budget can be redirected to more pressing needs.

In terms of sport I have not made any rave plans for 2021 as there’s just too many uncertainties regarding the Covid-19.
For now I’m just enjoying training for health ,which was the primary reason I started running anyway, not for races.
I plan to travel next year once we’re safe to do so. To make up for 2020 😉
I have not experienced the work from home phenomenon as we’ve been working since lockdown so I always envy people who say they’ll continue to do so post lockdown 😀
So maybe I might just try it.
Overall, post covid we need to brace ourselves. It is going to be rough.
The economy, health, education. The effects will be felt for years to come.


You’re beautiful, may you not let anyone take away your smile.
You live in a hostile country (crime, rape, feminism) but still you rise.
May we continue to raise strong women, may we also know them( our mothers and sisters) and May we be them ourselves.
And never let anyone tell you you can’t.
You are able.

- Follow Nandipa Mafongosi on instagram 


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