Zola Budd to run in ultra marathon

Updated: January 13, 2012, 2:50 PM ET
Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG -- Former world record holder and barefoot running sensation Zola Budd will compete in South Africa's Comrades ultra marathon.

Budd still finds running "very challenging," and its the reason she entered the grueling 56-mile race in June.

"I started running seriously at the age of 14 and I've turned 45, but I still look forward to running. I still find it challenging," the farm girl turned Olympian told members of the Johannesburg Press Club on Friday.

Budd received the club's Newsmaker of the Year trophy 28 years after she won it in 1984 after competing in the Los Angeles Olympics. The trophy had apparently gone missing.

The South African teenager rose to fame from humble origins, using raw talent and running without shoes. Growing up on a farm in central South Africa, she sometimes paced herself alongside ostriches.

She is probably best remembered for a collision with American favorite Mary Decker in the 3,000-meter final at the 1984 Games.

With Budd leading, their feet tangled and Decker fell to the track. The 17-year-old Budd, clearly affected, faded out of contention to seventh. It was a pivotal moment in a complicated career for Budd, who had to leave South Africa to compete. She ran for Britain because South Africa was excluded from international track recognition during apartheid.

She faced opposition from anti-apartheid campaigners and a hostile reaction from a partisan crowd after that dramatic race at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

She twice broke the 5,000-meter world record, although her first effort in 1984 wasn't recognized by international track authorities because it happened in South Africa.

Just months after her collision with Decker, the shy teen thanked the press club in just one sentence in her native Afrikaans. She was the first winner of the award.

Budd finished the 2008 New York City Marathon in 2 hours, 59 minutes, 53 seconds in only her third marathon. She qualified for the ultra marathon in December by finishing fourth at the Kiawah Island Marathon in South Carolina in 3:01:51.

Budd, who has been an assistant track coach for Coastal Carolina, hopes to finish the endurance event in under 8 hours.

These days, Budd doesn't miss the pressure of competing.

"It's all about the camaraderie," said Budd, who lives near Myrtle Beach, S.C. "A lot of things have changed, a lot of things haven't changed. I am still the same person, I am still Zola Budd."

Budd added she didn't want any of her three children to become athletes.

"I will encourage them to be busy but never to be competitive runners. Life is too short and there are just too many other things to do," she said.


Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press