At the end of April, Sydney Sixers Johan Botha will add another feat to his career as an athlete - but this time as a long distance runner. The all-rounder will race in his third-ever 42km run when he competes in the world-famous London Marathon in a matter of weeks.
In between the the Big Bash League Final in Perth at the end of January and the upcoming marathon, Botha spent time during the Pakistan Super League in the United Arab Emirates as an assistant coach with Brad Haddin and Sam Billings’ Islamabad United.
Following Islamabad’s exit from the tournament he had a brief stop in his home of Adelaide before playing with the Hung Hom JD Jaguars in the Hong Kong T20 Blitz.
All the while, Botha had been training for one of the most physically and mentally gruelling events an athlete can participate in.
After two previous marathons in South Africa in 2011 and Adelaide in 2016, the London Marathon on April 23rd will be the most famous and popular he has run.
“I always wanted to try and do all the big marathons in the world,” says Botha, who includes running and cycling amongst his hobbies.
His entry into the London Marathon, which is usually done through a ballot system, came from former team-mate Englishman Darren Gough who put him in touch with UK based youth cricket and disability sports charity Lord’s Taverners. He is now raising funds for the charity in the lead-up to compete in the event.
He hopes it won’t be his last marathon either.
“Hopefully this is number three and hopefully there will be a few more over the years,” he says, but admits each attempt doesn’t come that easily.
“Training is probably the biggest mental stretch, especially the last two - Adelaide and this one. I pretty much run on my own all the time.
“To have the discipline to go most days, it’s probably five runs a week and it’s giving up early mornings if you have to fit it into the day.
“The actual events, I think it probably becomes a little bit more physical as the day goes on because obviously you have a lot of runners with you and you’ve got some crowds along the way. So that, sort of, occupies your mind and keeps you going.”
Despite the physical test that is a marathon, the Sixers’ allrounder believes once you reach the pointy end of the lengthy run that’s when you have to rely on your mental strength more than anything.
“When you get to the 30km mark that’s when you really get tested,” says Botha.
“A lot of people say ’30kms is the halfway mark’ and it’s probably spot on because you feel good until then and no matter how much training you’ve done it does get hard at some stage.”
Running is one of Botha’s hobbies and despite a cricketing career across all three formats and captaining South Africa, he didn’t want to wait until a future retirement until he gave marathon running a proper go.
“Especially in between cricket stuff, I’ve got some time to do these types of things,” says Botha.
“I don’t want to leave it all to one day when I’m done with cricket. So I thought, when there are three, four or five months gap I could train for two and a half months and do the event and then have a month or so to recover.”
Botha jokes that the fast-paced and entertaining style of Twenty20 cricket probably doesn’t help running a marathon, but he does believe there are some comparisons in the red ball format.
“When I’m playing five day cricket it definitely helps,” says Botha. “You’re going to be in the field for six hours, so it’s long days on your feet and I thought when I still played the longer format that’s why I loved cycling and running.
“For me as a spinner, in a way I expect to bowl the most overs. So, I always think I have to be one of the fittest guys in the team. That sort of changed my mindset a little bit about these things and that’s why I probably started getting into these things.
Having been a professional athlete for many years, Botha stays grounded in knowing he has benefitted from his surroundings when it comes to keeping fit with running and cycling. Now, he has the utmost admiration for amateur athletes who juggle their fitness hobbies with their own professions.
“Port Elizabeth, where I lived is still the iron man city of South Africa,” says Botha.
“A lot of them are amateurs. For me to see the dedication of those guys who have to train at 6am in the morning, go to their work, do their job for the day and then in the evening fit in another session.
“That started challenging me to think ‘Well, I can do something like that!’”
You can donate to Johan Botha’s marathon fundraising by clicking here.