Xaba the pocket battleship
South Africa the winner after Glenrose decided to heed her mother’s advice.
Very quiet and unassuming, Glenrose Xaba’s timid character belies the ferocious determination she displays on the track and the road, and after rising in the South African distance running ranks in recent years, she has established herself as one of the country’s most promising endurance athletes.
As is the case with many of the nation’s elite stars, Xaba emerged from humble beginnings.
Born and raised in Embalenhle township in Mpumalanga, she started running in primary school and began to take the sport more seriously in high school when her mom urged her to nurture the talent she had spotted in her precocious child.
“When I went to secondary school my mom advised me to join a club so I could compete in races,” Xaba recalls.
It was good advice, and she soon began to reap the results of a consistent training regime.
At the age of 18, Xaba finished second in the 1 500m and 3 000m finals at the SA Junior Championships in Pretoria, and she has since evolved into a formidable warrior on the domestic circuit.
The 23-year-old electrical engineering student, now based in Pretoria, juggles her studies with her career as a professional athlete, and over the last couple of years she has become a dominant force.
Carried by a small frame and a powerful, choppy stride, she turned heads at elite senior level last year when she won the 10 000m title on the track at the SA Athletics Championships, and she went on to secure a rare 4km and 10km double at the SA Cross Country Championships.
Though she did not turn out in defence of her track crown this season, Xaba retained her 10km title at the national cross country championships, holding off a late challenge from Kesa Molotsane in a sprint for the line.
Making an impact on the road for the first time in 2018, she also secured the overall title in the six-leg Spar Women’s Grand Prix 10km series, taking home the R185 000 overall winner’s purse.
Though she is eager to continue com- peting across all distance running disciplines, Xaba admits it is tough to perform consistently on all surfaces in a range of conditions.
“Cross country is very difficult because you need to do more endurance and hill training, and on the track you need to put some speed in,” she says.
“Racing on the road can also be difficult because sometimes you’re running down, sometimes it’s flat.”
Motivated by her recent performances, Xaba hopes to maintain her impressive form in the 2019 season by making her maiden appearance at the IAAF World Championships in Doha.
As the country’s top female athlete in the off-road discipline, she has also expressed her interest in leading the national team at the 2019 World Cross Country Championships in Aarhus, Denmark, but only if it does not clash with the lucrative Grand Prix campaign.
“I have a few goals I’d like to achieve next year,” Xaba says, looking ahead to the next stage of her career.
“I want to defend my Spar Ladies series title. I also want to go to the track and field World Championships, and I just want to keep doing my best.”
SMALL, BUT A BIG HEART. Glenrose Xaba has come from humble beginnings and is now one of South Africa’s elite distance runners.