On Thursday, June 9, Pardon Ndhlovu’s phone buzzed. A text message from an unknown number. Ndhlovu almost didn’t answer the phone. It was early, and he wanted to get a few more minutes of sleep.
He decided to answer the phone anyway.
The unknown number belonged to a representative of the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe. The text message held the official news that Ndhlovu was selected to compete for Zimbabwe at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“It was exciting,” Ndhlovu said. “It was a huge relief knowing that I was on the team. I was like, ‘This is really happening.’”
Despite receiving news that his dream had come true, Ndhlovu still had doubts about his participation in the games.
“I didn’t have any information,” he said. “I was wondering about travel arrangements. I was skeptical because I just didn’t have any information aside from the news that I had been named to the team.”
Two weeks later, Ndhlovu’s dreams truly became a reality. The Zimbabwe Olympic committee booked Ndhlovu’s airline ticket to Rio de Janeiro and sent him some information about living in the athlete’s village.
“It was an exciting moment because it was something that I had been waiting for for a long time, and it was finally happening,” Ndhlovu said. “It was a humbling moment. I’m one of the 1 percent of athletes in the world that gets to compete at the Olympic level. Sometimes I still think, ‘This is crazy.’”
Later this week, on Aug. 11, Ndhlovu will depart Georgia for Brazil and officially begin his Olympic journey. In the weeks leading up to this moment, Ndhlovu’s focus has been on his training.
He splits his training time between Augusta and a training camp, ZAP Fitness, in Blowing Rock, North Carolina.
“I’m trying to prepare my body to withstand the heat and humidity in Brazil by balancing my training,” he said. “Augusta is great because I can adapt my body to the heat. Training in the mountains of North Carolina also allows me to train at higher altitudes and provides me with the opportunity to train with other elite runners.”
Ndhlovu runs approximately 95–120 miles a week. Equally as important as training is proper rest and nutrition. He sleeps about 10 hours a night, naps occasionally throughout the day and eats every four hours. Ndhlovu burns more than 2,000 calories a day as a result of his long runs. He is currently eating more than 3,000 calories a day.
Ndhlovu knows that running 26.2 miles won’t be comfortable. At some point, it will start to hurt. At this moment it is important to be mentally strong. This mental toughness is something that Ndhlovu focuses on constantly during his workouts.
“Whenever I’m running, I’m focusing on thinking about the race and what the experience will be like,” he said. “I tell myself that I’m strong, I’m a champion and I can do this. I try to relax and visualize the race. I try to break down every mile and focus mainly on the last six miles when it starts to hurt.”
Ndhlovu’s training will taper off in the days before he leaves for the Olympics. While in Brazil, the focus will be on maintaining his fitness level and taking time to enjoy the Olympic experience.
“I’m looking forward to the experience,” he said. “I’ve never been to Rio de Janeiro. I think it’ll be great to see a different part of the world and appreciate how other people live. I know Brazilians love soccer, so it would be fun to go to the soccer museums and see other historic places. Given the chance, I would love to soak in the experience and appreciate the culture that is there. I’m looking forward to meeting other athletes and reuniting with friends. We’ve worked hard to get here, and it’s cause to celebrate.”
Ndhlovu will compete on Sunday, Aug. 21, at 7:30 a.m. To offset the cost of training for and traveling to the Olympics, Ndhlovu is selling #GoPardon T-shirts on his website pardonruns.com. The final day for T-shirt sales is Wednesday, Aug. 10. Ndhlovu will also accept donations via his website.
Be sure to visit our Olympic page for the latest on Ndhlovu’s experience and for all our associated Olympic-related coverage.