top of page

A man called ‘Hoss’

“Hosea Tjale is running nice and easy. He has nearly a five minute lead and only 16 kilometres to go …. I don’t think anybody will catch him in the 1987 Comrades Marathon,” said the voice over the radio.

But the man on the radio was wrong. Hosea “Hoss” Tjale suddenly slowed down – and with only eight kilometres to go, Bruce Fordyce passed him.


Tjale came in third in the 90 kilometre race, after Fordyce and Bob De La Motte. Nothing wrong with third, but what happened to the “Hoss”?

“When I heard that I was over four minutes ahead of Fordyce, I thought he couldn’t catch me, ” Tjale told Learn and Teach, a week after the race. “But after 79 kilometres, I began to feel tired. My legs were finished.

“I was also having problems with my seconds. They lost me in the last part of the race. This worried me because I was not drinking anything. You see, I don’t take drinks from the tables. I like to drink my own “muti” from my seconds.”

“And there was a scooter following me. I was not happy about this. The rules say that there must be no scooters. The people on the scooter had walkie talkies – and, they were telling Fordyce’s seconds, how far ahead I was.”


But Tjale, who lives in the Alexandra Mens’ Hostel, says his problems really started before the race. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to run. It costs money to go and run the Com­rades. The race organisers don’t help and I didn’t have a sponsor. In the end I only ran because the company I work for helped me with the expenses. “

Tjale, like most other runners, is not a full time runner. He works a full day as a driver and trains after work. He believes that he and other top runners are not getting a fair deal. “We get clothes and shoes for free – but what happens in the end? We can’t put clothes and shoes in the bank!”

But do not think that Tjale is a bad loser or somebody who likes to complain. He is a very friendly person with a big smile. He loves running and believes that running has changed his life.


Hosea Tjale, who comes from Molepo just outside Pietersburg, was one of four children. He does not know what job his father did. “He went to work in Jo’burg like everybody else,” says Tjale.

After Tjale passed standard six, he too came to work in Johannesburg. He worked as a gardener in the white suburbs. It was at that time that he started to run.

“I started to run one winter,” says Tjale. “I ran because I did not like to sit in front of the heater because I was scared of catching a cold. So I ran to keep warm.”


In 1977 Hosea joined a running club. His first race was the Vaal Marathon. “I ran without knowing how far the race was. I didn’t even know how far a kilometre was. I did not finish the race. I have never been so sore in my life.”

The “Hoss” was sore but he did not give up running. Since then Hosea Tjale has not only finished many races – he has won quite a few.

The first race he won was the Checkers Marathon in 1979. Early in 1980 he won the Maseru Marathon. He then won the 56 kilometre “Two Oceans” race’ in 1980.

In 1982 and 1984 he won the Korkie, which is also a 56 kilometre race. In 1983 he won the JSE 50 kilometre race and in 1985 he won the London to Brighton race. This was the first and last race that he ran overseas.


Tjale has run many races – but he won’t forget the Checkers­ Jeppe Marathon in 1984. That morning his alarm clock did not go off – and he started the race four minutes after everybody else. He ran like the wind and finished sixth, a minute and a half behind the winner.

But it is the Comrades Marathon that Hosea Tjale really wants to win. He came second in 1985, third in 1986, and third in 1987. But he will have to beat Bruce Fordyce, a full time runner who does not have any problems getting a sponsor.

Maybe the ’Hoss’ will never beat Fordyce – but if he got a better deal, maybe he would have a much better chance!


If you would like to print or save this article as a PDF, press ctrl + p on your keyboard (cmd + p on mac).

bottom of page