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Zola Budd, 47, dominates college runners in 5K

Oct 7, 2013, 10:16 AM EDT

Zola Budd Getty Images

Zola Budd‘s still got it.

The two-time Olympian famous for colliding with Mary Decker at the 1984 Olympics turned up at the HBCU Challenge 5K in Cary, N.C., on Saturday.

Budd raced women half her age and beat all 106 college runners by 50 seconds. She clocked 17 minutes, 47 seconds. Here’s a video clip of Budd around the halfway mark.

She did not run barefoot, as she did at the 1984 Olympics. Budd once held the world record on the track in the 5,000 meters of 14:48.07.

“I haven’t been running under 18 minutes for quite a while,” Budd said in a video interview. “I’m pleased.”

Budd, who finished seventh in the 1984 Olympic 3,000 after colliding with Decker, said she’s been running marathons and ultra marathons in her native South Africa. She reportedly completed the 34.8-mile Two Oceans Ultra Marathon in 8:06.09 last year.

Her time Saturday actually would have beaten one runner in the qualifying rounds of the 5,000 at the World Championships in Moscow in August, though it’s two minutes slower than the B standard to qualify for worlds.

Budd said she has been living in Myrtle Beach, S.C., for about five years since she moved from South Africa. She runs an elementary and middle school running program in Myrtle Beach and still does clinics in South Africa.

She was asked her advice for younger runners.

“Running is just a part of your life, not your (whole) life” Budd said. “Whatever happens, it’s fine. Just go along with the flow. Take the bad runs with the good runs. Make an experience of it. Don’t be too goal-oriented.”

Budd’s daughter, Lisa Pieterseis dominating high school competitions.

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  1. mogogo1 - Oct 7, 2013 at 6:42 PM

    That’s an amazing accomplishment for her and must be a real eye-opener for the college runners who she utterly destroyed. Rarely does anybody win a 5K against good competition by 50 seconds. To have the winner also be twice the age of anybody else in the race is basically unheard of.

    • jjonnewman - Oct 10, 2013 at 12:44 PM

      One thing about long distance running, it does not matter how much you train , how good you eat . Will yes it does but the only thing that matters in deciding wether or not your good enough to be a Zola budd or Mary decker or any world class distance runner is how good your body is at processing oxygen depletion , and getting rid of exhaled air . I’ve heard of guys who’ve trained their whole life and cannot break twenty minutes and the flip side heard of people who smoke yes smoke and didn’t train and ran a 17 minute 5 k , he was a college track guy but it’s the GENES my friends and nothing more because almost all these people train hard, eat right , get rest , and blood dope ,. Don’t think they don’t all do what they can to get an edge , you would to if the difference between being rich and famous and being a nobody was taking a few drugs , I’ve a feeling I will get hammered for this by the hypocrites but remember . We all talk on a cell phone and drive but curse the person in front of us who does the same thing

    • powercorrupts2 - Dec 3, 2013 at 1:34 AM

      The women she was running against may be half her age but they certainly don’t have the appearance of well conditioned distance runners. They aren’t fat but they don’t have the physique of a distance runner. They are way too heavy. Distance runners are skinny. They don’t need big muscles – they use slow twitch fibers – and extra weight just slows them down. Most of the runners looked like they were struggling just to jog along. So I have to say that it looks to me like this wasn’t a distance race “against good competition”.

      • bellweather22 - Feb 13, 2014 at 9:26 AM

        I give Budd all the props in the world. I was a runner and I know at 47 I had become very slow & could run nowhere near that time anymore. So, no reflection on her, but 17:47 is a time that fast High School girls runners run. College runners should be signficantly faster. This must have been a very weak field along the line of a Saturday morning “all-comers” meet. Ya know, show up, pay your $30 and run. Fun stuff, but really a glorified Saturday morning run.

  2. doctorrustbelt - Oct 7, 2013 at 8:26 PM

    Now… I’m not a conspiracy theorist… but… something stinks about this video.

    47 year old SOUTH AFRICAN Olympian Zola Budd conveniently racing against under-recruited cross country athletes of poorly funded Black college cross country teams.

    Is she related to anyone named de Klerk?!?

    • paobs - Oct 7, 2013 at 10:59 PM

      Conspiracy theorist? Yup….

    • thetooloftools - Oct 8, 2013 at 9:14 AM

      make sure the tin foil around your head doesn’t fall off so your not penetrated by alien radio waves.

      • saablover231 - Oct 8, 2013 at 11:20 AM

        “I will never regret not denouncing apartheid.” Zola Budd

        No conspiracy, she is a racist.

      • jimmymack1973 - Jan 9, 2014 at 5:36 PM

        This reply is actually for saablover231 below – for some reason I can’t reply directly to it.

        Zola Budd’s statement in 1989:

        “As a Christian … I do not support any political system that entrenches the superiority of one race over another.”

        And in an interview with South African paper Sunday Star in 1989:

        “… even the State President, Mr P.W. Botha, has rejected apartheid and I hold the same view.”

        Yeah, she sounds REALLY racist!

    • 2ndchance4acareer - Oct 8, 2013 at 8:04 PM

      LOVE the way your mind works

    • bellweather22 - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:23 AM

      The two runners in the picture are white….. and it appears that most of the runners are white. So much for the “not conspiracy theorists” idea that this had anything to do with underrecruited black runners from Historically Black Colleges.

  3. uziell3 - Oct 7, 2013 at 10:56 PM

    @doctorrustbelt- Have you ever actually seen Mrs. Zola Budd race? I have. She is incredible and , like in this article, beat ever runner in that field ( she ran 17:30 or so in this track race). She is an inspiration to many people. The athletes she beat definitely were not from”under-recruited teams.” @Mogogo1- not really an eye-opener, they were running hard too. She has very good natural talent and genes. In other words she, even in her age, is better than most people can ever be. She still has a very good kick. To imply that these athletes were not trying hard is rude. For instance. There is a guy around here that is almost 50 years old. He ran a 15:00 5k the other day ( that would be a 13:50 5k if he were in his 20’s with the age-graded scale). Yes, he beat me in that race. To think that I could match his talent and run an a 13:50 5k on the road is insane (like he did). How often do you see that?

    • steveu2 - Oct 7, 2013 at 11:02 PM

      Just to clarify about the race details … She was running as a “guest” in that race. Her kids were racing at the Great American XC Festival there and in the HBCU race — which is the only non-high school race there — there are other non-HBCU school athletes who run as “open” and non-scoring runners. So it was just a chance to run in the same meet as her kids were running, with no other intent or anything. I don’t think anyone there saw it as anything but an interesting and positive additional aspect to the day’s events. I don’t think it took anything away from the HBCU competition.

    • lensbiketravels - Oct 8, 2013 at 8:32 AM

      I think they got her time wrong for the Two Oceans Marathon which is a 56K road run starting in Capetown. The cutoff time for that race (for a bronze medal) is 6 hrs. I ran that race in 1998 at the tender young age of 51 in 5:51 narrowing beating the cutoff time for a bronze medal. She is a much better runner than an 8:06 which is why I think they have her time wrong. She’s been running marathons in the 2:40 range so I would think her ultra time at Two Oceans would have been well under 5 hrs. She may of run the Comrades Marathon in South Africa which is a 90K road run (56 miles) in 8:06, however.

      • Nick Zaccardi - Oct 8, 2013 at 8:52 AM

        I thought the time was slow, too, but multiple South African reports had 8:06, one with a quote from Budd.

  4. andy14094 - Oct 7, 2013 at 11:25 PM

    For almost thirty years this LIE as been repeated over and over. I watched that race live. Mary Decker TRIPPED. There was no contact between her and Zola and the replays proved it. Enough.

    • ortamp - Oct 8, 2013 at 12:55 AM

      Watch as Zola gracefully knocks her own legs together and steps right in front of Mary Decker…

      Don’t need to call it a lie when it’s the truth…

      • lensbiketravels - Oct 8, 2013 at 8:40 AM

        Mary Decker was at fault; she was too far in toward the rail and wasn’t giving Budd any room at all.

      • steveorex - Oct 8, 2013 at 4:45 PM

        You do see the part where Budd is running perfectly straight until she gets clipped by Decker causing her to take an odd step, right? At that point, Decker steps on Budd again and that was the point where she injured her hip. Budd was initially disqualified but was then later reinstated once the officials had a look at the replays and realized it was Decker at fault. It’s been reviewed over and over again and only Decker’s inner circle (herself, her coach, her family) or US homers still blame Budd. Mary Decker embarrassed herself with the way she handled this whole situation when the contact was her fault to begin with.

    • areaman714 - Oct 8, 2013 at 3:41 AM

      You must be related to Zola Budd . . .

    • megacashfromhome - Oct 8, 2013 at 8:14 AM

      You need to watch more closely my friend. There is indeed contact, plain as day if you care to watch with an unbiased eye.

      At the 5:17 point in the video below you can see the contact. Budd cuts her off and doesn’t give Decker enough room to stride and the contact occurs.

      Sad, but true.

      • lensbiketravels - Oct 8, 2013 at 8:41 AM

        B.S. Decker was so far against the rail at her own choosing and gave Budd no room in her lane.

      • bellweather22 - Feb 13, 2014 at 9:33 AM

        Mary Decker was a high school runner in my city. She was known for being an aggressive runner and very arrogant. She tried to be very aggressive and tactical with Budd, who was very inexperienced in big meets and didn’t know what to do with the way Decker was racing. I chalk it up to “stuff happens”. If you race aggressively, sometimes it bites you. But, I don’t really blame Decker because the better runners tend to be more aggressive & usually the field is experienced in handling an aggressive and/or tactical race. A combination of Decker’s aggressiveness and Budd’s international inexperience caused the issue.

    • steveorex - Oct 8, 2013 at 4:51 PM

      There was definitely contact, but it was Mary Decker’s fault. That’s why the race officials initially disqualified Budd but then later reinstated her once they’d had a chance to watch the replays. At first they just saw the contact and disqualified Budd, but after watching the replays, it became clear as day that Decker was the one that moved into Budd, causing the contact.

  5. mikegf1 - Oct 8, 2013 at 8:30 AM

    Its not Zola Bud that’s infamous from the 1984 olympics. That distinction goes to Mary Decker that stepped on the barefoot Zola Buds feet, knocking her out of contention.

    • lensbiketravels - Oct 8, 2013 at 8:41 AM


      • saablover231 - Oct 8, 2013 at 11:22 AM

        If they were cars, Budd would have been cited for the accident. If she wanted to move in, she needed to create the space to do so by running faster. Forcing Decker to slow down places the fault on Budd.

  6. dirtymouthfemales - Oct 8, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    HBCU = Historically Black Colleges and Universities

    The athletes participating are what we call community college level. Reading, writing and arithmetic skills not necessary to attend. They did not receive athletic scholarships for running. Either these kids were scared of this old white broad knocking them down or they obviously attended a HBCU school for an associates degree and not on any athletic scholarship.

    NBC loves to create stories where there are none.

    • steveu2 - Oct 8, 2013 at 10:52 AM

      You’re making too much out of this yourself. While NBC’s angle might be slightly skewed, the story is simply about the fact that a former Olympian — famous both for her talent and accomplishments and an unfortunate incident — is still very fit and active and has kids who are running well too. That’s it. No reason to react so strongly or make more of it than it is. If you listen to the interview, she’s very insightful and gives a lot back.

  7. saablover231 - Oct 8, 2013 at 11:25 AM

    In other news, Michael Jordan travels to Poland and destroys prep school basketball players. They should be ashamed.

  8. Karin Zeitvogel - Oct 8, 2013 at 11:50 AM

    Now, we need a story about Wendy Sly, who ended up finishing second after Budd and Decker crashed out of the race. She’s behind Budd on the right (dark hair, same jersey/vest because Budd was fast-tracked for British citizenship because SA couldn’t compete in the Olympics back then).

  9. 2ndchance4acareer - Oct 8, 2013 at 8:03 PM

    This really isn’t that AMAZING as you can clearly see Zola is the only NON black runner and none of these girls look very elite!

  10. doctorrustbelt - Oct 10, 2013 at 9:42 PM

    Priscilla Welch won NY Marathon (2:30:17) at 43 years old.

    Priscilla Welch>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> zola budd

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