How Ropafadzo Banhwa Rewrote Her Story and Become a Marathon Runner

It is said that fitness is like a relationship; you can’t cheat and expect it to work.

Obesity and being overweight can be directly linked to depression, anxiety as well as trauma in quite a number of people across the globe. It is known that there is a group of people that tend to binge on food when they are faced with difficult circumstances and this is one such story.

Ropafadzo Banhwa, due to a tragic event, found comfort in food. Although she has a fitness journey that spans from 2013 up to now, she shared with The Weight She Carries how her journey has been to this point.

I grew up in Lochinvar. I come from a family of five, me being the third-born. I graduated from the University of Zimbabwe with a degree in physiotherapy and proceeded to do my master’s at the University of Cape town in South Africa.

From as far [back] as I can remember, I have always been a big baby. At home, my brothers used to tease me and say if they could roll me up, I could become a basketball. At school, I was baby Huey, a cartoon character, and in high school, I was Umaga, the Samoan wrestler. I had settled and accepted that that was who I was and there was nothing I could do to change anything about my body. In high school, my uniform size was between 40-42.

What really escalated my weight gain was when I was 19 years old. I fell pregnant, but the father rejected the pregnancy and [me], so I went through it alone. I carried to full term but unfortunately lost the baby due to a knot that occurred in the umbilical cord. It cut off the supply of oxygen to the baby but was detected after I had given birth. The doctor made an effort to resuscitate to no avail.

Thereafter, I went into post-traumatic stress, which led me to gain a lot of weight. I went all the way up to a whopping 142 kgs! At that point in my life, I stopped exercising and just ate. No one understood the inner turmoil I was in.

At just 19, I had lost a child and did not know how to deal with the situation. There was no counselling, and so I suffered alone. I was hurt, heartbroken, angry and bitter, and so I continued to binge.

It was in 2013 after I had completed school that I got the rude awakening that I needed to jolt me into action.

My brother-in-law took me out clothes shopping, but as we moved from shop to shop, it was apparent that [none] of the stores had anything in my size except for a jersey I picked up from one of the shops. It was during that time that one of the guys in the shop told me that I required a personal tailor to make clothes for me because I had no size in-store.  Honestly, I felt really bad about myself at that point but secretly vowed to lose weight no matter what.

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As soon as I got home, I put myself through a strict three-week fruit and vegetable diet, which helped me lose 10 kgs. I was really motivated by this result that as I reintroduced meat into my diet, I lost a further 7 kgs! In about four months, I had dropped over 40 kgs and began running without experiencing any pain.

As I continued, I incorporated Zumba, gym classes, tummy exercises, etc. I continued to tone my body up until 2016 when I ran my first marathon, which was the Victoria Falls 42 km distance. I could not believe that me, the big baby, was competing at such a platform. After completing the run, I qualified for the South African Two Oceans 56 km and Comrades 89 km marathons!

If there is one thing that I have learnt throughout this journey is that every step counts and that there are no shortcuts. Even if you slow down or give up, just start all over. Set a routine that you know you will be able to carry out throughout the rest of your life rather than quick-fixing. Water intake is very important – every day at least two litres. Love yourself whether you are big or small.

My goal is to continue being fit and to maintain, and also my desire is to compete in the WASHIE 100 MILER marathon.


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