In a few days’ time, 39-year-old Vuyokazi Nombewu will hit the tar along with thousands of other local and international runners, tackling the 42.4-kilometre Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. Setting her apart from the vast majority of the field is the fact that she has albinism and impaired vision – neither of which has prevented her from going all-out to achieve her athletic goals.
Growing up in Gugulethu township on the Cape Flats, Vuyo had not only physical vulnerabilities to deal with, but also the pressure of township living. The embodiment of hope and resilience, she realised at an early age that regular exercise would be a soothing escape from her sometimes painful reality, and began jogging for about 20 minutes twice a week. This escape, and a feeling of vitality and achievement that followed, gave her a growing level of courage to accept her vulnerabilities and a desire to achieve more. “Running helped me let go of fear and self-doubt and what people may or may not have thought of me,” she says.
As Vuyo’s confidence grew, she decided to join a running club. Initially she thought a club for visually impaired people would be the obvious choice, but she then realised that she wanted that same highs and lows as any other runner would experience, so she joined RCS Gugulethu Athletic Club. “I felt vulnerable because of my low vision, but the friends I formed in the running club were incredible and before long I wanted to do longer distance running,” she says.
Running-club mates began taking turns to run alongside her and support her. Her confidence grew even further, propelling her to start competing in half and full marathons around the country.
Vuyo is part of a two-member team from Ocal Global, a non-profit organisation that empowers differently abled people to reach their goals and become agents of change in their communities, which will be taking part in the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. The other member, Nicolene Anley, the founder of Ocal Global will be taking part in the 10km PEACE Run linked to the marathon.
“I’m running this marathon to celebrate life,” Vuyo says. “It’s a privilege to participate in these races, because they give me the gift of movement.” She will also be using the prestigious IAAF Gold Label-status Sanlam Cape Town Marathon as a means to qualify for the 2020 Comrades Ultra Marathon.
The Sanlam Cape Town Marathon, Africa’s “must-run” city marathon, will this year host its strongest and most ambitious elite marathon-runner field to date, with no fewer than 17 IAAF Gold Label elite athletes taking part. The 42.2km marathon follows two days of back-to-back running action, including 5km, 10km, 12km and 22km Peace runs, a bumper registration and expo event at Century City Conference Centre, a breakfast with South African sports veteran Francois Pienaar, and an afternoon function for women in sport and health.
“Like normal people would say, ‘The sky is the limit’, and why should it be any different for us with disabilities?” Vuyo says. “I hope that by running the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon, I can show my fellow differently abled South Africans that anything is possible, that anyone can reach their full potential.”
For more information regarding the marathon’s weekend festival of running, visit www.capetownmarathon.com
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