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January 2021 edition

Running around the world for charity

Written by: Dale Hes

A KwaZulu-Natal marathon runner is the first African woman to complete the gruelling World Marathon Challenge. But for her, the journey will only end when she raises sufficient funds to transform a rural school.

Richards Bay marathon runner Nontuthuko Mgabhi (33) has completed the ultimate challenge: running seven marathons in seven days, on all seven continents.

While the achievement comes with considerable prestige, Mgabhi completed the challenge to raise funds for Khiphinkunzi Primary School in Mtubatuba, north of Richards Bay.

Her worldwide adventure started on 6 February, when she joined 36 other competitors in the 2020 World Marathon Challenge.

Mgabhi braved the freezing temperatures of Antarctica, long flights and huge physical strain, but returned to South Africa having successfully completed all seven marathons. 

“The feeling of crossing the line at the final marathon was incredible!” she says.

Driving Mgabhi was her determination to improve circumstances at Khiphinkunzi Primary School, which has 657 learners between the ages of five and 15, all of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“In 2018, I ran the Karkloof 100 Miler ultramarathon. Part of the entry fee for the race went to feeding needy children in rural villages. This is how I came across the school and found out about their needs. I was really touched when I saw the enormous challenges the children face,” says Mgabhi.

The school struggles with broken infrastructure and overcrowded classrooms.

“The parents of the children are unemployed and depend on government grants. The children often go to bed on empty stomachs,” she says.

Even though the world challenge is behind her, Mgabhi still hopes to raise R3.5 million for the school, through her initiative called Go Beyond For a Child. The money will be used to build five classrooms and two administration offices.

The issue of education is particularly close to her heart as she also comes from a disadvantaged background. “Although our parents didn’t have means to afford us a good or decent education, they always encouraged us to dream without limits.”

Mgabhi beat the odds to gain a degree in psychology and today works as the general manager of human resources at the Richards Bay Coal Terminal.

“I encourage people to dare to overcome barriers. The taller the wall, the higher you have to jump.”