Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 141, May 2021 May 2021 | Page 24

A large , loud and proud group sets out from Pretoria on day 1

On the Road to Makhado

When a runner has a dream to use his running to help those in need , it should come as no surprise when his running community rallies to support him . Even if it means running 400km from Pretoria to Makhado . – BY KENNETH MOOKENG that the school does get wheelchairs as donations from time to time , but they need specialised wheelchairs for the needs of the children , or money to customise the wheelchairs . So , with a target of raising R75,0000 for three wheelchairs , we headed to Makhado .
Ticking off the kays on day 3

While most runners have been frustrated by the lack of races this past year , and the cancellation of the Comrades Marathon for at least two years , due to COVID-19 and the subsequent national lockdown , some have used this time to imagine the unthinkable . One such runner is Vincent Matlhamela , who had a dream to run from Pretoria , where he works , to his home in Makhado , Limpopo , in the area formerly known as Venda .

This would mean a 400km journey on foot , and the driving force behind the run was Vincent ’ s desire to raise funds for the Tshilwavhusiku Razwimisani Special School in Ha-Ravele Village , for children aged 6 to 18 with an intellectual disability or impairment . The school receives a subsidy from the SA Government , but this amount is not sufficient to run the school effectively , and it thus relies on fundraising initiatives in order to raise the funds needed to operate the school effectively .
According to Vincent , “ The disabled in my village are confined to their homes , because parents keep such children indoors , and I think a charity drive could allow them to be mobile and go outdoors with their wheelchairs .” He thus decided to tackle the distance over five days , averaging 80km – nearly a Comrades Marathon – each day , starting on 27 April and reaching Makhado on 1 May .
With a Little Friendly Support
Vincent ’ s initiative soon caught the attention of Coach Madoko Ndlovu , who is best known for his pacesetting delivery of running buses at many races , including the Comrades Marathon . He is also founder of the Madoko Athletics Club , a community of athletes that have clubbed together to promote development in athletics , create run-for-purpose events , and contribute to athletics in general . Therefore , as part of his Run for a Purpose initiative and Giving From the Heart training runs , Madoko determined to help make Vincent ’ s dream come true .
He organised a team of capable runners to accompany Vincent and himself on the 400km journey to Makhado , including Tshepo Malapane , Jacob Lekhafola , Tobias Ndou , Lehlogonolo Letsoalo , Kwena Matlhono and James Mpanyane . He then went still further and organised a support team to accompany the runners and look after their needs , including myself .
To be honest , I never imagined that any person can be crazy enough to think about running 400km from Pretoria to Makhado , especially during these times when people have little or no motivation to remain fit . But much as this would be a dream come true for one runner , the actual purpose for all of us was to raise funds for a school for differently abled children in Makhado . Upon research , we discovered
Vital support from the seconding crew
ISSUE 141 MAY 2021 / www . modernathlete . co . za
Kenneth Mookeng during the 400km journey
Hitting the Long Road
On our first day , over 100 runners came along and ran with us , covering various distances , with most returning at the halfway mark of 40km , as we were covering a distance of 80km per day . It was wonderful , and felt like we were in a race again as we headed for Bele Bela . The second and third days , from Bela Bela to Naboomspruit , and then on to Polokwane , were more difficult for the runners due to the heat and hills , but still a great success . The runners in Polokwane did not want to be outshone , so they came out to welcome us in numbers , wearing bright colours , with their whistles and bells , waking the sleepy suburbs in the wee hours of the morning , like the circus coming to town . We were also accompanied to Botlokwa by the well-known ‘ bus driver ’ from Polokwane , Rocky .
The final day was full of emotions . We were joined by local runners who heard about our run on radio shows , and even a few who came all the way from Pretoria to finish what we had started in Tshwane . Arriving at our destination , it was humbling to see the smile on Vincent ’ s face , and all the other runners , especially those who ran the full 400km over five days . The school principal , staff and the children were dumbstruck by the achievement of this feat , and more importantly , by the possibilities that can be realised .
I could only run half the distance , as my responsibility was to support the running team , and I am sure I would have collapsed by the second day if I had tried to run the whole way . I saw stars , hashtags , halfmoons and various other funny signs after running the Comrades Marathon , so how would I attempt doing that again the very next day ? But during this incredible run , I have internalised the concept of Run for a Purpose and Giving From the Heart .
A look-back at five days of incredible running camaraderie
Add Your Support
At the time of writing , Vincent and his running friends have raised just over R11,000 towards their target of R75,000 . You can add your support at www . backabuddy . co . za / 400kmrunforwheelchairs
Images : Tshwantsho Photography & courtesy Kenneth Mookeng & Vincent Matlhamela