Running a marathon is a personal achievement for Nontu Mgabhi who recently returned to SA,upon completing the World Marathon Challenge 2020. The challenge is a logistical and physical one that sees participants run seven marathons on seven continents in seven days. Competitors must run the standard 42.195km marathon in Antarctica, Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe, South America and North America within 168 hours.
“There were two things which pushed me to be a part of this challenge, the first was the need to just push myself to do something challenging and contribute to charity work,” said Mgabhi. She said her need to run for charity became a reality when she discovered the Karkloof 100-miler, a race widely considered the ultimate challenge in trail running around the world which also donated to children in rural villages. The donations are made through race entries, before running the Karkloof 100.
The Richards Bay runner was approached by the Southern Lodestar Foundation. “They said they would like to follow my run. I was one of the first black women to undertake the Karkloof 100, so it was interesting. They believed my run could help inspire kids in rural villages. I am from a rural village called Mseleni, so it made sense to me.”
Mgabhi heard about Khiphinkunzi Primary School in Dukuduku Village, Mtubatuba through the foundation. She visited the school and found poor conditions such as broken windowpanes and classes without desks. So, in the spirit of giving back to the primary school, she took part in the world marathon in 2020 with the aim of building five new buildings.
Mgabhi said while she had run five Comrades Marathons, ran 300-milers and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and she had never worked with a coach but she realized that she would need to be trained by an expert so she reached out to Prodigal Khumalo, a double Comrades Gold medalist who agreed to be her coach.
Mgabhi’s most challenging moment in the World Marathon Challenge was running in Antarctica because of the winds. “Before I took off, the school sent me a video clip of the kids who made a beautiful poster of myself running. They were singing ‘Nontu conquer the world’. They pushed and inspired me.” Things picked up from that point, with Mgabhi travelling to Perth, Australia, where conditions were far more favourable.
“The weather was just so beautiful and perfect for running. It was like a breath of fresh air. I also enjoyed running on the Ferrari racetrack in Madrid which had hills. We ran in loops. It was a challenging and unique experience.” She added that running in Miami was amazing because of the beautiful beach. She encouraged others to face their fears and take on all challenges in life.