MY COMRADES STORY BY NONTOMBI LUTHULI

“It is strange how events of life unfold and present so many different meanings. When I started running, it had to do with me preparing for my younger brother’s wedding. It was too big a day for me and I had to look my best.

I saw this big event in the life calendar of my sibling as an opportunity to take on new frontiers and lose weight in time for the wedding. Every time I ran those short distances, I was doing so with joy and hope for what was to come.

Life seemed so perfect and worthy of pursuing those fulfilling goals. I was inspired by Mxolisi “Guffy” Lugulwana, a Comrades Marathon runner from Cape Town.

Yet in 2020, one of my cousins Vuyiseka Luthuli who knew I had started running since 2015, encouraged me to begin a journey of long distance running. Not only was I inspired by the camaraderie that goes with this event, I also saw it as big stage for me as a novice runner who had started running for personal fulfillment rather than those comrades who run these long distances for prize money and prestige.

After a long internal discussion of motivating myself, I was convinced this might be an opportune time for me to register for the 10km virtual race of the Comrades Marathon. I noted the date on which I had made this decision as an important day of decision making, the 14th of June 2020.

Whilst it was five years into my running career, it was 15 years into my own marriage which was coincidentally falling apart. 5 years earlier, running had become an expression of joy and an ability to challenge myself towards a personal goal.

Yet this time around, I was running a longer distance with more internal pain than bodily pain. I was numb to the pain that came with running long distance but I was deeply hurt by the race I was now losing in my life – my marriage.

As the rain drizzled down on me that day, it was doing a good job in hiding the tears from onlookers who could’ve easily mistaken my tears for sweat. As the rain subsided so did the pain as I kept on telling myself there was more to life than temporary discomfort, hurt and anxiety.

I took from that race not only the medal that came with it but had also won my inner strength and self-belief which fueled me in all the challenges I had thereafter taken on.

Beyond the anxiety that came with my impending divorce, this was also during the first stages of the pandemic. I was also in great panic as was the case with many people across the world, yet I was thankful for the opportunity that I was afforded by the organizers of this race.

I was able to redirect my focus from all the negative events surrounding my life. I turned the cup upside down and poured out my negativity into the race I had run. Completing this milestone filled it up with positivity and zeal.

I credit my running for my mental strength and health as I look back on all the traumatic events that have haunted me beyond my divorce. Not only did I witness first-hand the wrath of gender-based violence when my father stabbed my mother putting her into a 6 month coma; I was also present when my brother died from bullet wounds sustained during a robbery at our home.

As if this was not disturbing enough, in 2018 I watched helplessly as my son drowned at the Blue Rock Dam whilst I was taking a video of him having a fun time that ended in his untimely death at the age of 21.

My fitness has become my symbol of self-induced confidence and strength. I so wish other people could redirect their energies towards health and fitness too; and see the results. It’s amazing!”

The winner of this month’s Comrades coffee table book, In Your Stride is Nontombi Luthuli.

GET YOUR COPY NOW!

In Your Stride: 100 Years of the Comrades Marathon, 1921 – 2021 by Steve Camp and Brad Morgan is a must-have for anyone who has been inspired by the race. It documents a unique ultramarathon that has set and continues to set the worldwide bar for astonishing endurance challenges, undertaken and met by ordinary people, including runners from all around the world who are drawn to The Ultimate Human Race.

Runners and supporters residing in South Africa can order their copy now for only R480,00 including packaging and delivery within the Republic, by clicking through here: In Your Stride | i-go-books (igobooks.co.za)

For international orders, please email delaine@comrades.com