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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

How Tumi Sole used running to get over trauma

When Tumi Sole was involved in a car accident and assaulted at the scene in 2015, it was a life changing ordeal. Like many who have had similarly horrific experiences, he struggled to come to grips with and move on from what had happened to him. Acting on the advice of his employer, Sole sought counselling and it was the medical professional who advised him to take up running as a means of dealing with the depression he had slipped into as a result of the trauma he had suffered.

"It was through the company that I used to work for that they recommended counselling and what it means," he told #TheTopRunner at the launch of the Nedbank Runified 3.0 in Sandton. "One thing that came up was that, is there something you haven't tried so far as sporting codes are concerned - and running was it! And I've never looked back."

Sole (right) poses with fellow runner and photographer Tumelo Mabua at the launch of the Nedbank Runified 3.0 in Sandton. Photo Credit: Tumelo Mabua.

Initially just doing it for his own wellbeing, Sole who was already an influential social media figure then began to share his running journey online. The 38-year-old found that in a very short space of time, he was not only feeling better about himself but had also amassed legions of followers from around the world who wanted to be part of the running movement he had started. But it wasn't until people were isolated during the early days of the Covid-19 lockdown that #RunningWithTumiSole was born in earnest as people longed for the social interaction and the outdoors that had been denied by the lockdown.

"And I stood up and said I have to do something about it. I still remember the tweet on the 2nd of January. I told people that I'm going to be starting this hashtag and if you want to be part of it, then post and let's share your stories. We now have presence in 70 countries globally and we've reached almost 3 billion impressions on Twitter. What it basically says is that running is a sport which unites people and we are able to make friends."

A runner enjoying the runner's high during the 5km fun run that took place at the media launch of the Nedbank Runified 3.0. Photo Credit: Tumelo Mabua.

Friends is the key thing. The sense of community offered by running clubs is like no other and while Sole is one of the leaders of the online running club movement, it is a concept which in South Africa was pioneered by the Nedbank Running Club. Starting out as South Africa's first truly national running club for both social and elite athletes, the Nedbank Running Club like Sole responded to the pandemic by bringing people together online and has since grown into the biggest virtual running club on the African continent with over 30 000 members and over 200 000 participants.

The togetherness they fostered through their Strava challenges in 2020, were aimed at helping people to be happier and healthier during a time when mass participation sport such as running was public enemy number one. Realising the positive impact of their initiative Nedbank have now taken it up a notch in 2022. With the launch of the Nedbank Runified 3.0, the banking giant is using the power of running to help people cope with their mental health issues.

SADAG's Zamo Mbele talks to #TheTopRunner about the psychological benefits of running. Photo Credit: Tumelo Mabua.

Two cheques of R10 000 and R80 000 were handed out to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) who have partnered with Nedbank to assist those struggling with mental health issues to use the power of running like Sole did, to be happier and healthier. "What we know is that the impact of running on one's wellbeing is neurological. There is something of a 'feelgoodness' that gets activated when you run and this is biological in one's brain. And running is an absolute medicine not just for feeling good, but for assistance with feeling bad," explained Zamo Mbele who is Deputy Chairperson on the SADAG Board.

The Nedbank Running Club is calling on runners to assist SADAG as they continue their research into the benefits of running on people's mental wellbeing. Join the NRC on Strava and fill in a survey at the end of each run – the data collected in the survey will be used, together with SADAG, as the first comprehensive local study to demonstrate the immense benefits of running to South Africa’s mental wellbeing.

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