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  • Writer's pictureThathe Msimango

Mgabhi conquers the Ultra Bolivia race for good cause

Even though she only entered the Ultra Bolivia race for the enjoyment of taking part while doing good for others, Nontuthuko Mgabhi ended up writing herself into the history books. Mgabhi became the first African participant to be on the starting line and finish the challenging race across the Bolivian desert. Described as one of the toughest multi-stage running events on earth, the 220km trek completed in scorching hot weather conditions is divided into seven stages where all runners are required to carry all their own essentials such as food, and water that they need for the week.

This year's race began on the 19th of September and ended on the 25th, with Mgabhi taking fourth overall and was the highest female finisher out of the four that entered the race. For Mgabhi, the purpose was to use race to raise funds to purchase school shoes for the kids of Khuzimpi Primary School in Mtubatuba, northern KwaZulu-Natal. Her target was one pair of shoes for every kilometre. It is not the first time that the 34-year-old goes all out for the school. In 2020 she made history by becoming the first African woman to run seven races on seven continents in seven consecutive days. At that time a whooping R1.6 million was donated and they built five classrooms for the same school.

Mgabhi enjoying the trek through the Bolivian Desert. Photo Credit: CanalAventure Shams.

The Murray& Roberts Running Club athlete has described this experience in South America as one of the most challenging ones she has ever attempted, which says a lot when one considers that she also ran the gruelling Des Sables Marathon through the Moroccan Sahara Desert last year. "I'm happy I have managed to finally finish the race. This was quite a challenging and brutal race if I can put it that way. But in the end, I was doing it for the good cause," said Mgabhi who returned to South Africa this week.

"Firstly, we were running a race at a high altitude just about 3 600m above sea level and at some stages, we reached 4 000m. Then hot weather conditions during the race were unbearable. The race director asked us to arrive early four days before the event to adapt to the conditions. In Bolivia, it is so hot during the day and very cold at night. Days three and four were the toughest and too hilly for us. But I managed to keep going to prove that there's nothing a woman can't do in this world. I needed to inspire all women out there and show them that they can conquer everything in life. After all, I was doing it for the underprivileged kids who needed me to have a bright future," she told #TheTopRunner.

Mgabhi celebrates with the kids of Mtubatuba Primary School after raising funds for them in 2021. Photo Credit: Nontuthuko Mgabhi

Now sitting above R11 000 in funds collected thus far, Mgabhi is aiming to reach her target of R50 000 in order to make her school shoes dream become a reality. She intends to match any donated amount. "So far, I have raised over R11 000 through BackaBuddy. I'll keep welcoming the donations till the 15th of November. I still have over a month left before the donation window closes, " explained Mgabhi, who is a Human Resource Manager at Richards Bay Port.

"In the end, I made a promise to match any amount people end up donating. I think people have to understand the reason I'm ending taking donations in November is to deliver shoes early before parents make plans to buy them for the new year. In other families, a little R200 is a sacrifice between a shoes and food. It different situation altogether." Mgabhi, who has also summited Africa's highest peak Mount Kilimanjaro, has even more epic adventures on her to-do list lined up for 2023. She is aiming to complete the Ultra ASIA Race which is a 160km four-stage race run through the jungles of North West Vietnam.

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