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  • Thathe Msimango

Nontuthuko Mghabi runs 250km desert race and raises R720k for rural KZN school

South African social runner and adventurer Nontuthuko Mgabhi completed the ten day Des Sables Marathon in the Moroccan desert despite soaring temperatures. Her reason for taking on the 250km odyssey was to raise money for the building of toilets and administration blocks at the Khimpinkunzi Primary School in rural KwaZulu Natal. The race which ended on Saturday 9 October saw over 50 percent of its participants withdraw after the scorching heat forced them to seek medical treatment. Speaking to #TheTopRunner, Mgabhi says she is proud of how she performed in the race and is still hoping to change more people's lives.


"This race is beyond my wildest dreams. From the 1st to the 9th of October it’s been magical. The stage race started on 3 October after all the technical equipment of every runner was checked and their medical fitness certificate and heart scans, as well as bag, weighed to ensure the weight is not below 6.5kg and not above 15kg," explains Mgabhi, who made history last year by running seven marathons in seven days on seven continents.

"Arriving in the Sahara Desert on 1 October it was clear the conditions are tough, this is a monster of the deserts! I had to spend some time rethinking and looking at my plans for the race and thinking about how best to execute my plans. Claiming the 13th position was truly a surprise for me as I do not run for the podium or position but I run to make an Impact and to change lives. I was truly surprised by the results. I am happy with how I managed myself and the race," said an elated Mghabi.


The 34-year-old who works at Richards Bay Coal Terminal as a general manager of human resources describes the heat conditions as the major challenge they faced in the race.

"The Heat was the main challenge. Temperatures were as high as 55 degrees celsius, these temperatures are regarded as high even by Sahara Desert standards. You will also remember that the race normally runs in April (which is cooler), but this year due to COVID-19 related postponements it had to take place in October (which is a very hot month). It is also regrettable that on day 2 one of the runners died in the dunes on his way to the finish of the second stage. The race was made up of 6 stages, with one stage being 82.5km, the other four stages being between 32km - 42km, and the last stage being a charity or solidarity run of 8km. The heat was the order of the day on all stages. The conditions were brutal," she said.


Mgabhi who runs in the colours of Murray and Roberts Athletics Club is delighted that the building project started. "When I left for the race I had managed through sponsorship to raise R720 000 which is only R380 000 short of the target. I am also proud to say that the building of the toilets and the administration block at Khiphinkunzi Primary School starts at the schools reopen," she said.


And she is not done yet because she is hoping to run a similar race in the future. "Of course I will do this race again, but maybe in 5 years time. For now I want to move on to other adventures. There is still so much to see and do!"

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