'I want the academy to be the best in the country in the next 5 years' - Prodigal Khumalo
Anyone who happened to be born in the townships and rural areas of Southern Africa before 1994, will tell you what a special and rare occasion it was to have a birthday party. While commonplace now, many middle-aged black South Africans will tell you that they were only fortunate enough to celebrate their birthday once they were adults. This was Prodigal Khumalo's experience as well. Born on the 4th of March 1982 in Zimbabwe, The Comrades Marathon Gold medalist never got to blow out the candles of a birthday cake until he was buying the cake himself, which is why he now runs to help others.
"I never had a single birthday party in my life so I decided to have a running party at 40 years old and do it for a cause which is assisting runners that share similar backgrounds as me," he told #TheTopRunner after his 45km run from Drummond to Kings Park Stadium last week to raise funds for youngsters whom he recruits into his Orcas Academy. "It made sense to me to run just over 40km since I turned 40 and I decided to celebrate with other runners that love my work," said the Puma sponsored athlete.
His supporters turned out in numbers to join him on the 3rd of April for a run at just under 4min/km. 2018 Comrades Marathon champion Ann Ashworth and her husband David, along with one of the best ultra distance runners in the country at the moment Nkosikhona Mhlakwana ran shoulder to shoulder with Khumalo. He was also supported by Phantane AC boss Mdu Khumalo and fellow elite runners from the Hollywoodbets Athletic Club of which he is the team captain.
"I don't know what I was going to do without their support. They funded half of the event and they were involved so much on the day," he said thanking Hollywoodbets for their continued support of his athletics development initiatives. Last year, the Durban-based sports betting giants assisted the two-time winner of the Ultra-trail Cape Town (UTCT) 100km to complete building the house in Inanda which is the home base of his Orcas Academy.
Hollywoodbets pledged another R20 000 to this year's run, which means that when one adds the R10 000 received from Will Govender of Terra, the total amount raised for 2022 is R30 000. Khumalo is working towards collecting more money to achieve their goal of buying a 10-seater bus which will transport the Academy runners to and from races around Durban.
For the man who guided and now coaches Mhlakwana, seeing young athletes achieve their potential and make a career out of running is what motivates him to keep going. "I want the academy to be the best in the country in the next five years and it's possible if people can keep supporting sports. I'm also looking to have more buildings in order to accommodate athletes here," he concluded.