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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

Runners pay tribute to their fellow Comrades Marathon athlete Xolani Luvuno

As tributes continue to pour in for Xolani Luvuno, runners have begun reflecting on the life of a man who inspired so many. At just 16, a nascent drug addiction saw the amputee kicked out of home and forced to live on the streets where he begged and stole to feed his habit. After being sentenced to a 5-year jail term for house breaking, Xolani's life took another difficult turn when he was diagnosed with cancer upon his release from prison leading to the amputation of his leg in 2009.

Luvuno in action during the Comrades Marathon. Photo Credit: Xolani Luvuno.

"I found a small ball on my leg and I later started vomiting," he told Claire Mawisa during an interview with Carte Blanche. "The street guys took me to the hospital and the first word the doctor said is that I have bone cancer. The doctor said they have to cut the leg over the knee. I had that fear that how could I survive with one leg? I started to worry when the doctor chased me out," explained the man from Port Elizabeth who was then forced to return to life on the streets where he would remain as a one-legged beggar for another ten years.

But a chance meeting with businessman Hein Venter on a Centurion street corner in April 2016 would change his life forever. The two became friends with Venter eventually offering him a job and a place to stay. In order to beat the drugs and alcohol, Xolani took up running and within two short years of starting he completed his first Comrades Marathon in fifteen and a half hours on 10 June 2018, as a packed Moses Mabhida Stadium exploded into applause.

Luvuno clutches his medal in joy after taking part in an Iron Man 70.3 race. Photo Credit: Xolani Luvuno.

Luvuno's journey of triumph over his emotional demons and physical disability inspired millions of South African runners in particular, who responded with sadness when veteran athletics administrator Colleen McNally shared the news of his passing on social media this morning. "Comrades Marathon will never be the same without him," said Milton Kekakna as tributes poured in following news of his death this morning. "Rest in Peace Xolani, your courage touched so many life's, you will be missed!" exclaimed Renier Grobler, while Peter Bongani Skosana thanked him for his contribution to the sport. "Sad to hear but u made a mark that would for ever be forgotten, being brave a sign we will keep it in our future races. Rest in peace Xolani you were a hero," he said.

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