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  • Mosibodi Whitehead

'Running has taught me resilience' - Thulani Sibisi on surviving prostate cancer

When Thulani Sibisi won the 1986 Two Oceans Ultra Marathon he had to do it the hard way. He caught Lesotho's Ben Choeu 1km from the top of Constantia Nek to take line honours in 3:09:30. The grit and determination the 25-year old showed on that day (just a year after he had bombed badly after going out hard in the first 42km), would serve him well 26 years later when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.


Sibisi poses for a photo with 3-time Comrades Marathon runner-up Bob de la Motte during a race in the 80's. Photo Credit: Bob de la Motte.

"Running has taught me resilience," he told #TheTopRunner days after hosting a club run to raise awareness about the silent killer. "It has taught me to face any challenge with faith, trust, commitment and a belief that I can overcome anything," said the man who thought he might die when doctors told him in 2012 that his cancer had progressed to stage four.


The same never-say-die attitude he showed on Saturday 29 March 1986, would serve him well again when he once again refused to be beaten. Sibisi has now lived almost a decade since he was first diagnosed with the deadly disease and has used his profile as a top runner to raise awareness, especially in the townships and rural areas. On Heritage Day he teamed up with his club members at Diepkloof Athletics Club to host the first annual Thulani Sibisi Suit Up & Run 12km event.


Members of DAC came out in support of Sibisi's prostate cancer event on 24 September 2021. Photo Credit: Thulani Sibisi.

"Diepkloof always avails itself for any community project. We have a very close relationship as I have been a member for years and they have supported me greatly since I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012. September is prostate cancer awareness month called #SuitUpSeptember where we encourage men to wear suit and ties at our events to raise funds for the fight against prostate cancer. You can buy a sticker for R20 or more and stick it to your jacket to be part of it," he explains.


Sibisi sharing the message of early detection with runners after the 12km run/walk. Photo Credit: Thulani Sibisi.

That he continues to walk when he can no longer run is testament to the humility of a man who thanks running for teaching him important values which he carries throughout his life. It means the for as long as he is able, he will continue to preach the message of early detection and the benefits of an active lifestyle. "The doctor told me that if I had not been running regularly then I would have died long before I was diagnosed. So early detection is key and you can do that by going for a test as young as 40 years old. Also go for walks or do any sports, eat healthy food which includes drinking lots of water and avoid sugar," he concluded.

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