Blind runner epitomises the true spirit of Comrades

2012-10-30 00:00

IF the thousands of people who line the road every year to watch and encourage the Comrades Marathon runners closed their eyes to listen, the sounds of the Comrades will open a whole new world to them.

That’s what Mandla Zwane (32), a blind runner from Nongoma, does when he runs the race, taking on the challenge without a guide and relying on the sounds around him to guide him through to the end.

He was born blind and attended the Arthur Blaxall School for special needs in Pietermaritzburg. Said Mandla, “I started running while at school, jogging around the field where there was wide open space and no danger of cars or bumping into anything.”

Mandla has followed that tried and trusted method throughout his running career, training in and around Nzondwane, where he lives. “It’s very rural and I train where there are no cars or anything posing danger. All the people know me and they will move things out my path so I can run properly.”

Having run six Comrades, including this year’s down run where he crossed the line in his best time of 7:52:58, Mandla was honoured with a CATHSSETA Spirit of Comrades award, an honour which recognises individuals involved with the race for their qualities of dedication, selflessness, perseverance and passion for the Ultimate Human Race.

Mandla is an independent spirit and prefers to tackle life and running on his own.

“I don’t want people and fellow runners to feel sorry for me or think I am different. When I run, I use my ears, listening to people shouting at a seconding table and hearing the sound of other runners’ shoes in front of me. I survive on coke, water, the odd leg rub and whatever is offered at seconding tables.

“However, sometimes I am not concentrating and miss a table completely. I have to be extremely careful,” he said.

Unemployed, Mandla gets by on a disability grant and it’s this money that pays his fares to races and for races. “I save that money and pay my own way. I do that for all the races I run. I am part of the running family and do not deserve any special treatment.”

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