WATCH: Amputee, Xolani Luvuno, runs the Comrades Marathon amid controversy

2019-06-10 09:22
Xolani Luvuno (Sharlene Rood)

Xolani Luvuno (Sharlene Rood)

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Comrades on crutches: Amputee runner's race of a lifetime

2018-06-08 14:31

Seeing Luvuno in his athletics gear, it's hard to imagine that just two years ago he was destitute, living under a bridge in Pretoria, addicted to alcohol and nyaope.WATCH

Amputee Comrades Marathon runner Xolani Luvuno ran the gruelling race on crutches again this year, completing 82km. 

However, he did not go to the stadium at the finish line to avoid controversy over whether he should have been running in the first place.

"Comrades! It is a pain.... I have that pain of comrades, that pain I wish to feel," Luvuno said afterwards with a wry chuckle. 

He said he did not want to create problems because he ran "without a licence" and added that out of respect for the director of the race, he decided to take the car ride offered to those who do not intend to go to the stadium. 

"The director of Comrades Marathon asked me to respect the rules.  I said: 'Okay, take me with your car.' Because I just respect his rules."

Sharp-eyed supporters of the recovered addict asked why he had used last year's number.

However, the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) explained that it was because of the strict rules applied to everyone who wants to run the race.

It did not allow Luvuno to officially participate in the race, with an updated number, on Sunday after he failed to complete the compulsory qualifying race.

"Of just under 25 000 applicants, about 3 000 failed to qualify," CMA chairperson Cheryl Winn told News24. 

She said that those who were excluded this year included participants who had won multiple medals in previous years.

"He didn't qualify. It is compulsory for everyone," said Winn.

She added that Luvuno, who turned out to be a hit inspiration last year, ran in 2018 with the go-ahead from someone who didn't have the authority to give him permission. 

Luvuno did not get a medal. But the story of his determination was an inspiration to many. He had a difficult life on the streets before discovering running and finished in 16 hours.

WATCH: Amputee runner's inspiring Comrades finish

He had also not run his qualifying race for that year. The qualifier has to do a 42.2km marathon in less than 4 hours and 50 minutes.

Winn said there were many disabled participants who qualified for the event, and this year was no exception. 

Luvuno's friend, Hein Venter, said he had tried everything to get Luvuno a spot in Sunday's race.

He said Luvuno had not completed his qualifying race this year because of injuries sustained during the Ironman triathlon event and because he started running on a prosthetic again. 

He tried to ensure that Luvuno would be able to participate again this year and even asked for him and his support team "to just be road users". 

READ: From nyaope boy to national hero

The association said a hard no, but Luvuno was determined to do it again this year anyway. 

So, he set off at 22:30 on Saturday.

However, when he reached Hillcrest, he was stopped by traffic police. 

Two vehicles escorted him and a security vehicle that his friends privately arranged for him.

Venter said the vehicles were told to go ahead and wait for him at a distance on the side of the road.

"He had to run in the dark without the security, or the light of the vehicles," said Venter.

He said they pleaded to be allowed to follow him until the front runners caught up with him, promising to move out of the way at that point, but to no avail. So Luvuno ran alone. 

His prosthetic was eventually removed because it was clear it was causing him discomfort, but he continued.

He said that Luvuno participated "because there is huge satisfaction in doing crazy-difficult things.

"It's the most incredible experience in the world with all the crowd supporting them (the runners)." 

Winn said the association's rules about not running in the dark was for safety because pre-race vehicles rushed up and down the road before the start of the race.

The association is however planning to discuss the possibilities of accommodating athletes in his position in different ways in the future.


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