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Visually impaired Gugulethu runner doing CT Marathon to celebrate life

Vuyokazi Nombewu from Gugulethu is using the marathon to qualify for the 2020 Comrades Ultra Marathon.

Visually impaired runner Vuyokazi Nombewu. Picture: Supplied

CAPE TOWN - As thousands of runners prepare for the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon this Sunday, a visually impaired runner is hoping to show differently-abled South Africans that anything is possible.

This year's marathon will be under scrutiny by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) as the annual event aims to better its already strong participant and spectator appeal in its pursuit of the federation's new platinum label status.

The marathon, which takes place on 15 September, is currently the only IAAF gold label status marathon in Africa.

Among the thousands of participants is 39-year-old Vuyokazi Nombewu from Gugulethu. Setting her apart from the vast majority of the field is the fact that she has albinism and impaired vision, neither of which has prevented her from going all-out to achieve her athletic goals.

Growing up in the township of Gugulethu on the Cape Flats, Nombewu not only had physical vulnerabilities to deal with but also had the pressure of township living.

The embodiment of hope and resilience, she realised at an early age that regular exercise would be a soothing escape from her sometimes painful reality, and began jogging for about 20 minutes, twice a week.

“Running helped me let go of fear and self-doubt and what people may or may not have thought of me. I felt vulnerable because of my low vision, but the friends I formed in the running club were incredible and before long I wanted to do long-distance running,” said Nombewu.

“I’m running this marathon to celebrate life, it’s a privilege to participate in these races because they give me the gift of movement.”

She will also be using the marathon to qualify for the 2020 Comrades Ultra Marathon.

As Nombewu’s confidence grew, she decided to join a running club. Initially, she thought a club for visually impaired people would be the obvious choice, but she then realised that she wanted that same highs and lows as any other runner would experience.

Her clubmates began taking turns to run alongside her and support her. Her confidence grew even further, propelling her to start competing in half and full marathons around the country.

“Like normal people would say, ‘The sky is the limit’, and why should it be any different for us with disabilities? I hope that by running the marathon, I can show my fellow differently-abled South Africans that anything is possible, that anyone can reach their full potential," she concluded.

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