RUNNING AGAINST THE ODDS

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By Precious Mupenzi

  • Velaphi “Velly” Mkhize, a 48-year-old deaf athlete, embodies resilience and determination, having completed the Comrades Marathon 15 times.
  • Despite financial constraints and the rigorous demands of his training, Velly continues to push himself, driven by personal goals and the support of his community.
  • Velly’s commitment to running transcends personal achievement, symbolising the ethos of the Comrades Marathon and inspiring others to defy the odds.

Velaphi Mkhize, affectionately known as Velly, personifies the spirit of resilience and determination. At 48 years old, Velly is not just your average runner; he is a symbol of perseverance, overcoming barriers, and proving that limitations exist only if you let them. What sets Velly apart is not just his impressive record of completing the Comrades Marathon 15 times and counting, but the fact that he does so as a deaf athlete. Born with a hearing impairment, Velly’s journey to becoming a Comrades runner has been one of grit, determination, and unwavering resolve.

At the 2024 Comrades Marathon, the Eshowe-born athlete from northern KwaZulu-Natal completed his race in an impressive time of 10:59:48, further solidifying his status as a remarkable athlete and a beacon of inspiration for all. What inspires this father of four to lace up his running shoes year after year is the ethos embedded in the very fabric of the Comrades Marathon: “As a South African citizen, you should run a Comrades Marathon at least once in your lifetime.”

“It was after the first Comrades experience in 2003, crossing the finish line within the assigned time and receiving my first medal, that I made a solemn vow to return the following year. Little did I know that this would mark the beginning of a profound love affair with the iconic race,” he says.

Velly says the joy of finishing the Comrades Marathon before the cut-off time brings with it a flood of unforgettable moments, particularly as he reaches the finishing line amidst a chorus of cheers from spectators. His training regimen is nothing short of rigorous; almost every day, after his duties as an Administration Clerk with the South African Police Service in Pretoria, Velly hits the road and runs 21km or 10km, focusing on improving his personal best times, building endurance, speed, and mental fortitude.

However, Velly is not without his challenges. Financial constraints often cast a shadow over his journey. “Financial constraints often hinder my ability to afford the necessary supplements and quality running gear,” he says. Yet, undeterred, he perseveres, hoping one day to work with a dedicated coach to further refine his training routine.

In the face of adversity, Velly employs a steadfast strategy: he trains his mind to remain resilient, pushing past any thoughts of quitting that may arise during the race. Rather than competing against other runners, Velly runs against the distance itself, setting goals to improve his personal best and ultimately earn the coveted Green Number, signifying multiple Comrades finishes.

But it is not just personal glory that drives Velly forward. “The unwavering love and support I receive from my community and loved ones provide me with the courage and motivation to keep going, mile after mile. I believe in the importance of focusing on running one’s own race, staying true to oneself, and embracing the historic significance of participating in the Comrades Marathon,” he says.

“Comrades Marathon is an opportunity to make history, to defy the odds, and to emerge not just as a participant, but as a hero. As I set sights on my 15th Comrades Marathon in 2024, I remain the epitome of determination, proving that with passion, perseverance, and a fighting spirit, anything is possible,” he concludes. Velly not only conquers the iconic Comrades Marathon repeatedly but also undertakes the Two Oceans Marathon and Durban International Marathon as a vital part of his preparation.

 

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