/FEEL GOOD | Seven marathons on seven continents in seven days? No problem!

FEEL GOOD | Seven marathons on seven continents in seven days? No problem!

Inspired by pushing her willpower to its limits and the need to give back to South Africans less fortunate than herself, marathon runner Nontu Mgabhi has run seven marathons on seven continents over seven days.

The KwaZulu-Natal woman from Richards Bay returned accomplished and full of glee on Wednesday at King Shaka International Airport after participating in the World Marathon Challenge.

The challenge is a logistical and physical one that sees participants run seven marathons on seven continents in seven days.

Competitors must run the standard 42.195km marathon in Antarctica, Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe, South America and North America within 168 hours.

What pushed Nontu to this challenge?

Mgabhi said she was inspired to undertake the run after a 100-miler she ran in 2018.  

“There were two things, the first was the need to just push myself and really do something challenging which I started in 2018 on my birthday when I ran the Karkloof 100-miler. I also really wanted to do charity work.”

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(Supplied: Nontu Mgabhi)

She said her need to run for charity became a reality when she discovered the Karkloof 100-miler, a race widely considered the ultimate challenge in trail running around the world, also donated to children in rural villages.

“The donation is made through the race entry.”

Mgabhi said before running the Karkloof 100, she was approached by a feeding scheme, the Southern Lodestar Foundation.  

“They said they would like to follow my run. I was one of the first black women to undertake the Karkloof 100, so it was interesting. They believed my run could help inspire kids in rural villages. I am from a rural village called Mseleni, so it made sense to me.”

She said through the foundation, she became familiar with Khiphinkunzi Primary School in Dukuduku Village, Mtubatuba, a school that teaches 675 pupils.

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(Supplied: Nontu Mgabhi)

“I drove there to talk to and motivate the pupils. I saw the need of the school and it touched my heart. The kids were subjected to poor conditions. Some classes had 110 pupils in it. There were also broken windowpanes and classes without desks. They really needed help.”

She said she believed more had to be done to help the children.

“Genius is well distributed, but opportunities are not and that is the deal breaker. Success is about opportunity. I wanted to give them more.”

In her quest to challenge herself, Mgabhi said she resolved to run the gruelling world marathon in 2020.

“But then I thought that this is such an intense marathon, perhaps I should do it for a good cause. Then I remembered the school. I ran for them. They were my motivation.”

She decided to run for the school to build five new buildings.

Training regiment

Mgabhi said while she had run five Comrades Marathons, ran 300-milers and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, she never worked with a coach.

“It is important to seek out those who know more than you. I thought I needed a coach for this mammoth task and reached out to Prodigal Khumalo, a double Comrades Gold medallist. He became my coach and did a fantastic job. He pushed me further than I’ve ever been pushed.”

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(Supplied: Nontu Mgabhi)

Most challenging moment

Mgabhi said her most challenging moment came in Antarctica where even drinking water was a chore.

“It was first a challenge to even get to the continent. The winds were bad, even by Antarctica standards. We were planning to initially go with private charter plane, but this was not possible.”

She said they had to get a Russian military aircraft to take them to the southern-most tip of the planet.

“A normal craft would just not be able to land.”

Once Mgabhi landed, the conditions on the ground posed more threats.

“From the time we got there, the wind was bad. You try to drink water, but the water was frozen. You can barely use your hands. I, however, got to position four in Antarctica, I passed the finish line and could not get my gloves off by myself.”

feel good, seven marathons
(Supplied: Nontu Mgabhi)

When asked what got her through the Antarctica leg of the marathon, she said it was the pupils from Khiphinkunzi Primary School.

“It was actually the power of the universe at work. Before I took off, the school sent me a video clip of the kids who made a beautiful poster of myself running. They were singing ‘Nontu conquer the world’. In Antarctica, it was all that kept me going. I knew I needed to conquer. They pushed an inspired me.”

Things picked up from that point, with Mgabhi travelling to Perth, Australia, where conditions were far more favourable.

“The weather was just so beautiful and perfect for running. It was like a breath of fresh air. I also enjoyed running on the Ferrari racetrack in Madrid which had hills. We ran in loops. It was challenging and a unique experience.”

She said running in Miami was also “amazing”.

“We were obviously running along the beach which was so beautiful. The people were also amazing. I was wearing my SA gear and they were cheering me on. It was like I was at home.”

kzn woman, feel good, seven marathons
(Supplied: Nontu Mgabhi)

Where to from here?

Mgabhi said her next race would be bigger and better.

“I have not settled on what I will be doing next, but I know I need to go bigger. I have to push further all the time.”

She encouraged others to face their fears and take on all challenges in life.

“You cannot stall yourself because of fear, otherwise you will never start. Live your grandest life. Fear is not something we should shy away from. Fear is good and we are expected to face it. Face your fear and do what you want anyway.”

If you would like to donate to Mgabhi’s charity, you can find out more on her backabuddy page. 

seven marathons, kzn women, feel good
(Supplied: Nontu Mgabhi)

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