A Joe Slovo teenager has swopped the dusty township streets for a race track to run towards a brighter future.
Andisiwe Lungisa, a Grade 11 pupil at Sinenjongo High School, started running less than a year ago and has proved himself a natural, completing his first Two Oceans half marathon in one hour, 31 minutes and 26 seconds.
Originally from the Eastern Cape, the 15-year-old is one of 15 junior runners from Sinenjongo High being mentored by the Century City Athletic Club.
A junior coach at the club, Steve Akester, calls Andisiwe a “genius”. He admires the teen’s drive and passion and says he has the “heart of a racehourse”.
“He always arrives at the very last minute, literally scrambling in at the last few seconds and then launching himself to the front. He is consistently in the top 10 at the park run showing improvement week on week,” says Steve.
Andisiwe, who had never run more than 10km at a time, says the half marathon was hard but thanks to “Uncle Stevie’s” help he was able to see it through.
“Uncle Stevie said I must not run fast. I had to pace myself. When the road inclined it was so hard, but I’ve been training for it and it really helped.”
Andisiwe came 274th out of
16 000 runners in the half marathon. An only child raised by a single mother, Andisiwe’s running keeps him busy with weekly time trials on a Tuesday, practice runs on a Thursday and a weekly Saturday morning park run.
At the Century City 10km Express, which forms part of the annual Century City Sports Festival in March, Andisiwe came home in the first 40 runners behind the elites in a time of 38 minutes.
Although proud of his star pupil, Steve takes care to pay homage to the other junior runners as well, saying all show great discipline.
The club members are helping the boys with shirts and transport, but Steve says they are running out of facilities and they need funding to keep the programme going.
“We would like to formalise a kitty so people who would like to help can put it in the kitty. We are looking for companies who can sponsor bursaries after school.”
On Sunday, the club took the boys hiking up Table Mountain, and Steve arranged lifts for the boys with club members, but he says transport is a hurdle and he hopes to find a company prepared to donate a vehicle or at least access to a vehicle at weekends.
Sinenjongo teacher Felicity Mabuzve runs with the pupils and says the school is very proud of Andisiwe.
“We are very thankful to Uncle Stevie, Century City Athletic Club chairman Bertie Cloete and all the club members for the great opportunity and support they are giving all the juniors.”
Andisiwe has his eyes set on a marathon one day but, for the moment, he is happy to be training under Steve.“Uncle Stevie is the one growing the youth of Joe Slovo. He’s the one who keeps encouraging us to not smoke or drink. He tells us about events and encourages us to go to the gym. We appreciate him a lot.”