Virus stops trail runner in his tracks

Local trail runner Sibongile Tshikitsha was meant to fly to Austria on Monday but the marathon he was attending was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: Sandra Birklbauer

A Dunoon trail runner’s dreams of running in one of Europe’s iconic marathons have been put on hold because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Sibongile Tshikitsha was meant to fly to Austria on Monday and spend two weeks there before participating in the now postponed Oberbank Linz Donau Marathon on Sunday April 5.

His trip was organised by a non-profit organisation Bloodsisters, which spotted his talents five years ago when he won the Montosberg 21km trail in a record time.

Bloodsisters founder, Sandra Birklbauer, says they are not overly disappointed because the marathon will now take place later in the year, and Sibongile will travel to Austria then.

“We had prepared him a tour around Austria where he would have been able to meet the supporters of our organisation and acclimatise before the marathon.”

One of Sibongile’s biggest dreams when he started running was to compete in an international race.

He did that in 2015 when he took on the Verdon Canyon 21km half-marathon, in France.

His mentor and coach, Alister “Dreamwilder” Koeresie, hailed Sibongile as a dedicated athlete with a great future in running.

“For the past five years, we have been working on this trip, and I am a bit sad that he could not travel this week, but it is very understandable,” says Alister, who is a professional trail runner himself.

He met Sibongile while he was still training and working with Russian galloper Vladimir Kotov in Century City.

“When I saw him I immediately felt the urge to share my passion for mountains and trails with him, and he agreed to follow me on this path.”

Through his overseas contacts, he managed to put Sibongile through the Bloodsister programme in 2015 and together with the organisation they have been planning this trip.

Sandra says when they heard about Sibongile they “loved his story” and took him under their wing.

“We develop and support exceptional, creative and talented athletes from deprived backgrounds around the world to reach their lifetime dream.

“By personally supporting, mentoring and training each talent, we provide them with the right tools, knowledge and contacts to reach their final goals or a professional career in their field.”

Sibongile runs a small club in the township that encourages children to participate in sport. The club works with 40 children aged 7 to 14.

“I want these kids to have an opportunity to focus on more constructive ways to solve their issues and not fall in with bad elements like I almost did at a young age,” he says.

“Everybody should have that one passion in life, something that fills you with joy all the time.I discovered my passion at a very early age, and I truly believe that I was born to run.I love to run with all of my heart. If I skip practise for one day, it feels like I am missing out on something. That’s why I run every single day, Monday to Sunday.”

Linz Marathon organiser Christina Wiesner confirmed the race had been postponed for a later in the year.

For now, Sibongile’s dream is deferred but he knows his time to shine on the international stage will eventually come.

“I remain positive that this will pass and things will return to normality,” he says.