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Lipschitz pounds Khayelitsha streets for higher purpose

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Durban’s most loved runner, Adam Lipschitz, will be among the 1 000 other runners lining up at the start of the inaugural Khayelitsha Half Marathon in Cape Town on 10 September, with the aim of helping the township accelerate out of crime, poverty, and gender-based violence.

He’s looking forward to his first township run. “I’ll enjoy it, especially because running can help solve problems in the area,” he says.

Lipschitz almost ended up sleeping in a shack while in Khayelitsha – at least according to the joke told by race organiser, Khayelitsha resident Vukile “Voox” Sonandzi.

In fact, Lipschitz even told him, “Don’t put me in a hotel in Cape Town. I’ll stay in the heart.”

“We live in a terrible place,” says Sonandzi. “But we’re saying maybe through sport we can change the narrative. I invited Adam, who won a gold medal at this year’s Maccabi Games, because if you look on Facebook, he always speaks for the disempowered. I think this is why he accepted. He knows his presence can at least play a role. We can’t all be Mandelas, but even playing a small role makes a difference.”

Originally scheduled for 4 September, the half marathon was postponed following the denial of a permit last week.

Sonandzi has previously organised eight 10km races, but this will be his inaugural half marathon. “This race is a league race for the Western Province Athletics Association,” he says. “Adam is friends with most of the guys in the club. I saw Adam in Gqerberha at the SA Half Marathon Championships. I said, ‘We would like you to be the ambassador for our race because your presence on Twitter and Facebook is massive, and people love you.’”

Aside from the half marathon, Sonandzi is anticipating 800 runners for the 10km race, and 300 parents and children for the 5km fun run.

“Western Province Athletics is sending their runners in large numbers,” he says. “We might have the biggest race ever in Khayelitsha.”

The starting pistol will be fired by Anroux Marais, the Western Cape Provincial Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport.

“We were hoping to get Bheki Cele to do it, but it’s too late now,” says Sonandzi, with a touch of sadness.

However, his biggest headache is the crime in Khayelitsha. “It’s engineered by social ills like unemployment and poverty. But even if you’re poor, nothing gives you the right to attack and kill others. There are other ways to fight the scourge of poverty.”

Sonandzi says Lipschitz’s presence at the race is a blessing in disguise. “If Adam comes to run in Khayelitsha, it will motivate other people who are afraid to come to Khayelitsha to think, ‘If Adam can do it, why can’t I?’”

Former Orlando Pirates midfielder Mark Mayambela and a multiple boxing champion will also be running in Khayelitsha on Saturday. “They’re fit in their respective fields, but Adam brings running passion, fitness, and attitude,” says Sonandzi.

Sonandzi himself has run Comrades and the Two Oceans Marathon. He says he’s an avid reader of the SA Jewish Report, which he picks up at Sea Point Pick n Pay.

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