“My disease will not keep me off my feet.” Running from Pretoria to Cape Town on crutches

 
 
 

For someone running on crutches, Ipeleng Khunou is seriously fast. Known as The Crutch Runner or Crazy Legs, the athlete moves with agility and coordination. He loves to run, despite being born with septo-optic dysplasia, a rare condition that affects eyesight and balance. “My disease will not keep me off my feet,” Khunou says. Racing against able-bodied runners, he leaves dust in his wake.

Khunou’s athletic journey has been characterised by cramps, pain, and despite that, immense success. He finished five races last year, and completed the 2018 Old Mutual Two Oceans Half Marathon a few months later. Khunou dealt with uneven roads and intense strain on his shoulders during the 21-and-a-half kilometre race. “Running on crutches comes with its own challenges, and it’s highly taxing on the body and mind,” he says. Khunou persevered, and beat the clock to complete that marathon in three hours. But timing was not his primary goal; he ran to raise money for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, which ensures the dignity of children in South Africa through health and safety initiatives. “For me, running was never about speed but moving,” Khunou says. “When I run, I run with purpose.”

And he has no intention of stopping. This year, Khunou participated in the Ocal Journey for Change, a 10-day relay race. To change perceptions of disability, he ran 157 kilometres from Pretoria to Cape Town. “I would like to use my running to inspire the youth and marginalised,” Khunou says. With his insurmountable determination and hardy mindset, Khunou keeps changing the rules of the game. “There’s nothing like the feeling when you cross that finish line,” he says. South Africans are capable of winning, even when it seems the odds are stacked against us.