Mgabhi laces up for 520km ultra to provide another 520 pairs of school shoes

22 February 2024

She’s already raised over R3 million to upgrade school buildings, build offices and toilet blocks, and buy school shoes for children who don’t have them, and Nontuthuko Mgabhi is not done yet.

Inspired by the struggles of many KwaZulu-Natal children who face barriers to education due to the lack of basic necessities like shoes, Mgabhi has decided to once again turn her passion for running into a force for positive change.

The Richards Bay runner will be taking in the 520km ultramarathon, The Track Namibia, from 15-24 May with the mission of raising money to provide another 520 pairs of school shoes to those in need.

Spanning 10 days, The Track Namibia takes place in southern Namibia, between the Swakop River in the Erongo region and the Sossusvlei dunes.

First up is the Valley of the Moon with its unusual canyons giving it the aspect of a lunar surface. The route then continues through Namib-Naukluft Park. After crossing the tropic of Capricorn between the Gaub and Kuiseb passes, runners will continue south towards the small town of Solitaire in central Namibia. The last part of the race takes runners to Sesriem and the Sossusvlei dunes.

“The distance and the challenge is new for me,” said Mgabhi. “I am excited to test my limits and push the needle. This will be forward progress for me in ultra-running.  From an adventure side, the Valley of the Moon and its multiple canyons have been on my to-do list. And from a social good point of view, I will get to do this while assisting a child in need with school shoes.”

Mgabhi has been down this gruelling road before – having run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents and, more recently, completing the 160km Ultra-Asia race in Vietnam – all with the aim of improving the lives of young people in her province. Funds raised through her Namibian challenge will provide shoes for primary school children in Empangeni, Mtubatuba and Durban.

“I believe in giving back, I am grateful that I am able to give back through my passion: a love of running, travel and nature. It is wonderful to live a life that is authentic with impact. To prepare for these races, although challenging, is not a chore for me – it is a privilege to get to do this. I have the health and means to do it.

“Through long-distance running, we have built classrooms, school toilets, administration buildings, renovated schools, donated school uniforms, books and food parcels. All of this through living my life aligned with my values of health, service and impact. I am humbled by the support from generous donors and sponsors who support my causes and whose values align with mine.

“To consistently deliver social value and impact means there are people invested in giving back – for whom being of service is a way of life. Some of them are small businesses who believe in good deeds. Some are ongoing partners like Bidvest Tank Terminals (BTT) and Salomon.”

Speaking about the ultramarathon itself, which will see her venturing to Namibia for the first time, Mgabhi reckoned: “I am looking forward to running through one of the most spectacular places in Southern Africa.

“The toughest part is mental, managing issues of the mind. The second toughest part in physical – in food self-sufficiency races, the challenging part is carrying your heavy backpack and managing your energy and fuelling. This needs self-awareness, planning and strategy.”

Those wishing to contribute to the cause can contact Mgabhi on: or 082 839 6442.

“Even one pair of shoes will make a difference,” she explained. “I do not underestimate small efforts. I encourage people to partner with me on this amazing journey by donating towards the cause. A total of 520 children in need will be beneficiaries. Let’s send love and hope to the world.”

Mgabhi’s Ultra-Asia exploits to foot the bill for much-needed school shoes

She’s run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents and now Nontuthuko Mgabhi has set herself a new challenge: the 160km Ultra-Asia race from 6-9 March.

For Nontuthuko, it’s not about personal achievement or conquering the ultra-running world but rather a mission much closer to home – rural schoolchildren. So far, the Richards Bay runner has raised over R3 million through her various athletic adventures to better the lives of kids living in poverty.

There were five new classrooms, an admin block and new toilets for Khiphinkunzi Primary School in Mtubatuba, food packages, face masks during the Covid pandemic, and now – school shoes.

“Kids from rural villages have to walk far to get to school because there aren’t many schools,” explained Nontuthuko, who apart from training every day also works as General Manager of Human Resources at Richards Bay Coal Terminal.

She adds, “A school shoe, therefore, becomes a mode of transport, yet some families can’t afford them due to socio-economic factors. A school shoe competes with bread and butter…. These children come from communities and schools that are underserved. A school shoe should not stand in their way. Every child should have a fair chance at success. So this is about reducing or removing barriers to finishing school.”

Nontuthuko’s mission is to raise another R140,000 to provide 500 new pairs of school shoes to learners at five different schools in Mseleni on KwaZulu-Natal’s North Coast. That’s why she’s been running 130-1340km per week in preparation and will board a plane to Vietnam on Saturday to take on the gruelling Ultra-Asia race.

The four-stage event includes a brutal 6000 meters of positive elevation and 7000 meters of negative elevation and requires runners to carry their own supplies. Each night they sleep over in local villagers’ houses.

“I do not run for the podium, I run for the joy of it and for social impact – to make a small impact,” explained Nontuthuko, adding “This race is particularly special because during the event, we will spend the nights in traditional houses on stilts. This kind of experience keeps me grounded and aligns well with the causes I run for. I run for children from the deep rural villages, with special focus on the North Coast. Running a race where I will immerse myself in the villages is spiritually awakening. I love that!”

Asked whether she is daunted by the task ahead, Nontuthuko reckoned: “You need a strong mind, legs, and back. I am also in the right mood and mental state for it. I feel calm. Running for a cause has helped me to enjoy the process more, knowing I am running for something. This is how my initiative called: ‘Go Beyond for a Child’ was born. I run long and far for a child in need.

“Running for a cause has ignited me. I have always loved adventure and have taken on daring challenges before, but since 2019, my love for adventure has grown immensely as I get to achieve a lot through my passion for running. I get the opportunity to give back and change lives, thanks to generous sponsors. They make it happen, they believe in me and the causes I run for,” added Nontuthuko, making special mention of kit sponsor Salomon, MANI Industries, Hollywood Foundation and Bidvest Tank Terminals for their support of her previous challenge.

Those wanting to donate to the cause can do so online at: or for more information email:

Running for the Babies

Three friends from Cape Town tackled a 100km road run – further than any of them had ever run before – to raise funds for a non-profit that looks after abandoned babies, and they took their sense of humour with them. We spoke to the intrepid trio of Angelo Adams, Esmund Van Wyk and Merlin Galant about their run, and we also have a humorous ‘race report’ by Angelo.
– By PJ Moses

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