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: