Meet Bhekani Yalo. He’s the 21-year-old runner who captivated the Kearsney Striders audience by going (and winning) the 10km distance on the 20th of January… barefoot.
Bhekani caught the attention of Big Red Design Agency – the race’s media sponsor – when they saw the barefoot athlete taking on the race sans shoes, leading the way and winning the race too.
Anthony Kirkwood, Big Red Design Agency’s Creative Director was so inspired by Bhekani’s performance on the day, as well the runner’s sheer determination, he immediately took Bhekani to the MRP Sport store in Hillcrest where the young athlete was kitted out with a few running essentials – including running shoes.
After spending some time with the runner, Anthony soon discovered that Bhekani had never been fortunate enough to own a pair of running shoes and has been borrowing his neighbour’s shoes to run in. This inspired Anthony to set #BhekaniYalosStory in motion, a campaign aimed at sharing Bhekani’s story and to appeal to brands to support the young champion.
Anthony first got in touch with Mitchell Lupton and Martin Ngwenya, MRP Sport’s Sponsorship Coordinators who’ve offered Bhekani running gear for the year ahead. Their first shopping venture at MRP Sport saw the barefoot champion choosing active apparel, running shoes and sunglasses – all of which are sure to elevate the young runner’s talent.
Bhekani, who hails from the Sirhasheni settlement just outside of Bizana in the Eastern Cape, spent the day at MRP Sport’s head office in Durban alongside Zenzele Dube – Wild Coast Athletics Club chairman and Bhekani Yalo’s coach.
The runners shared their stories.
Watch the video below.
Bhekani Yalo’s story continues, watch part two.
Bhekani took part in his first marathon at just 16. He fondly recalls his first Durban City Marathon, where he completed the 10km distance in around 35 minutes. The annual marathon – which he has taken part in every year – has become his favourite. When asked why, Yalo laughed and shared, “…because it’s flat.” To get race ready, he trains with the Wild Coast Athletics Club three times a week, and every other day by himself, averaging around 17 to 21kms a day.
Dube, his coach, is also active in the running scene, taking part in iconic marathons such as the Comrades Marathon and the Two Oceans Marathon. Not only is he an avid runner, Dube is also an avid advocate for bringing running to the youth of rural communities across South Africa.
“In the rural areas there is only one home, and that’s soccer. Running in this village is a new thing. The young ones who are not interested in playing soccer now have a new home. The team is growing massively. Whenever we run and they see Wild Coast Athletics Club, they are curious and the team keeps growing. The kids seem to enjoy this new sport in their area.”
Bhekani is just one of the many young runners that Dube has trained, nurtured and inspired. We asked him about his running hero. His eyes light up and without a pause, Bhekani emphatically answers, “Bongmusa Mthembu!” – the reigning Comrades champion.
Anthony Kirkwood challenges anyone who can to get involved and help Bhekani in any way they can. “We’re here to help Bhekani share his story; and having it continue is key. If there are any brands or companies out there who can get involved and be part of Bhekani’s story and make a difference, contact us. Let’s make a big difference together.”
Get in touch with Anthony by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Article written by: Stephanie Millar | MRP Sport