Now that’s gold: repairman helps fulfil Comrades runner’s dream
KZN man's hopes destroyed by bullets, but the guy who fixed his fridge is helping to reignite his passion for running
A KwaZulu-Natal handyman could never have predicted that a simple job to fix a broken fridge would turn into a crowdfunding campaign for a Comrades Marathon runner who was shot five times after a race.
Last week, Theo Lubbe, from Pietermaritzburg, who works mostly in rural communities, went to Aaron Ngubane’s house to repair his fridge. That was when he noticed his medals and photos from running the Comrades Marathon.
But when he asked him if he would be racing again this year, Ngubane’s response caught him off guard. “He said unfortunately he can no longer compete because he suffered some serious injuries during an attack at his home in 2015,” Lubbe told Times Select.
For Ngubane, taking part in a competitive race has always been a dream and, in 2007 when he was 39, he told himself it was never too late to pursue his passion.
“It has always been a dream for me to take part in a marathon like the Comrades, but some things stood in the way for me for many years of my life,” he said.
However, his lifetime dream and passion were cut short in 2015. After completing his eighth Comrades he was attacked at his home and shot several times. “I always envied those taking part in the Comrades, but funds stood in the way. I couldn’t afford to have proper running shoes or pay for entry fees,” he said.
In the year of his first Comrades he was helped by the local Willie Mloto Athletic Club, which paid his entry fee and provided proper running shoes.
“Without the club’s assistance I would never have realised this dream,” he said.
Ngubane completed his first race in less than eight hours and received a Bill Rowan medal.
Ngubane is now 52 and said the attack in 2015 set him back completely in life. He is now unemployed and said he would never ever be able to take part in a competitive race again.
Before the attack he was employed at a local bed and breakfast as a general worker.
“It was really my dream to one day be the winner or come up in the top 10 runners but that will never be possible,” Ngubane said.
The injuries he suffered during the attack left him with weak muscles in his hands and feet, and he can no longer run or lift anything heavy.
“Life is really tough for me,” he said.
He relies on a R1,600 disability grant from the government to survive, but said it’s not enough to support his four children and wife.
However, Ngubane is not ready to give up yet and has aspirations to start an athletics club in his community.
“I just want to pass on my knowledge to the young people. I believe athletics will also assist to keep them away from the streets and from doing wrong things like crime and drugs,” he said.
“If I can just get the right sponsorship, I’m ready to go,” Ngubane said.
Lubbe said he was helping to start the crowdfunding campaign so Ngubane could start his running club.
“He is a very positive person and you can see that he wants to share his knowledge with others,” Lubbe said, adding that he hoped a charity race could be started in Ngubane’s name to honour his bravery.
Ngubane said the attack left his community shattered as they were proud of his achievement of completing a number of Comrades Marathons. They “were proud of me as they said they loved the fact that one of their own took part in such an important marathon, and they also enjoyed seeing me on TV”. “The community is still not happy, they are angry at what happened to me,” he said. Ngubane said one of his attackers was arrested shortly after the incident, but died in jail after being sentenced. The second assailant was never arrested. Nothing was stolen during the attack.