and-a-half-year-old RW Venter to receive the gift of hearing by acquiring a cochlear implant.
RW, who lives in Pretoria, is profoundly deaf and I came across him through my participation in the 2016 Mr Deaf South Africa pageant in that city last October.
At their gala evening at the Atterbury Theatre, I was chosen as first runner-up and also received the Charity Award for having raised the most funds for the Decibel Cochlear Campaign, an initiative of the Miss, Mrs and Mr Deaf South Africa (MDSA) organisation.
Following the pageant, I wanted to use the platform my participation had afforded me to try and do something meaningful for the broader deaf community. Being deaf from birth myself, and a runner, I decided to combine a few races I’d planned with raising awareness about the impact of hearing loss, as well as funds to support deaf people needing cochlear implants.
I asked the management of MDSA if they had a child in mind for this initiative and that was how I met RW Venter.
I’ve been moving for 46 hours now – but there’s still two hours to go.
Physically, I am broken, nursing several huge blisters on both feet. The lack of sleep has caught up with me, and I am exhausted.
As I trudge up a short hill, starting to think that maybe I’ll call it a day, I see a group of people whose faces I recognise. It’s some of the management of MDSA who have come out to support me.
And then I see him, little RW, who is running towards me, his arms open wide!
I slow down and crouch as he runs into my arms.
I see his parents, and we greet each other. And then they all start cheering, and urge me to continue.
As I go round the corner, none see the tears streaming down my face. All the pain, all the tiredness, it’s all been worth it. Looking into the eyes of this beautiful child, I am reminded of my own two extraordinary sons, Brendan and Rory, and I think of their strength and courage, and I know I must keep moving. I must see this race through to its finish.
Little RW, his parents, my mentor from MDSA and two of the senior management join me in walking the last few laps.
As we walk, RW at times runs ahead, or sits proudly on the shoulders of his dad. He can’t hear a word I say, but we understand each other in our smiles, and he gestures to me with the international sign for “I love you!”
I can’t really describe what I felt as I crossed the finish line after my final lap. It was by far the toughest physical test of my life, but also the race that has meant the most to me, on so many levels.
I completed 188.2km in 48 hours, and won the race. In the process I became the first athlete from Border to officially complete a 48-hour race, setting the Border record at 188.2km.
I also became the first deaf person in the world to officially complete such a race. I am ranked first in my age group in Africa for 2016 for the 48hour event, and broke the age group course record at Modderfontein by 84km.
This new year brings fresh adventures. I will be running the Oceans Ultra in April, as well as making a return to Comrades. I am hoping to compete at the Century Classic in Pietermaritzburg in September, where I’ll aim to improve on my 48-hour distance.
I am dedicating all of these races to support RW, and help him get a bit closer to experiencing the gift of sound.
If you would like to support me in going the distance for RW, please contact me at timstones1@ hotmail. com, or send me a WhatsApp on 073 162 3852.The account details are: Account Name: My Foundation Trust, Bank: Standard Bank, Branch Code: 033012, Account Number: 272390674, Reference: Cochlear - RW Venter.