Re­mem­ber­ing Richard

Richard

Runner's World South Africa - - Contents -

A tribute to the late Richard Mon­isi: SA’s blind veteran Com­rades run­ner.

Trag­i­cally, blind veteran Com­rades run­ner Richard

Mon­isi was killed in a hi­tand-run ac­ci­dent on Satur­day 10 June. This is a heart­felt tribute to a brave, hum­ble and in­spir­ing man, writ­ten by those who knew him best.

Andrew Hall, Mon­isi’s guide at Com­rades 2017

At the end of 2016, I was asked to run my first Com­rades with a blind run­ner, called Richard Mon­isi.

I had met Richard be­fore, when he fin­ished his 12th Com­rades in 2016. His guide had got him to 10km, and then he had run the re­main­ing 80km alone, armed only with his stick, 5% sight, and a whole lot of heart.

My training was spo­radic. The night be­fore our race, I had a hard time con­vinc­ing my­self that I had done enough. But then I re­minded my­self that I had pledged to run it for more than just me: I needed to be some­one else’s ‘eyes’.

Richard and I had spent many months shar­ing voice notes and mes­sages of en­cour­age­ment. It was a pity we never got to go on a training run to­gether – we had the best of in­ten­tions, but work and life al­ways seemed to get in the way.

But de­spite the fact that we lined up at the start of the Com­rades as an un­tried part­ner­ship, the 87 kilo­me­tres that fol­lowed will go down as one of the best ex­pe­ri­ences I’ve ever had com­pet­ing in an en­durance race.

Richard and I found our groove in­stantly – it was as though I’d been do­ing this pi­lot­ing thing for years. He set the pace dur­ing the first half, and I set it in the sec­ond. Hills were bro­ken into what he liked to call “baby steps”.

( He also told me he had a strict nowalk­ing pol­icy – which scared the life out of me. Luck­ily, we did plenty of walk­ing dur­ing the lat­ter stages of the race!)

Ev­ery­one knew Richard

The par­tic­i­pants we ran along­side were ea­ger to help at wa­ter ta­bles, and some even wanted to help me pi­lot Richard. “Mon­isi!” the crowd cheered – and that acted as a tonic on the long and wind­ing climbs.

On quiet stretches of the route, Richard re­vealed more about him­self, and the amaz­ing feats of brav­ery he’d ac­com­plished on the jour­ney to his 13th Com­rades. He came from a world that I could barely com­pre­hend; we had lived in dif­fer­ent uni­verses. And yet, through run­ning, we were so in tune.

The man also had a sense of hu­mour. Af­ter we’d tack­led one of the first ma­jor hills, I be­came more

News, Trends, and Reg­u­lar Run­ners Do­ing Amaz­ing Things

RIGHT: The run­ning com­mu­nity herowor­shipped Mon­isi, be­cause he rep­re­sented ev­ery South African who has to face ad­ver­sity.

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