Sbonelo Khwela: The river runnerWings For Life World Run: In his quest to become a champion paddler, Sbonelo Khwela became a champion runner, too
Portaging (carrying your canoe around sections of non-navigable rapids) is a major part of the three-day, 120km Dusi canoe marathon, the biggest race on Sbonelo Khwela’s calendar. But for Khwela, being out on foot represents a lot more than just preparing for the Dusi.
Khwela spent most of his free time playing soccer until he met Martin Dreyer and joined the seven-time Dusi winner’s Change A Life paddling academy. Today, Khwela is one of the most feared marathon paddlers in South Africa, with wins at the Dusi and the Non-Stop Dusi to prove it. But Dreyer didn’t only instil a love for paddling; he encouraged Khwela to try other disciplines, too.
In 2009, Khwela won the inaugural 86km Dusi trail marathon, run on cattle tracks and dirt roads. Khwela lists that win as one of his most memorable running experiences, along with “the Burma Road portage I ran at last year’s Non-Stop Dusi”.
Burma is a treacherous 3km run, and on that occasion he blazed it so hard that he narrowed the gap on leaders Nhlanhla Cele and Thulani Mbanjwa – who were racing in a K2 (two-man canoe) – to just 30 seconds.
“I also look forward to my 10km daily training runs without my boat,” he says. (Portaging obviously requires running with a boat.) “And the regular 7km time trials we do on tar. Sometimes it’s nice to run on the road.”
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Wings for Life World Run 2016