88 kilometres. 45 000 bounces of one tennis ball to save a child’s life

The tennis ball hits the ground, kicks up dust and is back up again before Myles Buxton gives it another toss. Each bounce forms part of his unusual routine as he moves forward with the throngs of runners attempting the grueling 88 kilometres from Durban to Pietermaritzburg. Unlike other Comrades entrants, his focus is not just on the ticking of the clock or the strain of running further than most people drive in a day. It’s on the small green ball which he never loses sight of, his body completely in tune with its movement as he bounces it roughly 45 000 times in an attempt to save a life.

Buxton’s run is an attempt to raise close to a million rand for a leukaemia patient as well as a child with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy who is in need of a motorised wheelchair. The ball, and a spare just in case, is his partner for every marathon, adding to the challenge. And Buxton’s antics are attracting attention. “I realised I had to do something different to perk people’s interest to raise money,” he explains. His bizarre approach was inspired by the movie Cast Away, in which a volleyball becomes integral to a man’s survival on a remote island.

Despite the novelty of his running, Buxton is by no means taking this lightly. So far, he’s raised around R150 000 for numerous charities. “It’s much easier to run for others than to run for myself,” he says. Of the six Comrades Marathons he has conquered, three have been with Bouncing Wilson, his trusty ball. Asking people to give up hundreds of thousands of rands to a complete stranger takes balls. Fortunately for Buxton, he’s got a pair.