Ever run an ultra marathon? The world gets smaller as the race gets longer, contracting into a space defined by immediate destinations. Reach the next lamppost; get past that bend in the road. Small goals that add up to a monumental accomplishment. Richard Monisi can’t run this way, because he can’t see. But this blind man has finished the Comrades Marathon 12 times.
Monisi was born blind, regaining five percent of his vision in an operation he received at the age of 12 – enough to see vague shapes and colours. Forced to drop out of school early, he moved to Johannesburg to live with his father. It was there that he got into long-distance running, helped by coach Gerald Fox. Finding the time to train for an ultra is a problem all distance runners grapple with. Monisi solved it by training from 3 to 6am. He ran Two Oceans and the Comrades. Came back year after year, racking up 12 finishes at the Comrades and 11 at Two Oceans to date. On top of being blind, Monisi does all of this while fighting HIV.
The man is so driven he once kept going after his guide at Comrades collapsed due to dehydration, finishing in less than 10 hours. After tending to his stricken carer, he carried on up the road and finished, using his cane to find his way. Think about that next time you feel that you can’t make it to the line.