The Athletes' Village supports some 300 athletes. File photo: Phando Jikelo / African News Agency (ANA)

CAPE TOWN – It is a pretty long way from Rustenburg to Cape Town. Not the kind of trip a man working as a domestic gardener would make easily but thanks to Old Mutual, Lucky Mokotedi will be in the Mother City over the Easter weekend to participate in the Two Oceans Marathon.

The financial giants, who are the main sponsors of the world’s most beautiful marathon, have made it possible for Mokotedi and 299 other athletes to participate in the 50th edition of the race taking place next Saturday.

Through their athletes’ village, Old Mutual are helping runners who would ordinarily not afford accommodation in Cape Town to be able to run the race. Mokotedi is one of the beneficiaries and says he could not contain his excitement when he received a message informing him that his application was successful.

“If I was not selected by the company. It would be difficult for me to get to Cape Town for the race,” Mokotedi said “I am grateful to Old Mutual for this opportunity. The company is a lifesaver, not just for me but for a lot more other athletes.”

Mokotedi, who tends to gardens in Johannesburg, is delighted he can now be able to support his family and not take part of his earnings to fund his love for running.

“I have to send the little that I am earning as a gardener in Randburg back to my kids at home in Rustenburg. So it is great that I do not have to stress about accommodation for the race in Cape Town as I will be staying at the athletes’ village. It is really a privilege,” said the father of two children.

Old Mutual Head of Communications Tabby Tsengiwe said they are just happy to be able to lend a helping hand to needy athletes.

“We set up the village after seeing some of the athletes sleeping in the streets to run (the) race. We felt that it was important that we gave these runners some dignity and ensure they get a good night’s rest ahead of what is no doubt a tough undertaking of running either 21km or the full 56km. So we provide them with a meal, a place to sleep and we also transport them from the village to the race and back.”

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Together with running clubs, Old Mutual identify athletes who are in need of assistance and the athletes villages are erected for the Two Oceans, Soweto and Comrades Marathons.

A former beneficiary of the project, Thami Khuzwayo, speaks highly of the athletes’ village: “Not all of us have money to pay for transport, food and hotels to attend these big races but we love racing them. So the Old Mutual Villages have really made it possible for us to go to races such as (the) Two Oceans. Because of it, I’ve been able to save some money that has come in handy for myself and family.”

Mokotedi will definitely agree now that he will not have to spend on accommodation and food for the Two Oceans Marathon.

Mbongiseni Buthelezi