Ipeleng Khunou. Picture: TWITTER
Ipeleng Khunou. Picture: TWITTER

Ipeleng Khunou was born with an illness that affects his balance but this has not deterred the inspirational athlete. He will continue to defy the odds when he participates in the Two Oceans Half-Marathon in Cape Town on April 20.

The 31-year-old from Rustenburg finished the 21km race on crutches in 2018 and is returning to raise awareness about his condition‚ and to raise funds for children with disabilities.

Known as the “Crutch Runner”‚ Khunou was born with septo-optic dysplasia, a rare brain condition that causes loss of balance and affects eyesight.

Apart from staying committed to his training, the most important part of overcoming his condition is working with organisations that are aligned with his goals, he says.

“I believe in running for a purpose and I want to work with companies that don’t just believe in me as an individual but support athletes and people from all backgrounds and abilities.

‘‘That’s why I joined the Nedbank Running Club. It is more than just a club — athletes of all kinds are welcome and supported,” he said.

The club’s national manager‚ Nick Bester, said: “Our purpose as Nedbank Running Club is to provide a platform for all people interested in road running to participate regardless of their skill level.

‘‘We encourage our members to participate in our various regular running activities across the country. [Our role] is to ensure that all runners are supported in their quest to run their best race.

“Ipeleng is one of the people whose values are a great match with ours as a club. He runs to give back to the community and we are proud to support an athlete like him.”

Since his first Om Die Dam race‚ Khunou has run the Soweto Marathon‚ Ocal Global Journey for Change‚ Kronberg Marathon and the Nelson Mandela Remembrance 10km race.

“My dream is for the sports world to include a crutch-running category‚” he said. ‘‘I want to be able to compete in as many races as possible‚ [to] continue to raise awareness and run for a purpose.

‘‘I’m working on running my best time at the Two Oceans.”

Khunou will be donning the Nedbank green along with elite men’s and women’s teams, as well as more than 800 Nedbank Club members representing 15 Nedbank clubs based in SA‚ Lesotho‚ Zimbabwe‚ Kenya and Ethiopia.

His running career started when he found himself weighing 120kg and took up the sport to lose weight.

“I was overweight and I got to a point where I could no longer allow myself to be that way‚” he said.

‘‘On my first run I went out at 4am because I couldn’t bear being seen. Road running wasn’t easy, but after a while I started to enjoy the challenge.

‘‘I was determined to change and a year later I had lost 40kg and competed in the Om Die Dam 10km race. After this I knew my life had changed forever.”