Ipeleng Khunou running London Marathon to advocate for crutch runners

Among the elite runners, wheelchair racers, amateurs, and celebrities from around the world running the race on 23 April will be Ipeleng ‘Crazy Legs’ Khunou.

Palesa Manaleng – EWN

South Africa will be represented well in the upcoming London Marathon, which has returned to its spring slot in April after three years of taking place in October due to COVID-19.

Among the elite runners, wheelchair racers, amateurs, and celebrities from around the world running the race on 23 April will be Ipeleng ‘Crazy Legs’ Khunou.

“I want the opportunity to win, and sports gives a person that opportunity to win even if it’s against yourself. I run because sports also gave me a chance to have access to educate people about accessibility. As a person with limitations, the biggest issue is access, so sport gives me that opportunity to change that,” Khunou told Eyewitness News.

The athlete was born with a rare brain illness called septo-optic dysplasia, which causes loss of balance and also affects eyesight.

“I honestly think the ‘dis’ in disability is the lack of accessibility. If our government enforced the Constitution for accessibility, then I do not think disability would be about people not being able to climb stairs on wheelchairs. Disability is honestly a lack of creativity in making the world inclusive for everyone. I would like to see our leaders going out of their way to build an inclusive system for everyone,” said Khunou.

The Nedbank Running Club athlete is a disability activist who uses the sport to raise awareness about his condition‚ and funds for children with disabilities.

“I’m using London Marathon as lobbying for running on crutches. I’m visiting the United Kingdom to get amputee football involved in my campaign. I will also be meeting with Musa Motha, the amputee dancer. Other meetings I might confirm is Cerebral Palsy Sport, to see how we can grow as para sports.”

Currently, individuals who use crutches as adaptive gear cannot use them to compete in running competitions at disability competitions nationally, or even at the Paralympics. Instead, they use wheelchair-racing chairs.

“Yes I could in fact run using a racing chair, I have run using a chair before, but it’s not natural for other people and me. I would like to run using crutches because that’s what my normal feels like.”

The London Marathon was first held in 1981, and is one of the world’s six major marathons, along with the Berlin, Boston, Chicago, New York City, and Tokyo races.

“The most exciting part about London Marathon is their reasonable accommodation for accessibility. For instance, I get to organise a support runner that will be running with me. She will get a finisher’s medal so long as she’s running with me. And their extended finishing time of eight hours is realistic for someone like me, unlike the six hours in most of the races in South Africa.”

He said he believes in running for a purpose and was willing to work with companies that not only believed in him as an individual but also supported athletes and people from various backgrounds and abilities.

To date, Khunou has competed in the Om Die Dam race‚ the Soweto Marathon‚ Ocal Global Journey for Change‚ Kronberg Marathon, The Two Oceans Marathon and Half Marathon and the Nelson Mandela Remembrance 10K race.



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