Hollywoodbets Sports Blog: Xolani Luvuno - Overcoming Adversity

Xolani Luvuno - Overcoming Adversity

Hollywoodbets sat down with Comrades 2018 finisher Xolani Luvuno. He shared his story of triumph despite challenges, and how he developed a love for running even though he lost one of his legs to bone cancer. 

Xolani went on to finish The Ultimate Human Race while on crutches, and his achievement has inspired a nation to overlook their excuses and push themselves. 

Can you tell us a bit more of yourself where are you from?

I was born in the Eastern Cape close to Port Elizabeth in a rural area called Peddie. I spent too much time on the streets. I got into trouble, and I even went to prison. After living on the streets for a long time I found out I have bone cancer so they had to cut off my leg. The doctor said that the cancer could spread to the rest of my body, and I thought “Maybe I am dying so it’s better to cut off the leg”.

So after that I moved away from the Eastern Cape because of my situation living with one leg. See  I used to be a bully, but now those guys were bullying me.

So that made me change and I went to Durban where I spent maybe a few weeks before I found other problems living on the streets there. That was the life I used to live.

I was observing your spirit in the race, your energy. You kept going and going, you never stopped. What inspired that?

It’s the fans, the crowd. I’ve never seen fans like that! For example the guys wearing the T-shirts from Hollywoodbets, when I reached that halfway point. When I came to that point I heard screaming. I felt like Ronaldo! It made me feel like a champ, and the number one was just behind me so I saw him and I saw the helicopter. I thought maybe they thought I was number one, because they didn’t understand my situation, so I felt like a champion that weekend!

What was the most unexpected thing that happened after the race? 

I didn’t expect anything as I was going to do Comrades for myself. My coach told me that I won’t get a medal, so I told myself that I'm going to do it for fun and finish in time before cut off. But the thing I wished for was to get a Comrades Marathon medal to add to my collection as I didn't make it in the cut off time. But Mr. Hein made that dream come true and when I finished he handed me a medal that had my name engraved on it - Xolani 2018, so I felt really special.

What inspired and pushed you to tackle The Ultimate Human Race?

Before Mr Hein, found me on the street, I knew of a guy who has one leg who walked to Cape Town. I said to myself if he walked to Cape Town I also shouldn't have a problem walking there.

But then I thought let me do better, we have a running club here so let me run. I started running in 2016.

I wanted to get myself off of alcohol and at the running club they didn’t like alcohol. They told me I can’t remove a problem with another problem, alcohol is another problem. So when I got drunk then I felt stupid and I ended up realising I must keep myself busy on weekends because I know Monday to Friday I am working but Saturday and Sunday it’s all the parties in Mamelodi where I was staying at the time.

I kept myself busy so I can go into the race in a better condition because I knew if I run every day 20km or 10km and I also run on the weekend I’ll feel tired and I'll sleep. And Sundays I used to prepare for work. This was my first job because I used to beg before that.

How long did you train to build up to the Comrades?

After I did my first 42 km last year we went onto the Comrades Marathon. All of those guys that I used to run with were there, and I saw my teammates and I thought to myself that I have run all the last races with them except the Comrades, so now I'm standing alone. Then I told Mr Hein that we will make a plan for next year (2018) and do Comrades.

I started training hard in December once they called the Director and confirmed that I can start at midnight.

When did you start running?

I started in 2016.

Who was your biggest supporter building up to this race?

Mr Hein Venter supported me, because every weekend I had to be present at a race, so every weekend I had to register and have transport, and races are happening everywhere around the country.

And that time I was staying at Mamelodi, and to come from Mamelodi to Centurion was not easy, because if a race starts at 5am I have to be up by 4am, maybe even 3am, and Mr Hein has been there every step of the way. He would even call me an Uber or get me transport money!

He has run the Comrades 13 times so he gave me a lot of advice, and when we ran with him he showed me great support because if I ran it alone, I would’ve looked stupid and I wouldn’t have had energy at the 40km mark, but he said I must take it easy and relax until we get there. And you know he is a businessman, he’s busy so I even said don’t worry I’ll find another runner to run with me, but he said no we’ll keep running.

How did you structure your training schedule to prepare yourself for the big day?

I started in January – I was always at every race, and every morning I would do push-ups and use dumbbells. And I only entered big races, 32km, or 21km, and there is a race called the Sunrise Monster, which is a very difficult run, but I always made it just before the cut off time.

What did it feel like when you crossed the Comrades finish line?

When it got to the 1km run, I was walking with Mr Hein, and the crowd went crazy, because they saw me on SABC 1 the week before, so just know that when I reached the end I was shown great support.

What was the biggest challenge during the race?

I have to say that when I got to Pinetown at that hill where it said 19km to go I had to push myself, and I pushed hard. Then I saw the ladies who could help me with massages and after that it was easier to push through the pain. I’d like to thank the ladies who helped me with massages along the way.

Whats next for you?

I’m going back to Comrades next year with my running blade, but I’m also going to attempt an Ironman and start swimming and cycling to prepare myself.

Whats your motto in life and what keeps you going?

Just to believe in yourself and to be strong even when it’s difficult because sometimes life gets difficult so you must push yourself and be strong.

Hollywoodbets would like to thank Xolani Luvuno for his time and would like to further congratulate him on his amazing achievement.

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Writtern by Lungelo Mdladla for Hollywoodbets
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