Virgin Money has an on-going commitment to create meaningful change in the lives of South Africans, which is why we're sending three underprivileged athletes to London for a once-in-a-lifetime experience: they're going to participate in the 2014 Virgin Money London Marathon.
Besides being one of the most popular fixtures on the global marathon calendar, the Virgin Money London Marathon, which takes place on Sunday 13 April 2014, is also the world's largest charity event: for the thousands of participants from around the globe, running in support of a charity is a condition of entry.
This inspired Virgin Money South Africa to create life-changing opportunities for local runners.
"The change that can come about as a result of an event like this is momentous, and we really wanted to play our part in extending this goodwill on a local level," explains Heidie Aitken, Brand Manager of Virgin Money. "Rather than running a lucky draw style competition as we did in 2011, we decided to embrace the essence of the event, and offer opportunities to those who might never have been able to participate otherwise."
This will be the first trip abroad for Siya Mqambeli, Patrick Kanyane and Joshua Mathebula. They were selected from running clubs around the country based on the strength of their written motivations.
Siyabulela Mqambeli has been running for 5 years and is currently with the Discovery Athletic Club.
"This is a life time opportunity every runner would like to be offered. It has always been my dream to run in the world's biggest marathon like the London marathon where I will get to experience running with the world's best athletes. Being an unemployed person since January 2013 and struggling to find work, I decided to take my running seriously and getting an opportunity to run the London Marathon and possibly getting a good result will be a unique opportunity for me to shine on an international level."
Garenakgosi Patrick Kanyani has been running for the last 10 years and is currently with the Nedbank Running Club for the last 3 years.
"I have achieved many good times over the years with my best time for Comrades being 6hr 17 pos 28. I do most of training by running to work and back again. I live at Cosmos City with my wife. We have a little boy of 2 years. I volunteer to assist with running events a number of times during the year. I have worked for WSP Group for the past 11 years and am an IT Support Technician."
Joshua Mathebula has been running for 7 years and is currently with the Discovery Athletic Club.
"I've been a very active runner since 2006. Then in October 2010 my wife passed away after a short illness leaving me with our 5 year old daughter. It was so hard for me to handle the situation, and I started doing slower times in 2011 and 2012 as I wasn't doing proper training and doing less races. Now I'm back on training and have managed to deal with the past. I've never run any international event due to finances - I'm a security guard earning R4400 a month and making a living as a single parent I had to be very careful with my budget as I don't have a backup."
The three athletes will spend a total of four days in London, during which time they will have the chance to experience the sights and the sounds of one of the world's most famous cities.
"We wanted to make sure that our runners have the opportunity to explore London, and we've devised an all-inclusive experience so as to ensure that it's an experience they'll never forget," explains Aitken. "This initiative is about so much more than running, it's an opportunity to see the world, and we intend to maximise the value of the four days our athletes will spend abroad."
Adidas will be supporting Virgin Money's initiative, in part, by supplying the team with running kits. Virgin Active are also on board, affording each athlete 2 months free training at one of their clubs prior to going to London.
"It's wonderful to have the support of these organisations, and to be able to work together to show that commitment and dedication can truly pay off," says Aitken.