Humble, down-to-earth and always up for a challenge, North Coast father Stuart Armit will take on the biggest challenge of his life when he runs the Karkloof 50-miler ultra race this month, in an attempt to raise R1 million for a home for abandoned babies where he has been volunteering since he was 21 years old.
Stuart is full of smiles as he sips his coffee at Holla Trails, having just completed an 18km training run with his dog, Gus. Gus, who is lying at his feet, is a bit of ‘mixed breed’ pup and not exactly athletic in stature. It seems almost impossible that this little dog could do a long, hard trail run. But for Gus, and his resolute owner Stuart, impossible is nothing.
“Gus is kind of like me in a way. I’ve never been into sports and I’m not naturally athletic. In fact, I decided to do this race on a whim while eating a slice of carrot cake a year ago,” laughs Stuart.
It all started a few years back, when Stuart’s now wife Sarah challenged him to do a fun 5km park run in under 30 minutes (while dressed in a Snoopy onesie) to raise funds for Sinakekele Children’s Home, where he has been volunteering for 16 years.
“After beating that challenge, and surprisingly enjoying it, I started doing some trail running events. I heard about the Karkloof 100-miler and 50-miler races through the event organizer, Andrew. I watched a video on the race it looked like absolute torture – 50 miles is 80km and the longest distance I had run was 18km. It seemed impossible, so I decided to give it a go!”
Stuart decided to dedicate his race to Sinakekele and set himself a massive goal of raising R1 million, which would be enough to sustain the home for an entire year.
“Sinakekele was started by a lady named Ruth Grobler in 2003. The home was near my house and at the time I was looking for a way to give back to my community. I was 21 years old when I started volunteering there. I would take the kids for ice cream and help out wherever I could. Sinakekele takes in orphaned babies and small children who have literally been ‘thrown away’. It’s not an orphanage, it’s a home environment. Ruth does her best to get the children adopted or reunited with their families. She adopted three of them herself and they are now 18 and 16 years old. I’m still very close to all of them,” says Stuart, who has two sons of his own and has been a single father for five years. He and his wife Sarah met while his youngest son, Jordy, was attending her school, Little Leaders. They are newly married.
Having worked in the construction industry for over 13 years, Stuart was involved in a number of big developments in KZN, including the N2 interchange realignment and The Pearls Mall. He was recently retrenched however and things have been a little challenging.
“It was a bit of a blessing in disguise though, I guess, as it has freed up my time to be able to train properly for this race. My training runs are sometimes 30km and I run for hours at a time.” Stuart says he often takes his sons, Kaleb (11) and Jordy (9), with him on his training runs. They ride their mountain bikes while he runs.
When Stuart did a two-day training camp for the Karkloof 50 miler a few weeks ago he decided it was time to hire a trainer! “I started training with Debbie Densham, who has given me a programme to work to.”
Stuart’s training comprises two long runs (30km) a week, a short (8km) run and a medium (18km) run, with rest days in between. “The training is gruelling, it beats me some days. Everything hurts and I find myself questioning my sanity. Balancing my home life and training is difficult and it requires discipline, consistency and understanding . . . something that my family and I have grown towards together.
“I made my goal R1 million because that’s what it will take to run the school for an entire year. They exist solely on donations and spend so much time and energy trying to raise funds – time they could be spending with the children. The school gives these special kids, some of whom have serious developmental challenges due to things like foetal alcohol syndrome and malnutrition, a safe home.”
Since starting his fund raising efforts, dubbed ‘Miles for a Million’, Stuart has managed to raise over R80 000. He has also managed to rope in another runner, Graham Levy, who will also be doing the 100-miler race in aid of Sinakekele.
“I can’t wait to cross the finish line, seeing my wife and family waiting for me and experiencing the exhilaration that comes from achieving a goal and beating the odds.
“Trail running has changed my perspective, challenged me to do better and allowed me to see this breathtaking country and its people from a different point of view. I feel part of the land when I’m out on a trail. I feel grateful and humbled.”
Details: Support Stuart and his Miles for a Million campaign by going to: www.facebook.com/MilesforaMillion or www.gogetfunding.com/milesforamillion.
For more information about Sinakekele go to: www.sinakekele.org.za
Text and photograph: Leah Shone