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Running MAD!

This month, two Ballito women will join 32 other runners on an epic journey as they run from Johannesburg to Cape Town to raise funds for a phenomenal cause. We chatted to them before they set off.

You’ve got to be just a little bit mad to run literally across the entire country in a single week, right? Ballito mothers and running partners Lauren Abdo and Willa van der Heever (or ‘The 2 Mads’ as they are known) are taking on a life-changing challenge in the form of a cross-country run to raise funds for the Make A Difference (MAD) Leadership Foundation this month.

Marketing consultant and mother of two, 41-year-old Lauren has been a runner for 20 years. “I love taking part in weird and unusual races. When I heard about the Mad2Run cross country event, I started looking for a running partner.” Willa, a 49-year-old mother of three who Lauren had met and been room mates with on another multi-day race, put her hand up. And so their ‘mad’ journey began.

Mad2Adventures is a platform created with the purpose of raising funds for the MAD Leadership Foundation. Started in 2003 by former Springbok rugby player Francois Pienaar and a group of like-minded individuals, the goal of the MAD Leadership Foundation is to make a difference and invest in the lives of carefully selected young South African scholars through their comprehensive scholarship programme.

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Every year, Mad2Adventures (which is just one of the many non-profit organisations raising funds for the MAD Leadership Foundation) hosts two cross-country fund raising events: Mad2Run and Mad2Ride. The athletes (who are mostly just ordinary South Africans) push themselves to run or ride 1500km across South Africa. To date, the organisation has raised almost R5.5 million for the foundation.
The Mad2Run event is conducted as a 24-hour relay. There are 44 team members taking part, eight of whom are from KZN, and the team is sectioned into crews of runners, per running shift. Each runner is expected to run a minimum of 20km per day and 140km over the duration of the week.

So, what motivates someone to do something this crazy? “It’s all about the cause,” says Lauren. “It’s not about you and how fast or far you can run, it’s about raising funds to help get young students through university.”
In an attempt to raise funds leading up to the main event, Lauren and Willa held their own ‘Mini Mad’ run from Ballito to Tinley Manor. They were blown away buy the support they received from local businesses. “In true North Coast community spirit, so many people were keen to help out and get on board.” They also hosted a successful golf day fund raiser at the end of September.

Well aware of the challenge that they are taking on, Lauren says they are under no illusion that it’s going to be easy. “We will each run between 20km and 40km a day, for a week. In between running, it’s all-hands-on-deck. We make and pack our own food, will be sleep deprived and are going to be running on very fatigued legs towards the end. You can’t train for that. You’re also surrounded by a group of people who you don’t really know, all day every day for 10 days. It’s probably going to get real around day four or five when the tiredness, hunger and pain set in!”

But Lauren, who was injured and unable to run for two months during her training, says it always comes back to the MAD students. “We received personal letters from students, thanking us for what we are doing when we hosted our ‘Mini Mad’ fund raiser. It brought me to tears. This is about so much more than running, it’s about changing lives. There are success stories of underprivileged kids who had no chance and, through their scholarships, they are now on their way to becoming surgeons!”

The students chosen to receive the MAD Leadership Foundation scholarship are very carefully vetted and need to motivate their application. “It’s not just a hand-out. They have to work hard and earn it. It’s also not just a bursary for tuition – it’s a holistic bursary. Students need support in the form of food, accommodation, airtime … and the foundation supplies all of this.”

Both Lauren and Willa enjoy challenging themselves physically, but this time, they say, it’s different. “It’s not about us. It’s about the people we are running for. When the chips are down and I’m struggling, knowing that every kilometre I run is sponsored will get me through. When the founders of Mad2Adventures started this NPO eight years ago, their thinking was, ‘if you can just do one thing’, that’s what you should do. So this is us, The 2Mads, just doing our one thing.”

Details: There are three ways to donate: A cash transfer straight into the Mad2Adventures bank account (FNB, 624 666 17077, branch: 260 231, SWIFT: FIRNZAJJ, Ref: 2MADS (name), zapper (see QR code alongside) or pledge per KM on the website: https://www.mad2adventures.com/participants/lauren-abdo/ https://www.mad2adventures.com/participants/willa-horn-vd-heever/
Follow the Mad2Run adventure on IG & FB: @2madsthatrun or @mad2adventures

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