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Cape Town athlete runs 400km for The Big Issue South Africa

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During Brandon Finn’s punishing 400km run from Johannesburg to Hattingspruit in the South African province of Kwazulu-Natal, the first hour on day eight was the toughest.

His lungs burned with each breath, his legs felt like lead and a dull pain throbbed through his knees, quads and calves. But he kept going, spurred on by his desire to retrace the 10-day march home that 7,000 mineworkers and their families undertook during the Anglo-Boer War in 1899.

Knowing his committed father was several metres behind him, driving in first gear as he had done for the last 280 miles, also helped motivate the urban geographer/long-distance runner.

But what really helped him push through the pain barrier was knowing that, with every step, he was raising more and more money for The Big Issue South Africa.

As his route took him through the beautiful Laing’s Neck pass, on a welcome downhill 5km stretch, the 24-year-old found the going a little easier. By day 10, he was flying towards the finish line at the old mining town of Hattingspruit.

When his epic run finally came to an end on 10 January, Brandon had raised over R15,500 (£900/ $1,300 / €1,200)  for The Big Issue South Africa. After he enjoyed a wave of publicity in the South African press, that total has now risen to well over R19,000.

“It’s a little known incident in South African history, so I thought running the same route was a good way to commemorate it,” says Brandon.In 1899, 7,000 Zulu mineworkers and their families wanted to escape Boer War hostilities in Johanneburg to return to their homes in Hattingspruit, Kwazulu-Natal.

The trains had been commandeered, and so their only way to reach their homes, 400km away, was by foot.

They covered the distance over the course of 10 days and all survived to reach home.

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“In South Africa today, 115 years on since the march and 21 years since the end of apartheid, many social and economic disparities and inequalities that existed in 1899 still exist,” adds Brandon.

“I think it’s really important to recognise that aspect of history
has prominent effects on the way in which our contemporary South Africa is taking shape years after apartheid.”<

The money Brandon has raised will be funnelled into The Big Issue South Africa’s job-creation and social development programme, which helps its vendors obtain new skills, connections and the confidence to secure full-time employment.

“I love the work that The Big Issue does and its vendors are very prominent around Cape Town,” says Brandon, who has bought his copy of the street paper from the same vendor, a man called Goodman, ever since he moved to Cape Town from Pretoria six years ago.

“The Big Issue is such an innovative organisation, especially in South Africa where homelessness and unemployment are so prevalent and there’s a vast mismatch of inequality that is so deeply entrenched,” he adds.

“Any initiative that is tackling these issues is definitely worth running 400km for.”Janna Joseph, editor of The Big Issue South Africa, added: “We were thrilled when Brandon pitched his idea to us, and we are even more thrilled now that he’s pulled the whole thing off, raising about R19,000 for The Big Issue in the process.

“It’s amazing how much one person can accomplish with determination and the right attitude – just like our vendors, who work so hard to support themselves and their families each month. These are people who will benefit from Brandon’s efforts, through our skills-development workshops and job-creation programme.”

Donations are still open and can be made at www.expedition-imashi.com.

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