Promising marathon runner crippled by Covid-19
Seven months ago, things were looking rosy for Francistown Club marathon runner Thatayaone Kelapile.
The 27-year-old Marobela endurance athlete had a solid plan in place to test his ability in South Africa and eventually set his eyes on the lucrative European competitions.
Anchoring this audacious plan was a Hong Kong-based Motswana, who had literally adopted the 42km runner and provided for his every need.
“From 2018, Calisto Radithipa rented a house for me in Phase V, Francistown, and paid me a monthly allowance encouraging me to focus solely on running,” revealed Kelapile in an exclusive interview with Voice Sport.
Kelapile said besides the rent and the allowance, Radithipa also took care of all his travel expenses, including hotel bills and running gear for local competitions.
“He did everything for me. In January we had an agreement that I should start competing outside Botswana. The first race was supposed to be the Capetown City Marathon, followed by the Soweto and Kwa-Zulu Natal marathons. The grand plan was for me to do well enough in these races to be able to qualify for the big ones such as the London Marathon. Then Covid-19 hit and messed up all my plans. And worse for me, the contract I had with my sponsor also came to an end,” Kelapile said.
The Marobela athlete began his career just six years ago in the inaugural 2014 beMobile Marathon in Francistown where he finished an impressive third.
The performance earned him instant recognition and in 2018 Radithipa sponsored him for the Diacore Gaborone Marathon.
“He also sponsored me for the Gaborone International Meet, where I finished in the top 10 and was the first local to arrive at the finish line. Radithipa was impressed with this performance and introduced a monthly allowance and paid my rent,” he said.
Kelapile said Radithipa also paid for his medicals, including dates with the Physio.
“He has been an amazing help. His dedication to my career has made me a better athlete and I believe if it wasn’t for Covid-19 I’d be on my way to Europe next year.”
Now with no money since the monthly allowance dried up, Kelapile is a desperate man.
For a man who has dedicated his life to running for the past seven years, looking for a piece job was never part of the plan.
“I’ve never had any form of employment, but now I find myself having to scrape for odd jobs just so I can put food on the table,” revealed Kelapile, nervously cracking his knuckles.
The athlete told Voice Sport his concern is that unlike footballers, other athletes have been left to fend for themselves in these hard times.
“I know I’m not the only one. Some of my colleagues are also suffering in silence. We’re all starving and we have nowhere to run!” he said.
“My biggest fear is that I may never realise my dream of running in Europe if I don’t get a sponsor soon. I’ve been lucky in the past with people like Thabo Stimela sponsoring me for marathons, but with this inactivity, It’s going to be difficult to get any sponsorship.”
Despite all the challenges in front of him Kelapile, whose surname ironically means ‘I’m tired’, told Voice Sport that he’ll never tire from chasing his dream.
“This is a temporary set back. I’ll get back on track,” he said, without any serious conviction.