A runner with a big heart
Posted on 8 September 2017
In the beginning of September 2017, Lesego Sepeng ran an average of 35km a day between six Mediclinic hospitals to raise awareness of heart disease in South Africa. This is his story.
On 5 September 2017, a young man was spotted running on the M21 in Tshwane. He was wearing a yellow vest and blue shorts and was trailed by two cyclists, an ER 24 ambulance and a Mediclinic vehicle.
“What’s going on here?” asked a curious onlooker when the party stopped near her. “Why are you running?”
“We’re raising awareness for heart disease,” answered the young man. “We want people to lead healthier lives.”
“Oh,” said the woman, “I too have a heart condition.”
“Then I’m running for you too!” smiled the young man, and set off again.
The young man’s name is Lesego Sepeng. He is a 23-year-old pharmacy store co-ordinator at Mediclinic Brits, which was the starting point of his run. His end point for that day was Mediclinic Legae, a distance of 40km.
Over the course of the next five days, Lesego would run from one Mediclinic in the Tshwane region to another – from Mediclinic Brits to Mediclinic Legae, and from there to the Mediclinics Medforum, Kloof, and Midstream before running back to Mediclinic Brits – a circular route covering 175km.
This is the Heart Endurance Run, Lesego’s brainchild that marries his existing passions: running, heart health awareness and Mediclinic hospitals.
“Running has always been a hobby of mine. Some people play video games or other activities, but I would always go jogging. I jog to work in the mornings. People ask me, ‘Are you crazy? Do you not have petrol money?’ But it’s simply a passion I have for running.”
According to The Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa:
- South Africa has one of the highest rates of high blood pressure worldwide with 1 out every 3 adults affected.
- High blood pressure is a Silent killer. 75% of patients are unaware of their status.
- 210 people die of heart disease every day.
- 80% of premature deaths caused by heart disease could have been prevented by leading a more active lifestyle and avoiding bad habits such as eating fast food and smoking.
“There’s a group of elderly ladies in our township in Mothotlung who I exercise with over the weekends,” says Lesego, “and we’ve seen a dramatic improvement in their health, with a decrease in their high blood pressure and diabetes. So I’ve seen first hand how living an active lifestyle can reduce the chances of heart disease in people from the community who are at risk of heart disease.”
And his efforts are already making ripples in the people he is touching. At each Mediclinic, Lesego is welcomed by a beaming and enthusiastic group of staff.
“The initiative embraces many of our Medicinic values,” he says. “It is performance-driven, but not just about performing in your job. It’s about taking those activities that we do in our lives and bringing them into our workplace. We are at the forefront of health; we should carry that torch of a healthy lifestyle.
“It’s also about patient safety. We are saying to our patients: if you lead an active lifestyle, you will be safer. You will reduce your risk of heart disease.
“And it builds a team spirit. We have worked so well as a team. Everybody pulled the wagon, working together and making this whole thing a success. The warm welcomes I receive from my colleagues at the Mediclinic hospitals have been amazing. They have embraced this initiative and been inspired to lead an active lifestyle.”
Lesego’s dream is to become a nurse. “There is nothing better than going back home every night knowing that you have made a difference in someone’s life”.
Being a nurse is about nurturing. It’s about understanding. My passion has always been people, and helping them with a task or to overcome a sickness is one of my passions. A person who is there for others is someone I’ve wanted to be ever since I was little.”
There are already plans afoot, as it were, to stretch the Heart Endurance Run beyond this instance to an annual event – not just in Tshwane but throughout the Mediclinic Group.
Until then, Lesego Sepeng will continue to put his running shoes where his heart is.
Keep on giving!
Another aspect of the Heart Endurance Run is a donation drive for retirement homes in Tshwane. Through the month of September special boxes will be placed at Mediclinic Brits, some of the GP rooms, as well as at the Pick n Pay opposite Mediclinic Brits. People will be encouraged to donate non-perishable food items in these boxes, which will then be distributed to retirement homes in Mothotlung, and beyond.
Follow Lesego’s Heart Endurance Run below or #ShareTheHeart to help raise awareness.
A round up of the first four days: