People of OMTOM: Meet Patiswa Gqetywa
Every year, on Good Friday, we welcome hundreds of runners from around the country at the Cape Town International Convention Centre and transport them to the Runners’ Village at the Academy for Maths and Science in Tokai.
Patiswa Gqetywa is part of the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon team and has been managing the Runners’ Village for the past three years.
“I’ve been working here at the Two Oceans Marathon office since 2007. I was unemployed at the time, and my mom asked around on my behalf. That’s how I found myself at the OMTOM office. I was a temp in the race office and helped with runner queries,” recalls Patiswa.
“After the race in 2009, I stayed on as a half-day cleaner during the quiet months, and when race entries opened again, I would join the entries team.”
Patiswa became a permanent staff member in 2013 and juggles reception and customer care duties. Shortly after her appointment, the team needed someone to manage the Runners’ Village internally.
“A colleague recommended me, and here I am – still doing it. I just love this project. All the athletes in the Runners’ Village are my babies!”
The Runners’ Village applications process starts in October every year, after entries for the Ultra Marathon have opened.
Applications are open to Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon entrants that are either unemployed or earn less than R3 000 a month, and who don’t have accommodation in Cape Town.
Most of the runners are recommended to us by their clubs.
“For the past two years the majority of our Runners’ Village residents have come from Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, but this year we have seen a big increase in applications from the Eastern Cape,” she adds.
Between 250 and 300 runners stay at the Runners’ Village over the Easter Weekend.
“I meet incredible athletes and it is a humbling experience to hear their stories,”says Patiswa.
“Last year a runner arrived late. Now, usually when the runners arrive at the CTICC, they receive running shoes and a t-shirt from adidas. And by the time we transport them to their accommodation, the adidas team packs up to leave.
This particular runner came straight to the Maths and Science Academy on Friday night and he asked for his shoes. I thought he was joking and told him he was too late and then he started crying, because he didn’t have any shoes to run the race in. He showed me his shoes, and they were so old and falling apart. I immediately organised his shoes, and he was SO happy!”
Runners also each receive a beautiful OMTOM blanket, which has now become a coveted piece of merchandise!
“Last year one of the runners told us how she uses her blanket at the start of each race, and other runners always ask her where she got this beautiful warm blanket form. She said she told them, ‘if you want this beautiful blanket, you must enter the Two Oceans Marathon and stay in the Runners’ Village!’”
“I count myself lucky to be a part of this amazing programme. We offer needy athletes more than just a roof over their heads before Race Day. We offer them an experience of a lifetime. I’d like to believe that we change lives. We live the words RUN AS ONE. And that is a wonderful thing to do.”
Approximately 300 runners from across the country will once again stay at the Runners’ Village this coming Easter Weekend. 2016 Runners Village applications have closed.