The Colombian Connection
Six runners from Colombia will be making their debuts at the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon this year.
Last year Old Mutual, the title sponsor of the Two Oceans Marathon, ran a competition from their Colombia office to find six special runners to participate in the 2016 event. They were met with an overwhelming response from the Colombian running community, proving that the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon (OMTOM) is a truly global event.
“After a long search, in which we heard the history of more than 1400 runners whose stories of energy and commitment inspired us, we selected six to participate in OMTOM,” says Isabela Restrepo of Old Mutual’s Colombia office.
Five of the runners will tackle the Ultra Marathon while one, 32-year-old Harlem Ospino, will take on the Half Marathon. Ospino’s story is particularly inspiring.
In May 2008, during a military operation in a Colombian town called La Uribe, he stood on landmine and lost both his legs. As soon as he was able, though, Ospino embarked on a rehabilitation programme where he also met the woman who is now his wife.
Together they have created a beautiful family, with Ospino overcoming his harrowing setback to live a full life. With an incredible will, Ospino has shown that his limited mobility is no deterrent to achieving great things. At South Africa’s most popular half marathon, he’s sure to be an inspirational figure. “My wife is my inspiration and the reason I never give up on my goals and dreams,” says Ospino.
The other five runners are Ximena Corrales, Andrés Cuevas, Diego Mejía, Juan Daniel Sánchez and Samuel Bocanegra’s. Corrales is a 48-year-old from Bogotá who got pregnant at the age of 19, but still managed to raise a family while studying. “Being a mother and creating a family when I was so young has made a stronger woman who can face bigger challenges every day,” says Corrales. She approaches her running with passion, and considers herself a proud racer and hopefully a motivation to other young mothers who often have to dedicate their lives to more than their own needs.
Andrés Cuevas previously lived a sedentary life, smoking and eating unhealthily. Eventually, a friend intervened, but on his road to a healthy lifestyle, tragedy struck in the form of a bad bicycle accident that left Cuevas struggling to walk.
Through perseverance and hard work, he learned to walk normally again and is now a keen runner, participating regularly in half marathons and recently completed his first marathon. “Running has definitely strengthened my character and commitment to long-term goals,” he says.
Perspiring through perseverance
After a bad car accident, Diego Mejía decided to change his lifestyle and cut back on partying. “A friend invited me to train with him, and almost instantly through sport I found the perfect space to meet my thoughts and set new goals for my life,” says Mejía.
He started his love affair with running through track and field events, but always had the goal of running in a marathon. He achieved this last year, when he ran in the Lima Marathon – despite dislocating his shoulder a few days before the race. Now, the 39-year-old will go 14km further when he tackles this year’s Ultra Marathon in Cape Town.
When he was 17-years-old, Samuel Bocanegra’s entered into military service. In 2001, while he was undertaking a search and rescue operation, he was the victim of a landmine that seriously wounded him and resulted in his left leg being amputated. Fifteen years later Bocanegra will be doing the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon, with the aim of spreading the message of life, personal growth and improvement. The 56km run will be another impressive notch in the belt of a man who, since his terrible ordeal in his teens, has gone on to become a lawyer, lecturer, national shooting champion, sports lover and marathon runner.
Finally, there is Juan Daniel Sánchez, a 19-year-old from Medellín who has been an enthusiastic sportsman since he was 12. He discovered long ago that he had a knack for endurance events. “This motivated me to push my limits and to reach for higher goals every time I do something,” says Sánchez. “Running is such an important part of life, and my plan is to try and run some of the biggest races around the world!” He’s certainly picked the best one to start with.