From third place Two Oceans Marathon finisher to AIDS activist: The incredible journey of Evelina Tshabalala
12 April 2023
Evelina Tshabalala’s remarkable journey is nothing short of inspiring. She is widely recognized for her impressive achievements as a marathon runner and her tireless work as an AIDS activist. Evelina made history in 1993 by becoming the first black woman to podium at the Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town, South Africa, finishing in third place.
Despite her success as a runner, her life was not always easy. Evelina was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in the late 1990s when there was still a great deal of stigma and misinformation surrounding the disease. Instead of allowing her diagnosis to hold her back, she became a vocal advocate for AIDS awareness and education.
Evelina has continued to pursue her passion for running and became a role model for others living with HIV/AIDS. She founded the Evelina Tshabalala Foundation, which provides support and resources to people living with HIV/AIDS while promoting healthy lifestyles and fitness, particularly through running and other forms of exercise.
Evelina’s message has always been clear: living with the virus did not have to be a death sentence. Her recent interview with eNCA demonstrated her passion and her desire to help young talent. Evelina wants to see young athletes become gold medalists and marathoners. “These young kids have talent. I want to see gold medalists from them, I want to see Josiah Thugwane from them,” she said during her interview.
She believes that the time they waste doing drugs can be better channeled into running, and she wants to do some running with them to keep them safe and together. “I see them at robots asking people for money which they then use to buy drugs. I don’t like what’s happening. What I can do to keep these kids safe and together is to do some running with them,” she told eNCA.
Evelina is currently employed as a part-time cleaner at a Virgin Active gym, where she takes great pride in her work and inspires others with her positive attitude and dedication. Thanks to the generosity of ASICS, Powerade, and others, Evelina was recently given two entries to participate in a marathon. Her participation in this race is a testament to her determination, resilience, and the power of sport in promoting social change.
She also received a sponsored entry into the Peninsula Marathon, which enabled her to qualify to run her 17th Two Oceans in 2023. “In 2022 I didn’t complete because I had stomach issues but I just want to say thank you to Two Oceans and all the sponsors for helping me get to the start line to complete my dream,” she says.
Evelina Tshabalala’s journey is a story of perseverance, courage, and hope. She has overcome tremendous obstacles in her life and has used her experiences to make a positive impact on the world around her. Through her work as an AIDS activist, marathon runner, and community leader, Evelina has become a symbol of resilience and a source of inspiration for people around the globe. Her life and legacy serve as a reminder of the importance of physical fitness, perseverance, and hope in the face of adversity.