The first time Steve Maliszewski visited the campus of Ethembeni School in South Africa, he knew he wanted to get involved.
The school, established in 1984, houses and educates 300 physically disabled and visually impaired children from all over Zwazulu-Natal. Kingdom of the Zulu in South Africa, helping them to become independent and responsible citizens of the community. Its name means “Place of Hope” and operates under the motto “Phila Ufunde” – Live and Learn.
“The first time I visited South Africa and the school and (was) taken on a tour of the campus, I immediately knew that this was something that I wanted to become a part of,” said Maliszewski, a software architect at HCSS. “At Ethembeni, 300 beautiful children live, learn and give us joy and hope.”
But Maliszewski is not one to just throw money at situation and call it day. Rather, Maliszewski gives it his heart, his soul, and his body.
At the end of May, Maliszewski will travel to South Africa to compete in the Comrades Ultra Marathon, the world’s oldest and largest ultra marathon with 23,000 runners battling time, elements, their bodies, and the race itself for 56 miles. The race alternates annually between the “up” run on the terrain and the “down” run. That’s a little misleading, however, as there are plenty of ups and downs in both versions. This year’s race is an “up,” though, and Maliszewski is ready. This will be his fourth time competing in the 90-year-old race, and he averages about 25 races per year, ranging from 5Ks (3.1 miles) to 135 miles each.
“I am physically ready,” he said. “Sometimes when running the greater distances, it’s a matter of being psychologically ready. You really have to prepare yourself, mentally, to be on your feet and sometimes in pair for – in this case, nine hours or so. Along those lines, I feel like I am mentally prepared for running.”
His goal this year is to finish better than he did in 2013 – the last time the race was an “up.”
“I had a pretty rough time as the temperatures were hot and I had some issues with my legs cramping and seizing that slowed me,” he said.
He also would like to run a time comparable to his “down” time in 2014, which was about 8 hours, 54 minutes.
“Anything under nine hours gives you a special medal awarded, called the Bill Rowan Medal,” he said.
But Maliszewski also has another motivation – the students at the Ethembeni School, which gets very little support from the South African government and relies primarily on the generosity of donors. All funds raised will go to the school for much-needed equipment and improvements.
“I believe that running becomes infinitely more satisfying when you run for a reason or a cause,” Maliszewski said. “A lot of times, people get so caught up in running for a certain time or distance that they lose sight of things that are important in life. Don’t get me wrong – I love competing with myself and redefining what I previously (thought) I was capable of. But I think by running these long distances, I hope to bring awareness to these children to give them a voice. I want to help them reach more and more people.
“I don’t get anything from raising money for the school other than, hopefully, in a small part, I hope to make a different in their lives, to show them that they do matter and that they can grow up to become whatever they dream of being.”
Anyone wishing to help Maliszewski help the Ethembeni School may donate here.
Learn more about the Ethembeni School here.