The photograph of the two women crossing the finish line of last year’s PPC Marathon together. One supporting the other and easing her down to the ground as she collapsed in agony on the other side, has become an iconic image of courage, compassion and comradeship.
The two women were Lily Masuku and Karly Jones, complete strangers until that day.
Karly saw Lily struggling with intense pain at around the 18km mark of the 21km race. She encouraged Lily not to give up, telling her she’d seen how well she’d been doing and urged her on to finish. When Lily could no longer do it alone, Karly supported her for the last 2km, practically carrying her over the finish line.
The most remarkable part of all about this story? Lily, despite the challenges of the last 3km, still came in at her best personal time, an incredible 2hr 11min 1s, beating her time of 2hr 24min and 29s at the Pietermaritzburg Marathon less than two weeks earlier.
Lily’s has been an incredible journey of faith and bravery, and it’s not over yet. The PPC Marathon, the very first 5km race she ever ran, will also mark her much-anticipated return to running after a long year of illness and pain as doctors struggled to diagnose the cause of her ailment.
At her lowest point, the active, energetic woman was confined to a wheelchair, but a near death experience, possibly the result of a rare condition which caused her to have a stroke, jump started her determination to run again.
Running has saved Lily’s life many times, literally and figuratively. Lily started running after her divorce. She was at her lowest ebb, feeling lost, lonely and depressed.
“She needed to find a new love, and she found running,” her friend Tendai says.
“Running has taught me patience. It has taught me to never give up, and that with faith you can move mountains. This is my second chance at life and I’m going to take it!”
As in last year’s marathon, Lily is not doing it alone, but has an incredible network of women runners behind her who she both trains and relies on for support. Among them is a stroke survivor in her mid ’50s.
Lily’s crew, which has grown from seven runners to 12 since the last PPC Marathon, has stood by her and supported her every step of the way. And when she wasn’t able to do the Victoria Falls Marathon last July, they ran in her honour, wearing T-shirts saying “We did it for Lily”.
Fellow runners from Tanzania saw the T-shirts and asked what it was about. They knew Lily from other races and decided to dedicate their run at the Kilimanjaro Marathon to Lily too!
“When you run there is no stranger, no colour, and no creed. You are all one, comrades in it together, heading for that finish line. And why do we do it? Because that feeling as you cross the finish line and hold that medal in your hand, is like no other feeling on earth. If you can do that, you tell yourself, you can do anything!” Lilly says.