In an interview with Runner’s World website in 2016‚ he said that as a child he did not know he had a disability but acknowledged that he often bumped into things‚ would fall and hurt himself but he thought it was normal: “didn’t everyone fall?”
The interview further revealed that at the age of 12 Monisi was admitted to Elim hospital in Louis Trichardt‚ Limpopo‚ after contracting typhoid‚ an infectious bacterial fever.
“While he was there‚ the attending doctors took the opportunity to examine his eyes and confirmed what his mother had been telling him all along – he was blind. But there was hope‚ and they were able to operate on Monisi’s left eye‚” Runner’s World revealed.
The operation was able to restore five percent of his vision.
Doctors helped Monisi use his hands to identify objects by feeling around their edges. They also applied for him to attend the Pretoria School for the Blind‚ but he had to leave after Grade 10 because of his age.
He got his start in running after he was spotted while begging at a mall.
Gerald Fox‚ the founder of Rocky Road Runners‚ noticed his runner’s physique and offered to support him.
Monisi woke up at 3am and trained alone until 6am to avoid peak-hour noise like traffic that could confuse him.
Even though Monisi found the Comrades noisy and somewhat disorienting‚ he managed to complete 13 races.
The Comrades community poured out their condolences to the late runner‚ with one posting on Twitter: “blind but not behind.”
The Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) remembered him as a brave‚ humble and inspiring person.
“It is devastating that we have lost him. We are incredibly sorry for the loss his family incurred. We will always remember how he thrived even when odds were against him‚ he was a hero to us‚” said Cheryl Winn‚ vice chairperson of CMA.
“He had a disability and he was just so brave and so wonderful. He worked so hard to overcome that disability. He was just an absolutely shining inspiration to the ordinary runner that does not suffer from a disability and is not disadvantaged‚” added Winn.
Monisi is survived by his wife Jane Mokone‚ who is also blind‚ and their two sons‚ one of whom can only see out of one eye.
According to East Coast Radio‚ he’d been walking to the shops with a friend when a car veered out of control and hit them both.
Monisi died shortly after the incident. His friend‚ whose name is not yet known‚ is in a critical condition in hospital.
A memorial for Monisi will be held on Wednesday at the Orlando running club in Soweto.
my heart 🙁 @ECRBreakfast @SkyTshabalala #RIP #RichardMonisi https://t.co/603KrxgdB0
— Keri Miller (@kerimiller) June 12, 2017
RIP Richard Monisi. You were a legend! “Blind but not behind” @ComradesRace pic.twitter.com/jrs1A2hBY3
— Alain D (@aldal21) June 11, 2017
We are so saddened to learn of Richard Monisi’s tragic passing. He inspired us all. We extend our sincerest condolences to his loved ones. https://t.co/tjEhUZRGly
— Two Oceans Marathon (@2OceansMarathon) June 10, 2017
Just heard of the passing of inspiring blind runner Richard Monisi in a hit and run in Jhb today. Sad, sad news https://t.co/zzNbJj2jRm
— Runner’s World SA (@runnersworldza) June 10, 2017