Dazzling Debut

My 2010 Dream


It’s a new year with new hopes and dreams for most of us, be it a personal best at a certain race, a first ever Comrades, or just losing a few kilograms. Modern Athlete spoke to four athletes about their hopes and dreams for 2010.

Name: Karen Ervens
Age: 45

Karen was involved in a car accident in Plumstead, Cape Town in March 2008, which resulted in three months total memory loss, including loss of smell, taste and balance. Towards the end of December 2008, Karen, who describes herself as a plodder, joined a 10km-in-12 weeks Optifit programme through the Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA), as she believed it would help her regain fitness and provide her with the best health advice.

She still battled to balance when she started and it was not always an easy time – many days fellow runners ran next to her to help her stay upright – but she persevered and ran her first 10km race in Belville. Through further SSISA programmes, she has since managed to complete the Knysna, Gun Run, Grape Run, Landmarks and Winelands Half Marathons. Today she still battles a little with her balance and memory, but she believes that with time she will recover fully. Karen’s biggest dream for 2010 is
completing the Bay to Bay Challenge 30km in January.

How are you planning to achieve it?
They say that running is mostly a mental thing. Mentally I think I am up to it, but I need to get distance on my legs and also strengthen them. I have a very good biokineticist (Andrew Gray) who is helping me and I ask a lot of questions and get advice from experienced people such as Kathy McQuaide-Little and
Franciska Venter from the SSISA.

Do you see any obstacles in your way?
Hopefully not, but in running one can pick up injuries very easily. I am going to try and use any obstacles as challenges!

What might be the hardest part of the journey?
Self-belief. Running is something that nobody else can do for you. I know that if I stay positive and surround myself with knowledgeable and experienced people, and listen to advice, I should achieve my goal. I also know if I don’t succeed the fi rst time, I need to use it as a learning curve. I am afraid of
letting myself down as well as the people who have helped and encouraged me.

What is the most exciting part of your journey?
I am excited about how far I’ve come since January last year. If somebody had told me I’d be running 10km by March and 21km by July, I would have thought they were completely insane. I know that if I put my mind to it, I can achieve anything. 2010 is going to be a year of both mental and physical challenges and I am looking forward to it.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
Partly from my past experiences; I have broken my neck twice and that gave me a lot of time to take a good look at my life. It is the only life I have and I need to make the most of it. I’ve learnt to learn from my past mistakes, take the good from them and discard the rest. Carrying baggage weighs you down. I also get my inspiration from my running group and mentors. There are some inspirational words that stick in my mind; Kathy McQuaide-Little once said, “We all create our own glass ceilings; nobody can break these but ourselves. It is up to us to break them and continue breaking them.”

What else are you looking forward to in 2010?
To continue learning about myself and what I am capable of. I also look forward to keep surrounding myself with positive like-minded people and to continue being blessed with a great group of friends.

Werner Pretorius
Age: 17

Werner, a schoolboy from Afrikaans Ho?r Seunskool in Pretoria, has always been sporty and has excelled at gymnastics, cricket, rugby and athletics. He had to make a choice as to where his heart lies and athletics came out tops. Werner’s highlight of his young career came in 2008 when he was the top junior hurdler in South Africa. Last year he was a member of the u/17 World Youth Team competing in Italy. Werner has his heart set on competing at the World Junior Championships in Canada in July and hopes that a good performance will enable him to qualify for a bursary to study and compete in America.

How are you planning to achieve your goal?
Training and more training! Also, I will have to work hard at my technique and speed and give 110% at every training session. I recently started changing my diet and I am trying to cut out sweets!

Do you see any obstacles in your way?
I prefer to see obstacles as challenges. It is not the worst thing if I have to miss a few parties because I have to train; there will be others in future. To reach the top one has to sacrifi ce; at the end of the day it is worth it.

What might be the hardest part of the journey?
I need to try and stay injury-free. Last year I had a lot of injuries and it had a big infl uence on my training programme. I am not really scared of anything because I know if you work hard you will be rewarded. I also know disappointments are part of life, they build character and one just has to get back up and not give up when things don’t work out as planned.

And the most exciting?
Competing overseas again will be an amazing experience. And for the first time since primary school I have also started sprinting 100m again.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
From my mom, Christa, my coach, Irma Reyneke, and God, who blessed me with this wonderful talent. When I want to give up I think of these inspirational words: ‘Quitters never win and winners never quit.’

What else are you looking forward to in 2010?
To doing well at school and to qualifying for a bursary to study in America. And of course to going to school with my own little car…  after I get my driver’s license, of course!

Werner’s coach, Irma (a former 400m and 400m hurdles Springbok) says he has all the qualities (physical and emotional) to become a champion. Her dream for him is to become SA Champion in the 110m hurdles and to compete at the World Championships in Canada. “Werner is such a special boy. He is prepared to work hard, never misses a training session, and above all he always stays humble”


Name: Johan and Martie van Gass
Age: Johan (43), Martie (39)

Johan who lives in Pretoria weighed 122.8kg in September 2008, and was battling with dangerously high blood pressure levels when he decided he’d had enough. Initially he tried all the wrong ways to lose weight –slimming tablets even landed him in hospital due to dehydration. He eventually started reading
about healthy eating habits and joined the gym. The weight started coming off! Johan got tired of the overcrowded gym and joined Run/Walk for Life. After the first week, he completed his first 8km race. Today Johan trains four days a week and runs a road race every Saturday. On Sundays he competes in mountain bike races and has just completed his fi rst 94.7 mountain bike race.

Martie weighed 144.8kg in September 2008. She decided to join her husband on his weightloss and fitness programme and has lost 50kg up to now. She has completed numerous 5km walks and one 10km walk. Today she trains three times a week and competes in 5km walks on the weekends.

Johan’s biggest dream is to finish Comrades 2010 and Martie is looking forward to losing another 15kg and competing in more 10km races.

How are you planning to achieve it?
J: I want to prove to myself that I have the endurance to finish a race as big as the Comrades. I am following the Comrades training programme, which I adapted a bit to suit myself. I also cycle to
strengthen my legs and from January I will be going to gym.
M: I am going to learn how to cycle so I can add this to my training programme.

Do you see any obstacles in your way?
There is only one obstacle and that is what one places in one’s own way. I am not planning on doing anything that will hinder me from achieving my dream. I have learnt not to put too much pressure on myself because then you don’t listen to your own body and you don’t rest when necessary. I take each
day as it comes and enjoy what I do. Too much, too fast, too soon are such true words.
M: One just has to deal with whatever comes your way and trust in God and your own ability. It is normal to be worried about falling back into your old ways, but luckily I have Johan who helps and supports me so much. If it weren’t for him I would not have made it.

What might be the hardest part of the journey?
I am battling with an injury. To get rid of it is going to be hard.
M: I am battling to get rid of the last few kilograms.

My body has become so used to my exercise programme, but I am planning to train more! And the most exciting?
J: We recently bought a Run/Walk for Life franchise. We are excited about helping others who are where we were.
M: I have encouraged some of my colleagues at work to lose weight and start exercising.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
My wife! Even if I am the worst sportsman, my wife will always make me feel as if I am a champion. That’s why I run each and every race just for her. I also always remember where I came from.
M: Johan is my biggest inspiration. He has helped me through each and every step of my weight-loss.
On the days that I feel fat and ugly, he always makes me feel better. I can also walk into shops and
look at all the beautiful clothes that I can wear.

What else are you looking forward to in 2010?
My wife is going to start cycling; perhaps in 2011 we could do the Cape Epic together!
M: I am looking forward to a healthy year and to live each day fully, inspiring others.

Name: Isabel Bekker
Age: 38
Isabel, a mother of two from Edenvale, joined Run/Walk for Life in 2001 after a colleague had an osteoporosis scare. The incident made her realise how important it was to be fit and active. The walking sessions started boring her, though, so one day she started jogging. Later, when she started working in Sandton, her running career came to a halt for five years because she got home too late to run. She eventually left that job and started running again. In 2008 she completed a few races and in April last
year, she ran her longest race to date, the Colgate 15km.

How are you planning to achieve it?
Training hard, increasing my distance and losing the last stubborn 6kg! I have not decided which half marathon to run, but it will be in the fi rst half of the year.

Do you see any obstacles in your way?
Defi nitely the winter months. I had a bad winter last year and stopped running for four months. When I came back I struggled to complete even 500m. Only three months later was I able to run the Irene 10km. What often makes me think that I might not accomplish my dream is the battle in my mind. My legs say they can do the mileage while my mind tells me that my body can’t. I need to overcome that and focus on the finishing line instead of the entire race.

What might be the hardest part of the journey?
The hardest part for me is juggling my life as a wife, mother and full-time worker while trying to put in
the distance and training needed to achieve my goal. If it wasn’t for my husband Ron’s support, there is no way I could have accomplished what I have so far. I am very lucky to have such a wonderful family who don’t care what my time was and children who walk around with my medals around their necks. They make me feel like a hero and that is the type of role model one aspires to be for one’s children.

And the most exciting?
Ticking ‘completing a half marathon’ off my to-do list of life.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get my inspiration from success stories of people who were not natural runners all their lives, people who worked hard to get where they are and understand the battles that I go through as a novice. There
are athletes who do way more mileage than I ever have, but still take the time to chat to me and offer advice and motivation. To me they are truly inspirational and they instil confi dence in my abilities. I  believe in these words: ‘If you can dream it, you can do it.’

What else are you looking forward to in 2010?
I am looking forward to the Soccer World Cup! Viva Espa?a!