A Winning Attitude

Learning on the Run


Between stressful jobs and trying to spend quality time with the family, exercise is often the fi rst thing that falls to the bottom of our list. In a series of features on how to balance a busy career with running, Modern Athlete speaks to various high-powered professionals to fi nd out how they manage to fit
sport into their hectic schedules. This month we chat to Cheryl de la Rey, Vice-Chancellor and Principal at the University of Pretoria.

What is your background and how did you get involved in education?

I assumed my position as Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Tuks at the beginning of November last year. Before this I was the CEO of the Council on Higher Education after having been Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Cape Town for six years.


What is the most exciting thing about your job?

Interacting with people – students, staff and all our stakeholders  – and being in a learning environment. Each day is different and exciting.


How long have you been running?

For about 20 years! I recently joined Irene Road Running Club in Pretoria.


What motivated you to start running and what was your very first run like?

My husband influenced me. He was a runner at the time. My first run was the 10km Ladies Race in Durban. My only preparation was three 3km runs coached by my husband. On the day of the race, he stood at the 5km mark to check whether I needed to quit. I continued and finished the race in 62 minutes. I felt as if I had won the race! I have been hooked ever since.


How many hours a week do you spend on the road?

Since my new position at Tuks I have become more of a jogger than a runner! With the change in my job, I need to re-organise my training. But, no matter how busy I am, I run about 10km every Saturday. In the past few years I have had to limit my running due to a persistent knee problem. I have recently discovered the problem is actually due to the mobility of my right foot. I am now receiving professional help.


What do you see as the biggest obstacle to your running?

Finding time to train and managing the effects of overused joints.


Has running influenced your career and work ethic?

Running is a great stress reliever and I use my running time to think about work-related challenges. Training for marathons and long distances has given me an enhanced sense of the importance of discipline and focus. After I completed my first Two Oceans 56km many years ago, my confidence to tackle a range of new challenges was boosted. I felt that if I could do that, then there were many other challenges that I could take on.


What is the best advice you have been given with regards to running?

Forget about the finishing time, just enjoy it.


And the worst advice?

Buying expensive shoes that turned out to be wrong for me.


Proudest moment in running and in business?

In running it has to be completing my first Two Oceans ultra, and in business being appointed the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria.


Most embarrassing moment in running and in business?

In running, using the bushes en route… and in business, not getting the name of a VIP correct on an important occasion.


The thing I love most about running is…

The feeling I get after a run. Running is also an excellent way to get to know one’s neighbourhood. I have moved cities several times. Running is a good way of getting to know a new place and its people.


After a run the first thing I like to do is…

Sit on the patio with a cup of coffee after a morning run or something cold after an evening run.


My greatest ambition is to complete…

One of the world’s great city marathons (outside of South Africa).


I don’t enjoy being beaten by…

I don’t enjoy not being able to beat my own previous times.


I enjoy training most with…

On my own and with friends.


Who are your running role models?

Working mothers who still find time to train for long distance events.


What is your favourite meal after a big race?

Definitely a braai with a glass or two of good wine.


I could not go running without my…

Peak cap. It keeps both sun and rain out of my eyes.


What do you think about when you run?

I usually think about work-related issues but I also like looking at the gardens and houses.


What would you say to someone who says that they don’t have the time to start running?

You have time, reprioritise!


My favourite race is…

Two Oceans – both the ultra and half marathon.


Favourite Quote

Gary Player’s “The harder I practice, the luckier I get” and the ad slogan “Just Do It.”


What is your favourite place to run?

I step out of my front door and start running – my neighbourhood and on the Tukkies campus.


Life motto?

You won’t know if you don’t try.