The 29 Minute Challenge
From zero to hero in one short year
The J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge was a day that I can only compare to the first day of high school. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew it was coming, but I didn’t want to think about it. I knew that this day would be a landmark in my life. It would be the day that I either gave in and lost a personal challenge, or broke through every barrier I had ever created and found the physical and mental strength to succeed. I had set myself a difficult goal, and had to find the courage from somewhere deep within to achieve it. – BY NA’AMA OREN
The week leading up to the challenge was a tense one for me. As the day came closer and closer, I began to panic more and more, and yet when the day came, a strange sense of calm settled over me. I knew on that day that I had worked hard enough, trained for long enough and prepared my mind enough. I was ready.
I wasn’t entirely convinced that I was going to meet my target time, but I was totally committed to trying. The support I got from my running buddies was incredible, and the hours and minutes flew by. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, my little group of encouragers and I were standing just 20 metres from the starting line. Despite the rain, my determination couldn’t be dampened and as the starting buzzer sounded, I started to run with my friends, David and Michelle, on either side of me. They had known for a long time what my goal was, and they were determined to help me achieve it.
The first kilometre came and went in a blur as we flew past the massive number of entrants. Although butterflies were still crashing into the walls of my stomach, I was feeling confident. David, our timekeeper, reported that we were on track, having beat the first kilometre in impressive time.
I was breathing hard as we passed the second kilometre. All the tension I had been holding onto was beginning to release, but it had already had an effect on my body. My shoulder muscles were sore and, though the distance could be considered measly by anyone’s standards, my legs were already starting to ache. But on we went, with Michelle talking to me, distracting me and David spontaneously shouting encouragements: “Well done! That’s it girl. You make Joburg great!”
Up the hills and down the hills, over flats and in between the throngs of runners we kept pushing on. At 300m to go, I saw the field lights flickering before me. “Okay,” Michelle decided, “As soon as we get to the gates, we have to run in. Give it everything you’ve got.”
We picked up the pace at the gates and ran all the way down to the finish line. With just 40 metres to go, I started feeling every training session, every early morning, every time I pushed myself. “I’m going to throw up!” I exclaimed. “I have to stop!”
“No, we’re nearly there,” Michelle assured me. “There’s the finish line.” And there it was. Suddenly all the pain and the worry disappeared and I picked up the pace to the finish line.
We went through the finish in 43 minutes, not 29. You may be asking yourself at this point whether I was disappointed, whether I felt as though all my hard work had been for nothing. I wasn’t, and it wasn’t. The feeling of elation I felt as we crossed the finish line nearly knocked me off my feet, because I knew even then that the time I had taken wasn’t important. It was the journey I took to get there. My goal, it turns out, had not been to get a certain time, but to get to the last milestone of the difficult road I had set myself to run.
To put my whole journey into perspective, I had to think about the statistics. In my eight month running journey I had: Taken 15 minutes off my time for the JP Morgan, lost six kilograms and gone down two dress sizes, made an uncountable number of friends, and built a type of self-esteem that I doubt I could ever have achieved without running.
My new motto to live by? Running is not about the destination or the distance. It’s about the journey. I hope that everyone who doesn’t believe they can achieve anything they put their minds to, thinks about the way my life changed when I dared to challenge myself to go further than I ever thought I could.
I wish I had the words to thank everyone who has touched my life for the support and encouragement they’ve given me, for the determination they’ve shown me and for the opportunities they’ve allowed me, but I would need libraries worth of paper to do it. A special thanks to Mike for the opportunity, to David, Michelle and other Michelle for the support and encouragement and to all the members of Jeppe, for being such incredible role models.
My next goal? Well, I’ve booked to do my first half marathon in April, my first 32km in May and hope to do my first full marathon by the end of July. Setting these goals in the future not only keeps me running, but also allows me to keep developing and growing, fulfilling my potential not just as an athlete, but as a person.