Fuel Your Finish

Lights, camera… RUN!


She had wanted to run the Comrades since her school
days, so in 2010, having already covered the race as a presenter, Vaylen joined
Sunninghill Striders and qualified to run it – before she really knew what she
was letting herself in for. “It was always about participation for me, so I wanted
to say that I’ve done it!” she says. However, at the 10km marker in her debut
Comrades run in 2010, Vaylen was unceremoniously told by a fellow runner, “You
can’t call yourself a Comrades runner until you’ve run it twice,” and with that
daunting thought in her head throughout the race, she finished exhausted in
11:47. Having eaten only half a potato and a sandwich along the route, she was
put on a glucose drip in the medical tent at the finish.


So in 2011, Vaylen knew she had a few mistakes to
rectify, and says she enjoyed her Comrades experience much more, finishing in
10:19 without a trip to the medical tent afterwards. “Nothing beats that
emotional journey,” she says. “I remember recording my day’s experience, but
the recorder was stolen. I remember crying – not because I had lost the
recorder, but because I had lost the memories I noted down. Everyone has a
story, and I think the race changes the way you look at any challenge in life.”



Entry into the world of broadcasting came early for
Vaylen. In high school, her potential was recognised when she did lines in a
SABC Education nativity play and got spotted by top sports broadcaster Cynthia
Tshaka. “Two years later when I was in matric, I was called in to do some
voiceovers. Then I started working on a disability sports programme and went on
to report on Natalie Du Toit’s five gold medals in 2004 at the Paralympics –
right beside the pool! It was also around the time a young Oscar Pistorius
broke onto the scene in Athens.” She would go on to cover two Olympic Games and
another Paralympics. Vaylen’s comfort and confidence in front of the camera also
saw her host the glamorous Durban July and Met horse racing events, as well as last
year’s Comrades Marathon.


After studying a BA in private law and communication
from UNISA as well as achieving Honours in Journalism, Vaylen quickly became a
household name. From her early beginnings at Topsport’s Sportsbuzz, then SABC Sport, she’s now become a vital cog in the Morning Live team on SABC 2. She’s also
dabbled in radio with a few weekend shows on SAFM and previously hosting her
own sports show on YFM, Yired on Sport.
“I’ve interviewed Bruce Fordyce, Zola Pieterse, Bafana’s Itumaleng Khune, Springbok
Bryan Habana, and even got a few minutes with American swimmer Michael Phelps!”
says Vaylen. “I get excited about all the stories around me. I get to hear about
people’s achievements and there’s nothing better than that.”


With a busy schedule on her hands, Vaylen still plays adoring
mom to six-year-old daughter Tehya, and it seems mom’s love of sport and
fitness is already filtering through. “She’s just done her first cross-country
season, but we’ll see where it takes her. I want her to find anything she’s
passionate about.” For Vaylen, sport and motherhood is what her life is all
about: “The TV at home is either on a sports channel or a kid’s programme!”



Looking ahead, Vaylen says she would like to do more
radio, write more, and eventually host her own talk show. And on the road, she
is planning to tackle next year’s Old Mutual Two Oceans ultra and several trail
runs, and wants to improve on her 10km and marathon PBs, too. That’s why you’ll
see her out on a run three times a week, varying sprints and hills (her
favourite), doing longer runs on weekends and spending hours in the gym for
strength work. “I find time to fit it all in – anyone can if they want to! Running
is a means to digest life’s frustrations. I can’t imagine life without it. You
meet so many different characters and you make an investment for your health – and
healthier people are nicer and happier!”


You can follow Vaylen on Twitter: @VaylenKirtley