Overcoming Hurdles

The All-Rounder


With a solid win in the Dis-Chem Half Marathon in
Johannesburg in January, to retain the title he won here in 2012, Elroy Gelant
has started the year in the form he hopes will allow him to compete with the
best at the World Half Marathon Champs in Copenhagen, on 29 March. Having
finished third at the SA Half Marathon Champs last September, the
Potchefstroom-based star is expected to be part of a strong SA team in Denmark
alongside Stephen Mokoka, Lusapho April and Gladwin Mzazi, and they’ll be aiming
to repeat the team gold medal that
Hendrick Ramaala,
Abner Chipu and Mluleki Nobanda won for SA in 1999 in Palermo, Italy.


The win at Dis-Chem is actually
just the latest in a string of great results for Elroy over the past year. He recorded
a unique ‘double’ at the SA Cross Country Champs in Potch by winning both the
12km and 4km events, and made it to the final of the 5000m at the IAAF World
Champs in Moscow, finishing 12th. He also narrowly
missed Shadrack Hoff’s 18-year-old national 5000m record of 13:14.16, clocking
13:15.87, so once the World Half Champs are out of the way, his focus will
shift back to the track ahead of the Commonwealth Games in Scotland in late
July, and in the lead-up to Copenhagen he also aims to do well at the World
Indoor Champs from 7 to 9 March in Sopot, Poland.


Elroy says he appreciates the
competitive atmosphere on the different circuits and surfaces, and picks out
last year’s Track World Champs as his highlight thus far, running alongside the
likes of Olympic champion Mo Farah and former World Champ Bernard Lagat. You can feel the tension and everyone looks so
focused. I just remind myself of my plans and I don’t worry about anyone else. God
provided me with a talent to achieve great heights, and athletics is my soul. I
can’t imagine life without it. Also, athletics has made me tough, disciplined
and a respectful person.”



Elroy grew up in Pacaltsdorp, near George, and was
very active in his school days. “I was always the all-rounder. I played rugby
and cricket in school, and started cross country in Grade 3, going on to
represent the South Western Districts and winning a medal when I was only nine.”
At North West University in Potchefstroom, he initially specialised in the 800m
and 1500m, but his current coach, Jean Verster, and former SA middle distance
great Hezekiel Sepeng, helped him move up to the 3000m and 5000m, and he has
subsequently also excelled on the road. “I knew I could show what I’m capable
of in 10km and 21km after doing them for endurance training,” he says, “and
after Rio 2016, I plan to step up to marathons.”


Currently holding down a
full-time position at North West University as a Human Resource Assistant in
the Department of Human Capital and Client Services, Elroy still manages an
intense training programme while representing the Traumeel NWU-Pukke team in
all three running disciplines. “It’s not easy! I wake up at 4:30am every day to
train and get home by 6am to shower before work. After hours, I train again
before 5pm, and it’s tiring, but what keeps me motivated are the goals I
continually set myself.” Added to work and training, Elroy also has to fit in hitting
the books, as he’s currently registered for a Diploma in Sports Science, having
already completed his B.Com and Honours in Human Resource Management and Labour


A typical day in the week sees
him doing a 15 to 18km run in the morning and afternoon for endurance, with two
days a week set aside for afternoon sets of eight 1000m bursts. Elroy also
focuses on tempo runs and hill sessions to work on his speed, while Sundays are
for long runs ranging from 20 to 25km. He is just as dedicated when it comes to
his diet: “We hit 120 to 160km a week, putting a big demand on our bodies, so it’s
important to get the right nutrition in order to thrive and recover.”



Elroy says he wants to make 2014
a successful and injury-free season, and is aiming for top-eight performances
at the World Indoor Champs and Commonwealth Games, and his long-term goal is to
get to the Rio Olympics in two years in the 5000m. Before the showpiece in
Brazil, he also wants to compete at next year’s World Cross Country Champs in
China. “My 12th position last year in Moscow is my stepping stone to
Rio, and I want to make the country proud!”