“When the going gets tough”

Friends, long time not chat, so here I am, back with a message to hopefully inspire someone somewhere.

life happens

Some of you might remember the words of the hit song “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going” from the Michael Douglas film, The Jewel of the Nile. Well this is all about that, when the tough gets going…

It is a fact of life that it is not always smooth sailing. There will be ups and downs and we will experience amazing highs and challenging lows. Life will sometimes treat us well and sometimes, well, not so well. This is the reality of life I guess.

But I have learned that it is not always about the here and now, it is about the journey. As we journey through our personal and professional lives, there will inevitably be periods of incredible frustration and despair. It is during these times, these tough times that we will hit our all-time lows and if often feel like nothing or no one could possibly motivate us to move onward in the direction of our dreams. But sometimes it takes a call or a single message from a friend, a post of Facebook or a post like this to lift us up and steer us back on track again.

Friends, when we hit those lows and the going gets tough, one thing we have to do is trust in the journey even if we are feeling really down or discouraged. We have to let go of what lies behind us and focus on what is ahead. The past is just that, the past. It was Bil Keane who said, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”  So, we have to remember that life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. Living live forward means we have to start over again, exactly where we are, use what we have and do what we can to get back on track to continue on the journey. Forward.

I’ve experienced some personal difficulties and challenges recently and so many people told me that one day I will understand why things happened the way they did. Obviously at the time I wanted to strangle every single one of them who kept on repeating that to me, not because I did not want to hear it, but because where I was, I could not see it. In the eye of the storm things look pretty dim when you look from the inside out.

So when the going gets tough, we have to search for those outside sources of hope and inspiration to help us focus again. Friends, remember also, sometimes it’s the journey itself that teaches us a lot about our destination. The ups and downs, the highs and lows, are all part of this life we live and the here and now is all we have, so take it and live your life to the fullest. When the challenges come, embrace them, learn from them. The road of life will always twist and turn and no two directions will ever be the same, but the lessons we learn, the wisdom we acquire, comes from the journey itself, not from the destination.

Go out there and live your life to the fullest. Take it one step at a time, and remember the words of Lao Tzu that the journey of a thousand miles began with one step.

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“I expected more from you, but you let me down.”

Open letter to a friend

“Dear friend. Here we are, the last day of 2017 and I decided to write this letter to you because I do not intend to take any of 2017’s baggage with me into the New Year.

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Some of you might know that I have had so much to deal with since July this year; the break up after 16 years of commitment, moving into a new place, which I hate, on 1 November, then my health issues and ultimately the operation that followed on 9 November 2017. The latter pretty much left me confined to my flat for weeks because I could not do much for myself.

Fact is, you were not there when I needed you most. Your promise of “Don’t worry; I (or we) will be there for you all the way….” did nothing but create expectations in within that lies the disappointment. You not coming through for me plunged me into profound sadness and enormous disappointment. When I needed you for the first time really in my life, more than ever before, you were not there. I this time I really just had a need for company. I expected more from you, but you let me down. I sank further down, into utter sadness. The one question I asked myself repeatedly was if this was now the time for me to change my view of others or dig deeper and rid of the expectations I had from others.

I think we have all been in that space before, where we needed someone, maybe because we were not feeling well, faces some challenges or dealing with some heartache of some sort, times when we needed nothing more than just a shoulder to cry on. However, what happens when no one is there, when no one give us that much needed attention? I thought about this long and hard during the past few weeks and the same question repeatedly; why is it that suddenly, nobody comes around to give a hand that we cried for in silence?

Friend, if you have not experienced this extreme boniness before, then blessed are you indeed. Be grateful. Believe me though when I say, there is no worse sensation than when you need someone more than anything else, and that that someone is not there for you.

For me the worst thing I realised in this time was that for someone, for that person that we consider a close friend, that individual we wanted to rely on, we needed to rely on, we simply do not exist. These negative feelings were the worst I ever had to deal with. It left me feeling abandoned and rejected.

My “therapy” through these hard times was to blog and to continuously putting my thoughts down in writing and this became my saving grace. One of my realisations was that there would come a time in life when we will be alone. Fact. It is as if other people have a limit in your life, they only reach a certain point. After this point, you will go on alone. Sad but true.

This is a difficult moment, a moment that many of us even try to delay, but believe me, inevitably, it will come. Nobody will or even can accompany you, nobody will be with you. You will be alone and you will walk alone. Nobody will need you, nobody will call you. This will be your worst time, your sense of abandonment so strong as to seem unbearable. I met this moment during the past few months, but especially the past few weeks.

Friend, stranger, whoever is reading this, since we were little, we have gotten used to doing certain things with friends, even with family, but what happens when we find ourselves alone one day? Although most of us know that we have to eventually learn not to depend on anybody to follow our path, do the things that we love to do or just be there for us, it is a fact. Fuelled by feelings of loneliness and an awareness of abandonment, survival mode will kick in.

The tough lesson learned through this time was that I cannot in any way continue to depend on others for company and support, but I have to find that strength and emotional crutches within myself. My self-esteem and happiness can also not depend on others, I had to dig in and find it deep within myself, within the stuff I love to do.

Friend, your absence during this time was loud and clear and although it brought about a lot of disappointment and hurt for me, I have learned to become friends with solitude. I realised that solitude is not necessarily a bad thing in itself. Solitude in this case rather allowed me to learn more about myself, because I became my own company in those dark lonely nights when I tossed, turned, and could not fall asleep.

Just one more though regarding happiness. I learned that I could not depend on anyone to be happy. My happiness does not have to depend on anybody, because when I do rely on others and they fail me it only puts me on a roller coaster of emotions that leaves me frustrated  and totally unhappy.

Friend, you failed me, you left me abandoned when I really needed you the most, so I learned that I have to learn to say goodbye. This is something life often does not teach us because it is seen as negative and sort of cruel and unkind, but it is very necessary. I have often heard this statement, “People will come into your life and they will also go out of it, they will hurt you, they will let you down. They will only be there for a season, for a reason.” Well, saying goodbye to them is something that is difficult, but something that we must learn, starting today. I will not reject you and I will have no animosity towards you, but that door to the inner me is now closed and shut. You or anyone else will not have the opportunity or pleasure to hurt me again in this way, unless I decide to open that door again and take a chance on humanity again. Time will tell.

I have chosen to not expect anything from anyone. In my case I know that often my expectations are too high regarding others and that is my mistake, I realise that, but it is because I am someone who always give completely. There are a multitude of images online with these words, “…expect nothing and you won’t be disappointed.” I can vouch for that. The only way to avoid being let down, is to not expect anything from anyone

To you, friend or stranger who reads this, if you’ve ever been in a situation where you needed someone who was not there for you, learn from my experiences and free your mind of the thought, “when I needed you the most, you were not there.” The only one you can really rely on is you. You will never miss yourself and you will always be there for yourself. That is the only given.

Do not look for any hand to help you, if it is there, grab it and appreciate it, but otherwise, resort to this, reach out and grab His hand, He who said “Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6). Through all this I still believe that God uses people to minister to people, God use ordinary people in extraordinary ways to attend to our physical and emotional needs. However, we as a people are not always obedient and or sensitive to His call to service, an in that we often find our disappointment, not because God failed us, but because people did.

Come to think about it, much of this has to do with the fact that we very loosely go about to use the word ‘friend’. Often you call me friend but I have never been to your house, or you to mine, we never shared a meal of coffee – just the two of us because you are important to me and me to you. You call me friend but do not know what has been going on in my life, do not know the challenges I face or the hardship I deal with. You often call me friend yet a visit or a call is conveniently avoidable because we have Facebook, WhatsApp and all other forms of social media fall back on. You call me friend but do not know my likes, dislikes, fears or even what makes me happy. The title of ‘friend’ should be earned rather than claimed or just grabbed out of thin air. Friendship lies deeper than just the occasional message on WhatsApp or Facebook. We became so impersonal because of social media and modern tech that we lost the real human interaction. This is a sad but brutally true reality. The last thought, someone said, “…it is not about not having time or being too busy, it depends on where you are on someone’s priority list. When someone or something is important to us, we will make the time and become un-busy”

My last words before I draw a line in the sand for 2017; I pray that when you are in a time of need, when you need a helping hand, a shoulder to cry on or just someone to emotionally bail you out, that you will find that hand to be there. My wish is that you will not experience what I have during the past few months and weeks because we all, yes and that includes you, deserve so much more.

It will be super unfair of me to let the opportunity pas by to thank the handful of people who did promise to be there for me and actually kept their word. Even if I try, I do not think I will find enough words to describe the gratitude I have. You know who you are and mentioning names is not necessary because I will show my gratitude by sharing it with you, on a personal level and not in an open letter. I thank God for you !

Wishing you and your loved ones the very best for 2018.

Sincerely yours,

Do not allow others to snatch your dreams from you

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It is really a sad day when other people start to dictate to you how big or how small you should dream.

A few years ago no one would believe me if I told them that I was going to take up running, not to mention the crazy idea to take on the world’s toughest ultra-marathon, the ultimate human race, Comrades. You can imagine the reaction I got from my friends and family. I must say, the support was next to nothing, amazing, unselfish, in most cases. In general people never understood what I was doing, well, what I was trying to do, but they still supported me.

Well, this was my decision, my dream. I followed my dream, I trained, prepared myself and I did my first Comrades and now we are four years down the line and I am heading for Comrades number five. This will be a down run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban on Sunday, the 10th of June 2018. The 2018 Comrades slogan is fittingly, “Asijiki – No Turning Back”

This brings me to the matter at hand today; when you don’t have that support and people don’t support you.

I know someone who gave up on her Comrades dream and decided to pull out of Comrades. This was also going to be her back to back. I was saddened when I heard this and I am convinced that this is not because she does not want to do Comrades but because she had to let go of this dream because of someone else’s selfishness and as a result of that, non-support. What a sad reality. Maybe you know someone like this.

It was Theodore Roosevelt who said, “I care not what others think of what I do, but I care very much about what I think of what I do! That is character!”

In this process, in her case, the strong and fighting character we got to know on the road in some way will die a slow and selfish death and we will miss her fighting spirit and support especially on those long, trying and defining races, but as we continue on this journey that we are on, we will continue to follow our own dreams and give it our very best shot to make it become our reality.

When we follow our own dreams, I think it is only human that we expect support and encouragement from the people we consider close to us; instead some sadly experience only rejection and criticism, making the journey even tougher.

We have to learn not to care so much about what others think.

Remember that your passion is the priority. Try to avoid that “What if…” moments. A lot of people go through the motions in life, not doing what they love or dream about. They end up looking back with regret at the things they dreamt about but did not do.

Whether people support you or not, please try to avoid that moment when you look back with regret at those dreams you never followed. Your dreams are the most important things in your life. Follow your heart and do what is right for you and avoid a life lived to please and live up to other’s expectations or a life lived to avoid other’s negative reaction or jealousy. It is just not worth it.

Remember, life is short and we have but one life to live, but if we do it right and to the fullest I guess once is enough.

Living the life others want you to live makes you nothing but a puppet on a string. This is plain wrong. It is important to live your life; just to live out your dreams but also to bring you to the place where you can reach and fulfil your own full potential. Again, life is short, make the most of it. Live your best possible life.

It is also important to know that people often don’t support us just because they do not want us to fulfil our dreams but merely because they just don’t understand us and they do not see what drives us. This often make them seem dissenting, bit it is not the case.

I personally try not to take it to heart when people discourage me. I realize that they are uninformed and often it is best just to ignore them.

Another fact is that people often do not support us or do not allow us to live our dreams because they have their own insecurities and difficulty to focus on and live out their own dreams. This is sad but true. Often this is a major obstacle couples have to overcome, where the one dreams big and the other not at all. Unfortunately the reality here is that this could be as a result of plain ignorance or even stone cold jealousy.

I have used this quote a zillion times before, even in the video I did with Discovery on Medical Miracles. It was Madiba who said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”, so remember, anything is possible. I am living proof of this.

We cannot predict the future, no one can, but please do not get caught up on the doom and gloom of what others believe is possible or not. Dream big and do whatever it takes to make your dreams come true. Don’t let objections from others become your truth and limit you from creating what you want in life. Fact is, anything is possible if you believe in yourself and work hard.

You have to believe that you can realize your dreams without those who do not want to support you. Yes, it is natural to want support and encouragement from those close to us, but it is possible to do what you want to do without it also. It is fact that many successful and inspiring people took the road less travelled. The potential to realize your dreams is locked up inside of you and you have to believe that, make it your own and then don’t give up. Pursue your own dreams, live your own life and become the best version of who you were meant to be.

Let me share this last thought. Another life lesson I have learned is that we cannot please everyone. It is virtually impossible. So, keep your focus on what you want to do and know why. In an ideal world, I think, we all would love to be constantly surrounded by positive people who will support us in everything we do, but this is not going to happen. Reality dictates that there will always be those who will want to drag us down with them to their graveyard of unaccomplished and unfulfilled dreams and where negativity reigns. Let’s not go there!

Friends, dream big and optimize your talents. Our lives are filled with timeless opportunities, we need to seize every opportunity and make it great. Please, do not allow others to snatch your dreams from you

— Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @myownjourney_sa

Comrades is something of the past, what now…?

So Comrades 2017 is something of the past. Some runners started training again, others are still lying low and taking it easy.

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I have learned during my years of running that recovering from a marathon or ultra-marathon is a critical component of a perfect training plan that runners often neglect. Unfortunately, if you don’t properly recover from your long run, you’ll increase you injury risk and limit your long-term potential. Simple as that.

For those who have done a marathon or two before will know that these events are really tough on our bodies. From muscles and tendons to hormones and cells – almost every system in your body is pushed to the max and undergoes extreme physical exertion during these runs. It therefore makes perfect sense that we should do everything you we to help your body recover once the long run is over.

I am not going to tell people what to do and what not to do, there are a lot of resources out there that can help with that, all I can say is do not be in a hurry to get into the full swing of things too soon. Give your body a chance to recover and especially, like before your marathon or ultra-marathon, avoid being around sick people. Remember putting your body through the paces at these endurance events gives your body’s immune system a massive knock. Athletes who participate in endurance events like marathons and ultra-marathons, are therefore at an increased risk of picking up minor illnesses or infections – most commonly upper respiratory tract infections.

I personally know a lot of runners who fell ill after Comrades, some serious and others not so serious, but it just underlines the fact that it is a reality.

You can try to limit this risk by avoiding deficiencies and ensure adequate intake of carbohydrates, proteins, fluids and micronutrients like iron, zinc, Vitamin B6, B12, Vitamin C and Vitamin E. Also make sure you stay hydrated.

For the past week I’ve been dealing with an ankle injury, yes nothing to do with hydration or stacking up on the vitamins, but it is simply because I did what I decided not to do, and did a half-marathon as my first post-comrades race. Stupid ! So now I am taking it easy, making sure I get rid of this injury so I can start with my proper training at the beginning of August. I am already back in gym for about four weeks now, but beginning of August the focused training starts so I can be ready for the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon on the 17th of September 2017 and hopefully this will be my Comrades 2018 qualifier race.

Well friends, time to sign off. I hope all of you are doing well and are still on track with your training plans and busy doing what you have to to make those dreams come true.

Happy weekend everyone !

20 days to go !

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Today we have twenty days to go to Comrades 2017, and by this time in three weeks it is all over. Can you guys believe it ? It feels like yesterday when we started the count down with 100 days to go and here we are, three weeks out.

In three weeks I will line up for the forth Comrades. Even that sounds unreal…

Five months of really hard work, commitment and preparation will play out on the 4th of June when around 20,000 athletes will line up in Durban for the 2017 Comrades Ultra Marathon. This year it is an up run between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, for me personally this is more of a challenge than the down run.

My preparation went well and I am happy with where I am and I know that I have the potential to maybe have my best Comrades Marathon ever. My training went well, my times are on point, actually better than I expected, and I am determined and mentally strong and focused.

The best part still is that I am again able to do this to support the Bible Society of South Africa, to support their Run4Bibles charity assisting in Bible distribution. When the going gets tough, that is when I focus on the cause and the reason why I am doing this and then things become manageable again. This year I am joined by Thérèse Doman and together we will run #Comrades4Bibles.

Remember, there is still time for you to support this amazing cause. Every R50 we raise will enable the Bible Society of South Africa to make available a FREE Bible to someone who really needs it most. This way we can change not only a single single life but potentially a whole family. You can find more details about this charity on my web page at www.myownjourney.co.za/comrades – this is where you will get more info about the charity itself and also the details on how to make your donation.

I want to take this opportunity also to wish all my friends the very very best for their Comrades marathon. I really hope that this Ultimate Human Race will give you all an ultimate experience and leave you with the ultimate feeling of achievement. Go out and do your best and remember to be awesome.

 

 

 

OMTOM2017 Success !

IMG_7702Old Mutual Two Oceans Ultra-Marathon is without doubt one of my favorite event on the running calendar. I just love this race, not only because it is definitely the most beautiful marathon in the world, not only because it is in Cape Town, not only because it is well organized, not only because it was my first ultra-marathon and not only because it gives us a chance to take a short break, but also because of the unique challenge of this race.

This year I arrived here in Cape Town with one goal for OMTOM2017, to just run my race and decided that I will be happy with a comfortable sub 6, but most importantly I wanted finish without issues, without injury and feeling good. Race day offered me that and more. My unofficial plan was to try and get a PB in the bag, with a possible 05:47 (previous personal best was 05:50 in 2014 ).

As race day unfolded along this amazing breathtaking OMTOM route, I realized that I was on track to make it happen. At 17 km I had to stop because of severe nausea, but once I’ve taken care of that, it was back to the road pushing towards the finish line. When I got to the bottom of Chapmans Peak I was still on track and felt great. I maneuvered my way up ‘Chappies’ with caution, worked in three proper stops, with about three minutes of walking and then made up some time down the other side. I knew ‘fly now pay later’ will soon be a reality if I was not cautious. Getting into Hout Bay I felt great. I passed the 42km mark and almost fell over when I noticed it was 04:11 into the race. This where I got little positive booster, realizing the plan for the day was busy playing out really well. I planned ahead for Constantia Nek and I once again wondered, can one really be prepared for Constantia? Anyway, I continued and knew every step was a step closer to the finish.

The plan changed slightly when I caught up with Melinda Smal and Esti Kemp from Magnolia about 7 km from the end. Drill Sergeant Smal was not interested in excuses whatsoever so Esti and I just had latch on and run. There was no mercy whatsoever. But it was all good, at this stage I knew the PB was in the bag it was just a matter of what time it was going to be. Turning into the UCT grounds is always a joy, this time round, even more so.

I crossed the finish line with Melinda and Esti at 05:42:54.

#OMTOM2017 mission accomplished !

18057001_10150802279204946_8391414820810149647_nIt is in moments like this that one can appreciate the progress made, when you see the results of hard work and commitment, many early mornings, endless kilometers in the road and hours in the gym. It all comes together on days like this. Hard work pays off, that is for sure. Fact is, good runs like this don’t just happen, you train for it, you work hard for it, but the reward is great when you reach your goals and that is when you move those boundaries a little further.

I want to thank everyone who supported me, all the messages, following me on the app and the calls, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

It is now a short week of taking it easy and then this coming weekend we will take on the Loskop 50km Ultra Marathon, now that is going to be interesting, to say the least. But we will be there and take it as it comes.

[ …more photos here ]

Two Oceans Ultra Marathon is here !

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We are four days away from running the Old Mutual Two Oceans Ultra Marathon in Cape Town on Saturday 15th of April 2017.

The Two Oceans Ultra Marathon is the most beautiful marathon in the world and it is definitely a race very close to my heart because it was my first ultra-marathon I did, way back in 2015. I’ve certainly had my ups and downs at this race, but thank goodness there were more ups than downs, band by “ups” I don’t mean Chappies and Constantia Nek.

My best time was 05.50.14 and I am going to try, with the emphasis on “try” to better this time, even if it just with a few minutes. I just want to finish strong, without any issues and also without injury because a week later, on the 22nd of April I will once again line up for another race, this time the Loskop Ultra Marathon.

My plan for Two Oceans is to get out of the bundle as quick as possible without having to sprint necessarily. There are ways to free yourself from the field without having to do the 100m dash. Then I also want to find my rhythm as early as possible in the race. It is important for me to hold back and run easy and in check during the first three to five kilometres because this is where the speed traps are. It is easy to get sucked in by the fast stream and to start too fast will be the wrong thing to do. I maintain what I always say, “Fly now, pay later”. This is also warm up time, to get the blood flowing, the muscles warmed up and breathing settled.

In the first 28km I want to run a bit on the conservative side and see how it plays out because the challenges are mainly for me in the second 28km and those two iconic hills, Chapmans Peak and then the dreaded Constantia Nek. To prepare for this I have up my average pace a little on the first half to make up for the time wasters on the second lap.

The second half is a challenge, mainly because fatigue is kicking in and you have to navigate those constant climbs and also keep enough fuel in the tank not only to get over Constantia Nek but to be strong to endure the last ten kilometers to the end. This stretch is mostly down but what makes this part a challenge is the twists and turns and the camber that really get to your ankles The final three kilometers should be a breeze for any other event but after 53km you usually feel it and just to make sure you face one more little challenge, that final little uphill leading runners to the finish venue at UCT. The support here is usually very good and the cheering really helps to get runners home.

Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon is one of the nicest finishes for me, coming into those grounds with that sharp turn to the left, a quick straight and then the right turn into the final stretch with the finish line in front of you welcoming everyone home after a long morning on the road.

Well, that is the plan. This is a stepping stone to something bigger, Comrades 2017. It is important for me to just have a good and comfortable Oceans, most of all just enjoy the time on the road with fellow runners from all walks of life, the gorgeous scenery and enjoying the warm support from the side of the road. We love the crowds who come out to support us as we feed of their energy, equally so also all the amazing volunteers making sure we stay hydrated, fed and entertained along the route. Shout out to all of you !

Good luck to all my friends and strangers who will be taking on the 56km Ultra run this weekend. May you all be safe and may you all get the results you were training for. Go out and let’s all Run As One !