Let me introduce you to Naomi Janse Van Rensburg, not the runner we met on the inspiration section on The Marathon Club web page, but now a Comrades finisher. But, before we get to Comrades, let us quickly recap.
Naomi started running in 2003, and only did 5km and 10km races. She quickly started to climb the runner’s ladder and in 2016, 13 years after she started to run, she found herself at the starting line of her first marathon.
Asking her about her family, if she comes from an active family, this is what Naomi had to say:
“My in-laws also started to run in 2003 and always told us it is the cheapest way to get fit. I guess I believed them and followed in their footsteps, however, they did not really motivate me to do more. I only started to become more of a runner when my husband and I joined a running club for the first time in 2014. We did this with the hope to start doing a little more than just the occasional runs.
“I always had a desire to do more than just the average runs and I wanted to see if I am strong and focussed enough to challenge myself to go further. The only way I could do this was to set a definite goal for myself and then see if I can realise it. I knew very little about Comrades, in fact my own personal knowledge of Comrades was basically limited to the final few minutes before the final cut off I watched on TV. The more I trained and the more I started to mingle with runners, the more I learned about this iconic race and I guess it is against that backdrop and watching the final moments of the 2015 Comrades that I decided to challenge myself and I decided to do Comrades.” Naomi said.
“Last year I started focusing on half marathons and in October 2015 I joined a training group and this is when I really started to become more focussed.”
Naomi says that doing Comrades was initially not a dream, but rather a challenge, but later, as her training progressed the challenge changed into a dream. “With the support of my running friends, Comrades became more and more of a reality, and soon I realised, there was no turning back.”
“I was determined and ready for Comrades when I arrived at the starting line.”
I wanted to know how Naomi experienced the whole idea of and build up to Comrades. This is what she had to say.
“Comrades became to me more than just a race. It became more than just a single day of running. It became a journey, a process. I knew if I do my part, if I arrive there prepared, physically and mentally, that my chances were good to actually make it. Of course there were moments of doubt, every morning when I laced up for a race during the build up to Comrades; I knew that everything I did, every race and every training run, was aimed at one goal, Comrades 2016.”
“When I lined up at the start in Pietermaritzburg I knew I did everything I possibly could to be ready. I was there and I knew it was going to be long and challenging day, but I knew that I had a good shot at making it to Durban, in time. On the one side there was confidence and believe which weighed up against also a fair share of worry. My main concerns on race day were that my ITB and shin splints will hinder me from having a good run and I was also concerned about not eating enough or even eating wrong on race day. I was a novice runner, so really relied on what I read and what people told me. Come race day, I was on my own and had to make my own decisions.”
Asking Naomi how her actual run was, her reply was filled with pride.
“The day went exactly according to plan. I would have not done anything different. By His grace did I make it to Durban. The day was tough and my main challenge came at around 33km because I had to deal with the emotional aspect of Comrades and the sudden realisation that I was actually there, already on my way to Durban and then the sudden reality check that I still have 56.3km to go. I had to calm myself down and reminded myself that I was there with one goal and one goal only, to finish. I was able to carry on because I knew I was not alone and I knew that there were people not just out there, at home, but on the road with me, who believed in me.”
“When I crossed the finish line at Kingsmead Stadium in Durban at 11:43:22, I was confronted with various mixed feelings. I was stunned, relieved and happy, oh and tired and sore. I could not even cry, I was just too tired and too happy that I actually made it. I also felt an intense feeling of gratitude, grateful for every step I was able to complete, from beginning to end. I realised that this was finally full circle, months and months of training got tied together in one great moment. This year the Comrades slogan was, “It will humble you” and believe me, I was humbled. Now that I have gone from runner to Comrades finisher, I am humbled by the whole experience and I know that all this is only possible because of grace.”
Naomi took off a few days, 17 days to be exact, and is back on the road, slowly getting back into the swing of things.
My next, obvious question, “Next year is the up run – will you run again?”
“Yes, definitely. I’ll be there. I have to go back to collect my back to back medal. I am planning to qualify at Kaapsehoop marathon in November” she said.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start running but doesn’t know where to start ?
“Just start and keep on moving, don’t stop. Inspiration is everywhere. Look for it and make it your own. Get inspirited by peoples story’s, read inspirational quotes. My friend Douw Prinsloo told me that Comrades will change your whole view of running and it will redefine who you thought you were as a runner and as a person. This is so true.”