Naomi : From Novice Runner to Comrades Finisher

naomi finihs

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.”

naomi medalAsking 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.”


The Impossible is Possible

douw prinsloo it is possible

My Comrades Medals and Badges : Douw Prinsloo

I took this picture this morning, my collection of Comrades memorabilia if you will. I paused for a moment after taking the picture and thought to myself, “The impossible is possible.”

“Do the impossible”, words that I have read so many times, and I bet you thought the same thoughts I did, something in the line of, yah, that is easier said than done. Guess what ? It is – it is easier said than done. No arguing there.

However, it says do the impossible. Key word, “Do” !

Looking back on my life, where I was a few years ago, 2008, 2009 maybe, I would have never thought in a million years that I will line up for any race, not even to mention lining up for the Comrades, “The Ultimate Human Race”, close to 90km to  be done in one day, in 12 hours, but I did, three times now.

I remember the moment when I decided that I will do Comrades. It was way back in 2013 when Pieter did his first Comrades. We were at the expo and I bought a t-shirt with the Comrades logo on the front with the words, “Don’t promise, commit”, also on the front. I realised that I will be wearing this t-shirt and I knew at that moment that it was a given, the following year I will line up for Comrades, and I did, and every year so far after that.

I don’t want to talk about my Comrades marathon experiences today, nope, I want to share the simple message, “The impossible is possible.” If you look at the word itself, you can either read, impossible (can’t be done ) or I’m -possible ( I can do it ). Yes, you are possible. I am possible. We are all possible.

Much of the stuff we think about, things we never think we will be able to do or accomplish can be made possible when we summon the will. Fact is, we as human beings have more power than will; and it is often by way of excuse to ourselves that we believe things are impossible.

When you dream about something, when you set out to do something, anything, often it takes only that first step forward to ultimately make it happen. The will to succeed is often all it takes to turn impossibility into reality. Obviously nothing just happens, you have to work on it, you have to not only promise, but commit. To commit means that you will do whatever it takes to make it happen. I have learned this with Comrades, it takes a lot of hard work, commitment and dedication, lots of early mornings, many kilometres on the road and loads of sacrifice on various levels, but all this get rewarded on race day when you cross that finish line and receive that much sought after medal.

Let’s be honest, sometimes things don’t work out, sometimes what we set out to do doesn’t work out, and I think it is okay. By embarking on that journey of commitment and sacrifice to try and make something happen put us on a different path of self-discovery and introspection and we often learn that we are stronger than we think. Chance is good that if things don’t quite work out the way you’ve envisioned it, in any way we have to remind ourselves that we have already done much more than a multitude of others who are still stuck in that place where they still believe in the impossible. Even if we failed, we are already closer to making that impossibility a reality. It is then time to get up, refocus, and try again.

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.”

Sometimes success starts with failure. My challenge to you is to start to underline your failures instead of trying to erase it. Let me quickly explain. Last year I suffered from an injury ( plantar fasciitis ) and my Comrades, I thought, was slipping away from me. Doctor told me to go and do the Two Oceans Ultra-Marathon as a “test run” to see how my foot will react to the long run and oh boy, did it react. It was my worst race ever. In short, I did not make it in time; my first time ever not completing a race in time and not getting a medal. I was devastated. I was angry. I was sore. I was in a bad spot. But I knew this was a test run for Comrades, something much bigger and not any Comrades, my one and only change to secure my back to back medal. I had to rethink my Comrades and there were one of two options, leave it or change my game plan and still attempt it. I chose the latter. I knew that it was going to be a tough day on the road, at a very very slow pace, lots of hours on the road embroidered with a fair dose of pain. But that was my choice; I wanted my back to back medal. The minute when I decided to go for it, I underlined my Two Oceans failure and did not erase it, because I learned from that experience and that enabled me to make a more informed decision about Comrades. On Sunday, 31st of May 2016 I lined up for Comrades and the day played out the way I expected it to, it was slow, long and really tough, but I managed to slip over the finish line at 11:55:40, with only four minutes and twenty seconds before the final 12 hours cut off. Mission accomplished. Impossibility became reality.

Friends, be inspired but this, not by me, but by the lessons I have learned. Recently I read about this guys who do not have a bucket list, he has an impossible list. I challenge you to make your own impossible list; list a few things you think is a little out of reach, a little out of your comfort zone, and start working towards making those things happen, and then,  one by one tick them off as you accomplish it.

I close once again in the words of Nelson Mandela who said, “It always seems impossible until its done.”

Consider yourself challenged !

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Finding Lasting Motivation


Often people ask me how I stay motivated and how I manage to push on through my own journey, and today I want to share a few thought on that, maybe not giving you the answer you were hoping for, but know this, it will be my honest view on this and how it works for me.

I think in an ideal world we would all like to find enough motivation each day to keep us driven, to keep us going and to make each day and breeze. Well, that is hardly ever the case, in fact, to find motivation and to keep being motivated is not always possible. I personally would love to be motivated every day, but the truth is, I am not. We are all human and we are not always on that motivated high. That is life.

In our busy and demanding lives it becomes increasingly more difficult to find motivation, not to mention staying motivated.

For us to live a positive, productive and meaningful life we have to submit ourselves to constant change. That is the only way to grow; the only way to reach our full potential and the only to reach those personal life goals and dreams.

I personally think because motivation is a feeling and it comes and goes like all other feelings one set yourself up for disappointment when we entirely rely on motivation to get us where you want to be. When we feel motivated and inspired by something or someone we are on an emotional high and we feel like we can do anything and we want to take on the world. But after a while this will wear off and the excitement leaves through the back door. Ever wondered why New Year’s resolutions never last? This is why.

I have seen so many people starting a new year or new term with all the right intentions, maybe to lose weight, start training for a specific event, their first ten kilometre run or marathon, or just to get healthy and then, just a few weeks or months later they are back where they started. No progress. No change. Stuck. Again. Often more miserable than when they started. When I start to talk to these people to try and get to the bottom of what went wrong, 99% of them will somehow end up saying that that feeling is gone. They don’t feel like going to gym so often, they don’t feel like having to eat all that healthy all the time, they don’t feel like getting up early for those Saturday races. That takes me back to that statement, motivation is a feeling.

Because motivation is a feeling we cannot solely rely on it.

When I woke up that morning and realised that my life was a mess, the very first thing I did was to take action, there and then. I went to the gym and got myself a personal trainer. Why did I do this ? Well, for two reasons mainly. I had to take action and take that first step forward and secondly because I knew that that was going to be my first stepping stone towards a new me. Lesson here is simply this, decide what you want to do, and then break it down into smaller steps. When we think “too big” we are often overwhelmed by it and this can easily stop us before we even get started.

A while ago I posted a quote on social media and it said, “It is the start that stops most people.” Think about it. The bigger the gap between where you are today and where you want to be in a few months of year from now, the more overwhelmed you will be and to deal with that, you need to break this process down in smaller chunks and by doing this, it makes the whole process instantly more doable. I realized that it took me years to get to where I was, to be overweight, sick and miserable, and so I realize that it was going to take time to get me out of it and by breaking down this massive overwhelming task ahead of me into smaller chunks just made the whole task ahead more achievable. If you go back and read about my journey [ READ IT HERE ] you will see that I had various stepping stones in place to take me where I wanted to go.

The second piece of advice I love to share with you is to always make sure that you know why you want to do something. Be honest with yourself on why you want to do something; ask yourself why you want to lose weight, why you want to live a healthier lifestyle or train for a marathon. For example, the reasons why we generally want to lose weight and live more active lives is so we can lower stress levels, so we can be more energized, healthier and more productive, just to mention a few. The means to an end here is to change your lifestyle in order for you to achieve all that. Whatever it is that you want to achieve or reach for, know why you’re doing it. If the reasons why we want to do certain things and achieve certain goals are not personal and not strong enough, it will just make it easier for us to let go of it along the way. When we slip out of that emotional high we spoke about earlier, the reasons why we do something have to serve as a safety net to keep us afloat.

One more thing you can do is to celebrate those small achievements. Set smaller targets along the way to your main goal and then celebrate those small achievements – reward yourself for what you have achieved. Appreciate your small achievements. Don’t take these for granted.  All the small achievements along the way will help to keep you focused and it will serve in itself as small doses of motivation along the way. Use these small achievements to also track your own progress.

I little last piece of advice from me to you. “Be open to change and new ideas.

When I started losing weight I never planned to become a runner, this only came later. I lost a lot of weight first and then I did my first 5 km walk / run and I loved it, and that day I decided that I want to take up running. Let me fast forward. This year I have successfully completed my third Comrades marathon and I am planning to do number four next year. Also, as part of being open to new ideas I grew into a space where I am able to inspire people on various levels and platforms and that to me is so rewarding. I love to see people progress and grow towards their personal goals.

Friends, go out there and find your motivation to live your best possible life. Set goals for yourself and push forward towards those goals. Work hard to achieve it and remember, the first step towards it is your responsibility.

Please, if you have a story to tell, then get in touch with me. I love to hear about it.

[ Follow me on Twitter : @myownjourney_sa ]

Comrades 2016 for more than just a medal


There is a reason why we refer to Comrades as “the ultimate human race” because it will push those who take on the challenge to the very extremes. Bruce Fordyce says, “The Comrades is a selfish race and the race rewards those who dedicate everything to it.” This is so true. It requires hard work, hours of dedication and commitment, loads of early mornings, late nights, traveling and social sacrifice and come race day your training is a mere part of the Comrades journey between the two cities of Pietermaritzburg and Durban. At some stage you push your body beyond training, beyond races done, beyond kilometres on the legs – then it is will power, determination and a deep desire to succeed that takes over and carries you from around 60km to the end.

Running has become my passion and for those who knew the “old me” this statement will sound absolutely ridiculous, but it is true. Running became my way of life, my routine. Comrades on the other hand became more than that, it became to me the only way I can show my courage and mental strength and capability. Taking on any ultra-marathon is as much physical as it is mental.

This year I decided to do all this for more than myself, to make it a Comrades for more than just a medal. Don’t get me wrong, the medal is important as it symbolizes success and for me were going to be the proof of a third successful Comrades marathon. But I took a step back and got in behind the Bible Society of South Africa, supporting their Run4Bibles project. My Run4BbleRands-friend Cornelia Hutchinson joined me this year and together we embraced the opportunity to run for something more than just ourselves.

Myself and Cornelia had an amazing Comrades race, we had a great day on the road; for me personally, my best Comrades run ever and even got to run a personal best. It was just a good day. What made the difference I believe was the fact that we were constantly reminded that this race was for more than just a medal, it was to support the Bible Society of South Africa, to support their Run4Bibles project, it was about the people who have given so generously towards our cause, but it was ultimately about those lives that would be touched and in many cases changed because of a free Bible they are going to receive. When the going got tough, when the body started to complain, I kept on reminding myself of one thing and one thing only, “By doing this charity run you are helping real people and real lives can be changed.” That was all the motivation I needed to carry me to the very end, to the finish line at Kingsmead Stadium in Durban.

For those of you who have followed our Run4Bibles charity drive on social media will know that Cornelia and I have been blessed with so much love and support, so many open hearts and open wallets. People got behind us to support this awesome cause and together we managed to raise a staggering R14 323.30 for the Run4Bibles project. With this money the Bible Society of South Africa will be able to make available approximately 311 free Bibles to those who need it most which includes grade 7 learners attending schools in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods, prisons and the poorest of the poor. We cannot thank everyone who have supported us enough – and a plain “Thank you” seems to be so insignificant, but if we think of those lives that can and will be changed because of your generosity, then a heartfelt “Thank you” has to be enough.

Photo : Cheque handover with Shaun Verster, Store Operator of Eagle Wing Spur. They donated  R2750 to the Run4Bibles Cause. Thank you !

Cornelia and I will continue with our Run4BibleRands project where we donate R1 for every kilometer we do in races every month to the Bible Society of South Africa. If you want to join us on this exciting and life changing journey, then get on touch with me or visit my web page for more details on how to sign up. Together we will continue to show support for Bibles, one kilometer at a time.


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