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 ]

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As a Team – We will tackle his dream!

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I (me Douw) was more walking than running when I survived my 5 km race way back in January 2011. That experience was, however, enough to convince me to lace up permanently and develop into a full-fledged runner. I loved it. Here I am, six years later and still enjoying this wonderful sport.

Throughout my running years I have learned that runners and walkers are not made from a single blueprint. We come in a variety of shapes, sizes, sexes, ages, colours and abilities, each one having his/her own strengths and weaknesses.

During Comrades 2016 Cornelia Hutchinson and I ran for more than our own medals by supporting the Bible Society of South Africa’s Run4Bibles charity drive. We were overwhelmed by the love and support we received from our friends, family and even strangers. In the process we managed to raise a stunning R14,000 plus for Bibles.

This year my journey will be somewhat different. I have committed myself to run Comrades 2017 with a friend and to try ensure that his Comrades dream becomes a reality. Christo Kris Lourens will be by my side on race day. Our special challenge is that Christo has a hearing impairment and has a cochlear implant. When he runs without the transmitter unit, he is literally deaf and totally cut off from the outside world.

The main challenge for hearing impaired runners is always safety. Deaf runners always have to be constantly aware of their surroundings and watch out for traffic, not just cars, but pedestrians and other runners too. It is all evolves around their safety. For this very reason have I committed myself to assist Christo and be alongside with him – hopefully all the way.

Due to many factors, first and foremost the length of the events and the resultant exposure to numerous hazards, disabled athletes comprise a small minority in endurance sports. Christo and I decided that he can use this opportunity to inspire and motivate others and afford him the opportunity to serve as an ambassador for this minority group. It’s a role he shied away from at first, but he now understands that having overcome the odds for himself, he now has the added responsibility to defy stereotypes that exist about deaf people in endurance sports.

Christo is such an inspiration to me, because he is living his life to the fullest while he just happens to wear a hearing aid along the way. He has successfully completed various road races, half and full marathons and he has also hiked the Fish River Canyon trail twice.

Sport is a great equalizer. We may not all finish at the same time, but our efforts and the end results are often not far apart. Our times may differ considerably but that is not the final benchmark. We have to embrace and respect the diversity of everyone’s own challenge, and refrain from judging other athletes by ingenuous criteria alone. When we truly find out about the other person’s challenges, the chances are that they may just surprise you.

Christo runs all his races without wearing his transmitter. Cochlear implants are sensitive pieces of electronic equipment and they are at risk of breaking if they fall out of the ear during vigorous activity. Furthermore, it is not only the transmitter that can be damaged, a sportsman with a cochlear implant is always at risk of suffering a blow to the head on or around the site of the internal package – which may damage the internal package or external parts or the skin around the area. This can happen during a fall or a collision with another person. These risks may seem small, but they are certainly real and any injury would have severe consequences.

I met Christo through mutual friends and we ran our first race together at the Castle Walk 10km on the ninth of August last year. Little did we know how our friendship would develop and what was lying ahead. That single certainly led to an amazing journey towards Comrades 2017. Another proof of the unique ability of this wonderful sport to create meaningful friendships.

When the entries for Comrades Marathon 2017 opened last year, I told Christo that if he entered for this iconic and amazing race, I would commit myself to be at his side and assist him in any way possible on this journey to make his dream come true. And here we are in 2017, Christo has entered and we are on our #Road2Comrades2017. The TeamVitality and Magnolia Road Runners duo is now pushing forward towards the forth of June 2017.

To date we have run various races together, most of them half-marathons – but we are literally only days away from our first joint marathon, the Johnson Crane 42.2km on 29 January 2017. Needless to say, it is important for us to get the qualifying race out of the way first so that we can then start working on the finer details of seconding someone. As a running duo we have to work on our communication, figure out how we will get one another’s attention, how to keep eye contact while communicating, work out brief and simple instructions and start using pre-agreed visual signals to navigate our way safely though the massive crowd on the road. On all the races, but more so on Comrades race day, I have to be sensitive in order to pay attention to many aspects: how we run as a pair, our pacing and running conditions, and the physical and emotional state of my running partner. The responsibility rest firmly on my shoulders to get Christo safely over that finish line in Pietermaritzburg and I am determined and motivated to do just that.

Our running together is based on commitment and dedication but as we got to know one another better and started doing longer runs, I have noticed how the bond of trust has grown between us.  I realised that Christo entered Comrades on the basis of this trust and if it wasn’t for me he would have not done so. I am feeling blessed and so fortunate to share this amazing journey with him and to help him achieve his Comrades dream.

Meeting this amazing individual has forever changed my life and in the process added a new dimension to my own personal passion for running. Last year was a special Comrades Marathon when Cornelia and I ran for Bibles, this year will be double the blessing, running for Bibles again and helping a friend to realise his Comrades dream.

It seems that the above account carries two very important messages for everyone out there. When I started my own journey way back in 2008 I never thought to be living the life I do now. I literally afforded myself a second chance, gave myself a new lease on a happier and healthier life; started to run; lost 53kg; completed various half- full- and ultra-marathons, including three international marathons; and I will line up for my 4th Comrades this year.

In the words of Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” The impossible is possible! Through my running I also hope to inspire others to improve their lives. Sharing my humble wisdom and experiences through my own personal web page www.myownjourney.co.za and other social media interactions is aimed at achieving this. Christo also has a simple, but powerful message: “I love challenges and nothing needs to stand in your way to make your dreams a reality. I’ve been dreaming about doing Comrades for a long time, and this year I am going to do it with my friend and wingman Douw next to me.”

You will be able to follow our journey through my web page at www.myownjourney.co.za or find me on social media, Twitter and Instagram ( @myownjourney_sa ) You can find Christo on Facebook and Instagram

Written by DOUW PRINSLOO
Edited by DIETER GLOECK

PwC George Claassen Memorial Road Race 2017 : My Six Year Anniversary Run

This morning’s PwC George Claassen Memorial Road Race marked my six year running anniversary. This is where my running journey started, on the 29th of January 2011.

Let me take you back to that day real quick. There were more than 3000 athletes lining up that morning for the 10km and 21.1km races, but there was also the walkers and more specific, the 5km fun run group; I was lined up there. Although I was already two years into my weight loss journey, I have never done a single race in my life, and there I was, hoping to make the 5km with a combination of running and walking, hopefully no crawling. Well, I did finish with an ‘accomplished’ time of 00:30:20. For me the time was not important, I was just very happy to finish. I loved the whole vide of this event so much that I joined the Running Inn running club, bought my first running shoes, got my first ASA license that very day ( after the race ) and I guess I could then call myself a ‘runner’.

That morning Pieter Venter was also there, doing his first 10km race and also he never stopped. That day marked the beginning of new chapter for the both of us.

Following this event I started doing races on a regular basis and looked forward to every weekend because it meant, like I called it then, ‘races and places’. That gave birth to my current slogan I love to use – ‘Making Miles and Moments Count

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This morning, lining up for this very same event, I was overwhelmed with so much gratitude, feeling so blessed, that I can still do what I love and love what I do, running, sharing the road with so many awesome people and maintaining my healthy lifestyle and in the process encourage others to do the same, to live their best possible lives. Standing there at the start of this morning’s race I was taken back in time for a split moment to thàt first 5km fun run just a few blocks away from where we were this morning ( back then the race started at the back of Menlyn Park Shopping Centre ) and then an announcement by Pete brought me back to this morning’s event. I looked at Christo Lourens standing next to me and immediately thought of the #Road2Comrades2017 we are on, the road to his very first Comrades Marathon, my fourth. I thought to myself, ‘Here I am, six years down the road of my very own running journey and in a privileged position helping a friend to realize his very own Comrades dream.’ On the 4th of June I am determined to cross that finish line at Scottsville Racecourse in Pietermaritzburg with Christo Lourens next to me.

My message to everyone reading this is simple, ‘Let no one ever tell you that something is not possible, because it is.’ My favorite quote, the quote that carried me through my very first Comrades, are these words by the late Nelson Mandela, ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’ If you dream it, chances are pretty good that you can achieve it. With hard work and commitment the impossible is very possible. It is always within your reach to achieve extraordinary things. Believe it. Always remember, there are always something out there to help you achieve your goals, you just have to find it. For me, joining Discovery Vitality made a huge difference, helping me to stay focused, committed and determined to carry on and then also rewarding me for doing so. Never was it so simple to work out and get rewarded all at the same time.

Let me also take this opportunity to just thank everyone who was and still is part of my journey for your love, support and encouragement. No, it was not always easy and no things did not always worked out as planned, but, I never gave up, never quit, never opted for second best, I worked hard, pushed on, set new goals, leaned forward and reached out for what was ahead. All of you made that possible for me. If I had to do this alone, I am not sure that it would have played out this way at all. I’ve learned to never underestimate the value of a friend of fellow runner, because they are the people who lift us up when we need it most, when we are tired, discouraged and weary.

Happy running everyone and have fun chasing your dreams !

[ Read more about my journey here : http://www.myownjourney.co.za ] and follow me on Twitter or Instagram @myownjourney_sa ( links on my web page )

2017 is around the corner…

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Are you ready to welcome the New Year ?
Are you ready to step out and take a new chance on life ?
Are you ready to push your boundaries and challenge yourself to living your best possible life ?

People, this is probably going to be my last post for 2016 and I want to take this opportunity to first thank everyone for being part of my life and my journey throughout this past year. Thank you for your love and support and for believing in me, even when I didn’t. It is so amazing to always feel the love and support form everyone, whether it is in person or via social media, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. I really appreciate all the support.

This year was a good year for me with so many wonderful moments and experiences and the good definitely outweighed the not so good. Thinking about all the races I did, it all went well and I was blessed not to have too many injuries or stuff holding me back.

I did my third Comrades Marathon this year and it was an honor to do it this year for the Bible Society of South Africa’s Run For Bibles project and Cornelia Hutchinson and I managed to raise more than R14,000 for this awesome charity. We were so blessed with the awesome support we received. This was also my best Comrades run to date – it was just a really good day on the road.

I also won the Discovery Vitality #MyVitalityPB competition during September and the trip I won to Athens Greece made it possible for myself and Pieter Venter to not only travel to Greece but also to run the Athens Authentic Marathon, celebrating 120 years of the marathon as we know it. What an awesome opportunity ! Feeling so blessed !

There were many other races, Two Oceans, Forever Loskop, Cape Town Marathon and many more – all wonderful events where I was able to share the road with my awesome running family and friends. Part of the highlights of all these events are always the people we get to share the road with. Thank you guys for making each event a special one.

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#Road2Comrades2017

During this year, a very special individual also entered into my life in the form of Christo Kris Lourens. I single this out because Christo has entered for his first Comrades Marathon and I will be his wing man during this special event. The #Road2Comrades2017 has started and you guys will see us on the road at around 40 official races as we train together in preparation for the big one scheduled for the 4th of June 2017. Together we will take on Comrades 2017 and I trust that we will be blessed with a great race, Christo’s first Comrades and my fourth. Also once again looking forward to share the road on that day with so many other passionate runners from all over – turning ordinary into extraordinary !

This year will be another year of #MakingMilesAndMomentsCount and I cannot wait to share it with you all; lots of races, loads of early mornings, traveling, hundreds of traveling and running kilometers and off course lots and lots of photos !

People, as per my previous post, I hope it will be a year of growing, evolving, taking on of new challenges and pushing on to make dreams come true. Always remember this – this means we will have to make mistakes, we have to fail sometimes so we can succeed later. Don’t be afraid to try new things, don’t be afraid of challenging yourself and don’t be afraid of making mistakes, because this will make the difference between staying where you are and rising from above the rest.

Here is to wish everyone a blessed 2017 !

Visit [ http://myownjourney.co.za ] to link with me form there on all social media platforms

Athens Authentic Marathon : DONE !

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Here is a quick look back to my 2016 Athens Authentic Marathon. Funny I use the word “quick” in a post about a marathon I did. Ha ha ha.

Anyway, running this race was such a blessing, a trip back into history, 120 years back into history to be precise. Sometimes during the build up to Athens 2016 I sometimes could not believe I was actually going to run it.

According to organizers interest in “Athens Marathon. The Authentic” was again high this year with around 50,000 runners expected to participate in all of the events’ races over a range of distances. But my focus, and the focus of around 17,000 other runners, was on the premier event, the international officially measured marathon (42.195 km) scheduled for Sunday morning, the 13th of November at 09.00am when all of us were going to follow the footsteps of the legendary Pheidippides from the town of Marathon to the finish line at the 1896 Olympic Stadium, also known as the Panathenaic Stadium also known as Kallimarmaro. Like I mentioned, this year marked , celebrated, 120 years since the first Modern Olympic Games of 1896 and the first ever Olympic marathon finished in the same stadium where we were going to finish and we were going to be part of it.

First thing Pieter and I did after checking at the YES! New Hotel in Athens was to find our way to the Athens Marathon EXPO & Registration Centre, which is hosted in the Faliro Indoor Hall & Exhibition Centre of Athens. We found other runners on the tram and together we found our way to the registration centre. Picking up our bib numbers, timing chips, and race packages was quick and efficient and the expo was really huge. We decided to make the most of it and walked through the whole expo, twice. I had to go back to by the 120 year souvenir and limited edition t-shirt. I only decided I wanted it when we were already at the exit.

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Saturday was just a day of lying low, we did some exploring close to the hotel and the rest of the day was really just focusing on the task at hand, to get the most out of this amazing opportunity to run one of the most sought after marathons in the world, and not only that, also the only “authentic” marathon in the world, measured at 42.195km. Well, I managed to do it in 42.74km. Ha ha ha. They just never work out quite right so they ?

Race day. 13 November 2016. Our hotel was located literally just around the corner from one of the bus pick up points at Syntagma Metro Station, line 2 & 3. Getting there took us minutes by foot and the whole process there was so well organised and handled to the point, the best I have seen actually at any race. About an hour later we arrived in the village of Marathon and had ample of time to soak in the whole vibe of this iconic event. We were able to also take some great pictures before the race and one specific highlight is the pictures we took at the Marathon Flame Tower and another with our South African flag that was also hoisted along with the flags of all other participating countries.

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Just to interrupt myself for a minute. You guys might know that I have decided to sit out on the Kaapsehoop marathon on the 5th of November, just before we left for Athens. That was a really tough decision for me because I love Kaapsehoop and it was also my first marathon ever, but when I stood there at the starting line of the Athens Authentic, I knew that that was the right decision. The rib injury I suffered two weeks before we left was still very present and the pain was still there, intense but bearable. I was still worried about the marathon and how the day was going to play out, but I was determined to ride this wave to the very end, no matter what. I was determined to start and finish this race, no matter what.

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We started in batches and the first group of elite runners started at 09.00, sharp. After them the groups were moved forward and started in groups one after the other. I have to say what really stood out for me was that there was no pushing of shuffling or people trying to push in because they were late – the typical South African race start scene was not present. Everyone waited, patiently, for their turn. Maybe it is because the race was a mat to mat and not gun to gun event, but still. It is really nice to start like this where everyone is just calm and disciplined, enjoying the moment.

From the village of Marathon the route replicated the route followed by Pheidippides to announce the victory of Athens in the Battle of Marathon.

From the start we headed south for around 17 kilometers, offering a rather flat profile with little graduate climbing here and there, and then we turned in a western direction where the serious climbing started – not too steep but steep enough to test and try the legs. The first descent only starts at around between 32km and 35km and then we entered the valley where the city of Athens is located in front of us.From there the run was easy and rather effortless.

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The spectators along the route were amazing. We passed through various small villages and eventually suburbs of Athens until we reached the city of Athens, and one word echoed through the air all the time, “Bravo”. It is my guess that Phinnepeades carried an olive branch with him when he did this route because the locals came out in their numbers to hand out olive branches to the runners to carry with them to Athens. It was a lovely touch and yes, I carried mine all the way to the end and I am glad I did. It even shows on my pictures.

Along the route water stations were very frequent but boy, did they waste water. Unlike at the races we do where they hand out cachets, we were given bottled water and one can only drink so much water, so the rest goes to waste. Obviously they do not have problems with water like we do and every time I had to throw a bottle of water away I thought of SA and how much we need that water. Anyway, when in Rome do as the Romans do I guess ( in this case, when in Greece… ) so I had to make peace with that. I have to add to this though that I have read that they were going to recycle an estimate of around 25,000 kg of plastic, so not all that dim and grim I guess.

Friends, the whole race was amazing, from beginning to end, but nothing could prepare me for the moment when I made that left turn towards the Panathenaic Stadium and saw the banner that said, “250m to go!” and then the full view of the stadium was suddenly in front of me and I knew, “Athens Marathon – The Authentic was done and dusted! I crossed the finish line at 04.34.01. Happy. No, ecstatic, grateful and really blessed ! When I threw my arms in the air I saw the olive branch I carried all the way with me and this is when I welled up. Yah I am a softy, sucker for “a moment”. I suddenly missed my mom and wondered what she would think of me, doing all this; me changing my life, losing all the weight, started to run, marathons, ultra-marathons, Comrades, international marathons ( this was my third one ) and now, the one and only authentic marathon in the world where it all started 120 years ago, the Athens Marathon. I think she would be proud of me.

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The moment I’ve been waiting for, entering The Panathenaic Stadium, Athens

Looking at that medal in my hand, the medal I have been dreaming of since I started to plan this trip, was suddenly lying in the palm of my hand. Mission accomplished.

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Pieter and I both had good runs ( he did 04.14.39 ) We were 44 South Africans on the starting list, 32 finished the race. Pieter finished in 13th place out of the group and grabbed the 17th spot. This was definitely not about racing, but rather to have and enjoy the experience. Both of us were going to have better times, but we took a lot of pictures, so that definitely wasted time, but with this event not time was wasted. It was just plain awesome.

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We also extended our time in Greece for another ten days, and believe when I say, the experience was magical. We have seen and done so much and got to be around the most amazing people; they are friendly, helpful and so respectful. Greece is a stunning country, disciplined, clean and despite of the challenges they face as a people and as a country, things are still working in so many ways and when I say that I immediately wonder, “What is South Africa’s excuse?”

It will not be fair for me to boast about this wonderful even without thanking the people who made this possible. I want to give a BIG shout out and thank you to Discovery Vitality for making this trip to Athens possible. If it was not for me winning the #MyVitalityPB competition, none of this was going to be possible. I had six months in which to make use of the prize, and when I saw that the Athens Marathon was on, that instantly convinced me not to let this opportunity pass, and we entered, and then booked the trip around those dates. To Discovery Vitality, “Efcharistó polý” ( Thank you very much )

Everyone ask me, “Will you go back?” The answer to that question is easy, “…next year this time you will ten to one be reading my review on my second Athens Authentic Marathon” So YES, I want to go back and not only that, I intend to take a few friends ( specially running friends ) with. This is a MUST RUN marathon !

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Greece is calling !

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Acropolis, Athens Greece

In the beginning of September I was informed by Discovery Vitality that I was the winner of the competition they run during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and the prize, a trip for two to Athens, Greece. The prize includes flights, accommodation for six nights, seven days, transfers and a full day city tour including a visit to The Panathenaic Stadium also known as Kallimarmaro.

So, right now, excitement is building as I count down the days to 9 November 2016 when I will jet off to Athens, Greece for this amazing trip. I have decided to also extend my time in Greece with a few days and will only return on the 26th of November 2016.

Like a typical runner, when I started to look at possible dates of travel I consulted “Doctor Google” for some help in this regard and saw that the Athens Authentic Marathon will happen in 13th of November 2016. Needless to say, even before my dates for the trip were confirmed I was entered for the marathon. Pieter and I will run this very iconic marathon between Marathon and Athens on the 13th of November 2016 in the colors of TeamVitality. We are so excited about this. We will run this race with tired legs because the week before we will be in Nelspruit for the Kaapsehoop Marathon, but hey, maybe this will force us to hold back and take in all aspects of the Athens run. Many runners describe The Athens Marathon as the ultimate Marathon experience; recreating each year the incredible run that started it all 2,500 years ago. This year we will be part of this amazing experience.

During my trip I will definitely keep everyone updated and you will be able to follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

As a last thought, during the Cape Town marathon two weeks ago I managed to qualify for Comrades so that one is also ticked off the list. Now I can just hope for a better seeding sometime, somewhere. Kaapsehoop is a good opportunity for that, but will see what happens there on 5 November 2016. During Cape Town marathon I was once again reminded of two realities of running. Firstly, you should always run your own race, and secondly, race day will look after itself; you can be well prepared and in top form and have a terrible run and you can be uncertain and in doubt and not so prepared and have a great day on the road.

Friends, I will touch base with you all again soon. In the meanwhile, be inspired to live your best possible life and make every moment count and have no regrets !