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AGE-DEFYING TALENT

by Michelle Carnegie
23 January 2018


We all know that running can be tough at any age, and even more so as you age and naturally slow down. But then there are some exceptional runners who still manage to run some age-defying times, which many runners half their age could only dream of.

One such exceptional runner is Annatjie Botes, a 60-year-old mom of three from George and member of the Nedbank Running Club. Annatjie recently clocked a blistering 41:03 over the 10km distance when she won the women’s race at the Correctional Services 10km Nite Race in George. A couple of days earlier – and only six days after turning 60 – Annatjie won her category in the Somerson Half Marathon in Mossel Bay in a time of 1:36:57.(Her PB for a half marathon is actually 1:29). Not bad for someone who only started running at the age of 46.

A late bloomer
Annatjie, a part time gym instructor, always loved sport and ran short distances at school, but she never though she could run far. She didn’t partake in much sport as a young working woman, and only after having children she jogged a bit during holidays, though nothing too intense.

It was only in 2003 at the age of 46 that she started running consistently. “My daughter came home one day and said she was going to run a 10km race with a friend. I didn’t think she was going to make it, but she did! And so I decided to start running with her. She was in Grade 11 and later could not fit it all in, so she stopped running. But I continued,” says Annatjie.

Just as well, because Annatjie has since claimed numerous victories in her age category, with her greatest victories being first female Master at the Two Oceans Marathon and 3rd female Master at the Comrades Marathon.

Comrades Marathon
The “racing bug” bit when she decided to join a club. And as it goes in South African running circles, Annatjie slowly started contemplating running the Comrades Marathon. “Eventually in 2007 I decided to enter Two Oceans and Comrades. I finished both in relatively good times for a Veteran. The year after I turned 50 it was easier to place in my age category, but then my watch became my greatest competition!”

Annatjie, who has run 3 Comrades Marathons, has placed 3rd female Master at two of them. She has also run 11 Two Oceans Ultra’s as well as one half marathon. She finished 10 of the Ultra’s amongst the Top 5 Master Ladies. Her time for all of them was between 4:30 and 4:55. “It was great receiving my permanent number at Oceans in 2016.”

On top of this Annatjie also excelled at the SA Champs, achieving a gold medal over the marathon distance, silver at the 21.1km distance and bronze in the 10km event. Some other highlights include a win in the Masters Category at the Cape Town Marathon in 2016 and a 2nd place last year.

Training
Annatjie follows a traditional long distance training program, with a weekly speed, hill and time trial session as well as a long run of about 30km. “When I train for longer distance events I try to run around 100km a week. I find it very hard to do more than that these days as my age is definitely starting to play a role,” says Annatjie.

Trail running
She has also fallen in love with trail running and has tackled the multi-stage Dryland Traverse and AfricanX Trailruns. Both Dryland and AfricanX cover around 80km over respectively 4 and 3 days. “My teammate and I won the Mixed Veteran Category of the AfricanX twice.”

And just to add a bit of variety into the mix, Annatjie also loves track. She is a member of the Masters Athletics Association and has earned South Western Districts as well as SA colours in the 55-59 Age Category over the 800m/1500m/5000m distances.

Longevity
She has no secret to longevity. “It’s just a lot of grace, I eat relatively healthy and I really enjoy exercising. Running is my medicine. I am blessed with good health en would like to keep it that way through running. Being outside in nature is part of what makes running so enjoyable,” says Annatjie.

She does not really have a favourite distance. “A 10km race is over quickly, a half marathon is nice, and the longer runs are also nice, especially as I find I do better over longer distances. To finish a race is one of the most satisfying things, it must be the so called Runners High!”

Annatjie loves being part of the Nedbank Running Club in George. “We have weekly time trials, training sessions, camaraderie and we encourage each other. NRC also has some great incentives which is very encouraging.”

Advice
Any advice for those wanting to run? “Just start, don’t think it is easy and remember anything that is worth doing, is worth doing well! You don’t have to be fast, just do your best, start slowly, walk when you are tried and jog when you feel better. Just keep going. Start with shorter distances and gradually increase. Also, try to find a running buddy,” says Annatjie.

For those ‘older’ runners out there Annatjie advises to just compete against yourself at first. “One would still like to do the same, but your body does not always allow you to. As you get older, it takes longer to recover, so I really try to listen to my body. Times are bound to get slower even though it feels as if you are running the same as before, the most important thing is to adjust to it all.”

Highlights
There are so many highlights, basically every race she completes feels like a highlight, says Annatjie, but here are a few that really stand out:
·      “My first Comrades in 2007 just because I made it!
·      My second Comrades when Nick Bester (NRC National Manager) phoned toe let me know I have to attend a breakfast for all the prize winners as I finished 3rd Master lady at the 2008 Comrades Marathon.
·      My 10th Two Oceans in 2016, especially when Grace De Oliveira handed me my blue number.
·      My first SA marathon in 2008 when I won my age category.
·      When I received SA Colours for track in 2015.
·      When we placed first in the Mixed Veterans Team Category at the AfricanX in 2014.

Here are some of her PB's:
- Comrades Marathon: 8:16
- Two Oceans Ultra: 4:30
- Marathon: 3:08
- Half Marathon: 1:29
- 10km: 40:47

Goals
Her all time greatest goal is to keep on running for as long as she can, and if she can’t run anymore she would like to keep on walking.
Short term Annatjie is looking at racing the Two Oceans Ultra at the end of March as well as some of the Spar Women’s races. Long term she would love to compete at a Masters World Champs Meet. “Only time and finances will tell whether I will get there.”



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