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London Marathon


by Shandene Van der Walt
10 April 2018

Are you doubting your ability to ever run that elusive Marathon Personal Best you’ve been after for years? Then read this inspiring story of Shandene van der Walt, who has not only lost more than 35kg, but has also just clocked a Marathon PB.

When I first started running, back in 2013, never did I once think a few years later I would be writing about my running goals and achievements. What started as a weight loss goal ended up being a journey of discovery of mind and body. Today I don’t run to lose weight, I run because I love it! I love the friends who have become family. I love chasing new goals and I love the feeling of taking my body to places it’s never been.

Let’s rewind
In 2015 I ran my first marathon as my qualifier for my first Comrades Marathon. When quaifying time for the 2016 Comrades Marathon came around again I of course had to run another marathon. Well, I ran my marathon PB that year. Sure, it was probably by only 2 minutes, but it was a personal best nonetheless, and in my eyes closer to that elusive sub 4:30 I’ve always wanted. I remember the last few kilometres, dashing off with a friend by my side. I don’t know if she was pushing me or I was pushing her but in my head the only thing that kept me going was the fact that if we crossed the finish line together the results would read the exact same time for S van der Walt and R van der Walt. Silly I know, but sometimes it’s those exact small silly things that keep you sane? Motivated? Moving forward? Whatever it was, it worked.

Fast Forward
Fast-forward two years later with 3 Comrades Marathons now under my belt and a little bit more experience, I decided to take on a massive task. Not a sub 4:30 anymore but a sub 4:20! I wanted that comrades F-Seeding for the first time in my life. I had planned to give it a go at the Kosmos Marathon in March, but the plan changed slightly after chatting to a fellow runner from a faster running group than me. I was convinced to run the Pharmaton Marathon in Edenvale instead and he would pace me for that massive sub 4:20. 

I trained like never before. My speed work was on point, my hill sessions were hard and I ran a few very hilly races as training runs. I even did a few training runs with my pacer. He was faster than I would normally run so it forced me to train a bit faster. There were days I was out of my comfort zone completely, but I pushed through. Who knows, maybe my body has been screaming at me for years now to step it up a gear and all I was doing was freewheeling downhill every time.

Not all plain sailing
There were days I doubted everything though. We did a few long runs along the planned marathon route and I struggled, my legs were heavy and I was slow. I had very little faith in the fact that I could run 42km at an average pace of 6min/km to achieve that sub 4:20.

I told my pacer how I felt but he assured me that he had faith in my ability and that I could do it. In the back of my mind I thought this guy is seriously smoking the good stuff. I did promise him that no matter what happened on the day I would give it my all and try my very best. I knew I could probably hold that pace for 21km so I thought if I hit the wall after that and had to walk the rest of the way at least I tried.

The big day
Then the day finally came and yip, I did it! That day was one of the greatest days in my running career. I had something very big to prove to myself and I did it. Not only did I get a PB and break 4:20, I broke 4:10! I finished my marathon on 4:08. There is no way I can explain that feeling of complete pride and achievement. I walked around with a huge smile on my face for days after that. Sometimes I still can’t believe it really happened!

So with that all been said a few tips from a not so novice, novice runner on running that PB marathon:
·       Trust – Trust in your training. My coach’s plan was a perfect guide to what I needed to do to build up correctly to my goal. What you put in is what you get out.
·       Plan – Plan your race and race your plan. I had my pacer, but I also had a pace chart just to make sure we were on track. You also can’t go out on race morning deciding to try for a silver medal, but you haven’t even been training for a bronze medal.
·       Believe – Believe in yourself. Step out of that comfort zone every now and then. Even though I thought it was madness going for such a huge goal I still trained for it, believed in myself and promised myself I would give it my all.
·       Visualise – This is no joke but I literally had sticky notes pasted on my PC at work with my goal time. I wrote the goal time on the race date on all the calendars. I even had sticky notes on my radio in my car. Visualise it and it can be a reality!

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