I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa — quite possibly one of the best, awe-inspiring cities in the world. I’ve had a really wonderful upbringing in a family that were sports enthusiasts — tennis, golf, swimming, rugby and cricket. I was introduced to the wonderful world of cycling when I was 10 years old by my father and completed The Argus Cycle Tour, which became a regular annual fixture in my life. The Cycle Tour “craziness and challenge” carried on until I was 18, then my social life, which had broadened incredibly, studies, and work got in the way of cycling.
As is the case with many of us, I was not sure of a path or direction, but trucked along all the same and found myself working my way up in the property industry. After nearly a solid decade later, after drinking, smoking, packing on the pounds, and not taking life or my mortality too seriously, I had a wake-up call! I was sitting in lunchtime traffic, and suddenly experienced an onset of pins and needles in my hands, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. I figured this as all the signs of having a heart attack, I was going to be another sad story.
Fortunately I was able to get to an emergency room, and after some blood tests and two ECGs, the doctors pronounced that I had an acute panic attack brought on by stress and my general bad habits and, to add insult to injury, very high cholesterol. At the age of 25! I decided that I would have to fix what I can in this body of mine before it turns on me. I made some very necessary and relevant changes to my working life to try and clear out the stress factors and in April 2013 I took the first step: Pilates classes.
In June 2013 I took the next step and started running. Slowly my love for running started to take shape and in July 2013 I got an extra boost as I attended the Knysna Oyster Festival. I watched friends participate in the events and I felt both motivated and disappointed, as I also wanted to compete. I set myself a goal: I would return in a year's time and compete in the Big 5 Lite. Just finish it, no pressure. Back home, I kept my goal in sight. I was really enjoying my afternoon runs and so after 4 months of running, took on my first half marathon, The Gun Run. I was happy and surprised to finish in a time of 1 hour and 46 minutes. (My personal best has since improved to 1 hour 17 minutes and I'm still fighting for every second.)
My results at my first half marathon inspired me finally kick the horrible habit of smoking and make that final push for a healthy happy life. In February 2014, I discovered the challenge of trail running. This was the start of the next exciting and extremely active chapter in my life and I started to enter as many races – running (trail and road), cycling and duathlon as I could.
In May 2014, my physio, Sarah Jones, asked if I had formulated a plan; a timetable of training and progression, to this new found enjoyment of running and cycling. When I told her my story, she offered to be my coach and has become a major contributor to the enjoyment and success in my still fairly new “running lifestyle”. Suddenly I now had some method to my madness. I have never felt so focused and happy in my life and I was going to use every moment to improve myself.
In July 2014, I headed back to the Knysna Oyster festival, 20 kg lighter, to take on the Big 5 Lite. To my surprise I managed to place 3rd overall, with the event comprising 5 individual events of varying disciplines (namely road running, train running, cycling, mountain biking and duathlon.) I was over the moon. My hard work had paid off!
Embracing the Irish side of my heritage, I decided to represent Ireland in the European - and World Duathlon championships in 2015 and 2016. To don the colours of a country is a dream come true for me and I would never in my wildest dreams have thought that I would find myself racing in the most fascinating locations all around the world! The people I have met in my travels have been amazing and their personal stories inspire me to no end.
I am thankful that I found my passion in life every day. With the help of my coach and amazing supporters, I managed to go from not being able to even run 5 kms at all to a 16m24s personal best in just a year! It is quite something, and I have the feeling that I still have more to give, and can go even faster.
One thing is certain, I have finally put myself on a bright sunny path that hopefully will be long, healthy and happy, and filled with many more new challenges along the roads and mountains.
I am learning new things about myself and life every day and what has struck me most so far is this: No matter what obstacle you might find in your way, if you keep moving forward, in body and mind, believing that you will get there, invariably you will. It may not be the way in which you had expected to go, and it may not be easy, but nothing that is really worthwhile ever comes easily.