Comrades Marathon – an unimaginable dream for Anita
01 January 1970
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Brad Brown: You’re listening to Old Mutual Live, it’s good to have you with us. I am super excited to introduce our next guest to you. We chatted to her ‘running partner’ just a while ago here on Old Mutual Live. What a pleasure to welcome onto this episode Anita Engelbrecht.
It’s brilliant to have you with us Anita, thanks for taking the time out of your day today. You’ve got a very interesting story. We spoke to Hilton, as I said and you’re going to be taking part in your first Comrades Marathon this year, how excited are you?
Anita Engelbrecht: I’m very excited, it will be a dream come true, I can’t wait.
BB: Anita, let’s take a step back and for people who don’t know much about your story. You are the person that Hilton is going to be pushing in that jogging stroller at Comrades 2016. Tell me a bit about your story, how do you end up in a wheelchair?
AE: Indeed. I was born at 28 weeks and due to oxygen shortage there was some brain damage. So my legs don’t function as other people’s legs and my arms and hands is also affected, but not so much as my legs. I’m in a wheelchair since, I cannot walk since birth. But at the age of 14 years I was the youngest person in South Africa undergoing a hip replacement and since then I was in a wheelchair.
The opportunity to experience more things
BB: Your life has really changed since then, it’s really opened up opportunities for you.
AE: Indeed, I’m currently a final year BCom, management accounting student at the University of Stellenbosch. I’m born and raised in a very active family, a family that loves running. When Hilton contacted me last year in August and asked me if I wanted to join him in the stroller, I said yes indeed. Because that will give me the opportunity to take part and to experience all these races.
BB: Anita, you mention you come from a very active family, both your parents are very active and Hilton jokingly said to me when I spoke to him, he said that you were always the team manager and on the side lines. It’s made a huge impact in your life that you can now be part of these races and it’s special to be able to take part in them.
AE: Yes, it’s special to see the scenery on the road with my own eyes and feel the wind through my hair and to just experience that running culture.
Getting to experience the Old Mutual Two Oceans
BB: Anita, talk to me about your Old Mutual Two Oceans experience, obviously it was touch and go whether you guys were going to be able to take part or not. Eventually sense did prevail and you were allowed to take part in the race. That must have been an incredible experience for you.
AE: Wow, it was absolutely amazing. I’m really thankful to the Two Oceans organisers eventually allowing us to take part because it was a once in a lifetime experience. When we got to the top of Chapman’s Peak, I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was so beautiful. The support along the race, it was fantastic. Also, Constantia Neck, that was a gruelling part for Hilton. But I learnt so much about endurance and passion and to just keep going and eventually to reach the finish.
BB: What’s Hilton like as a running partner? I know Hilton, funnily enough, I’ve never run with him. He’s always got a couple of chirps, he’s a very funny guy. Is he like that throughout the face or does he go through patches where he’s struggling a bit and he gets a bit quieter or is he always on the go.
AE: Oh my goodness, he’s such a funny person! I really like to run with him because there’s not a moment where there isn’t a joke or laughing. Even up Constantia Neck he made a joke or two. When we got to Chapman’s Peak he told me, I must just wait he wants to eat something because he’s hungry. Later on, I must have heard that, he must have eaten something because he was cramping.
Then a day or two after the race he contacted me and he told me why didn’t tell him my back was a little bit sore. I told him, but why didn’t you tell me you were cramping up Chapman’s Peak. Then he told me, this is like a good marriage, we don’t talk to each other, we don’t communicate!
You see, it’s very important not to spread negative emotions but to just stay positive and to keep your eyes on the goal. Because obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eye off the goal. It’s very important to stay focused and to stay tuned and just take it step by step.
Excited to experience the Comrades Marathon
BB: I love that, that’s such a great attitude to have. Anita, talk to me about Comrades. Hilton said to me he’s quite nervous, how are you feeling ahead of the race?
AE: I’m very excited, I have faith that Hilton is more than capable of doing this. I’m very excited because this is history in the making. This is a very big step in letting disabled people take part, to participate in South African races. I’m very positive about that. That will also be a dream come true because the things is, I actually told people that I will be doing the Comrades one day. Then they looked at me and they laughed. So, now, I will be doing it and I’m very thankful that we can do it and that I am able to participate in it. I believe it will be a great run.
BB: Your spirit is incredible Anita. You’re obviously very ambitious. You’re goal-driven. What else do you still want to do? I know it’s a difficult question because there is so much. But you’ve obviously got your eye on other targets and goals. What do you still want to achieve in your life?
AE: Recently I spoke to Hilton and then we both came up with the idea of doing maybe a little bit of swimming, maybe a little bit of jogging and cycling. So maybe a little bit of triathlon will be good. But we’ll see how that goes. Then academically, I’ll graduate at the end of this year. Then next year I will hopefully be doing my honours in management accounting.
An inspirational message for everyone
BB: That’s amazing. Anita, what message do you want to leave runners with? Somebody who is listening to this and hopefully they’re getting inspired. But what do you want to tell people who are able bodied and let’s be honest, have no excuses. You’re getting out there and doing it, what do you want to tell them?
AE: I want to tell them that smooth seas do not make skilful sailors. Often we experience a little bit of turbulence, but it’s then where character sets in. You must keep going and keep shining, and keep tuning. Because the price of excellence is discipline and the cost of mediocracy is disappointment. It’s very important to remember that it’s no chance that determines your destiny. You must choose to do something and you must be brave enough to go and achieve it.
BB: Anita, I can’t wait to see you and Hilton cross that finish line in Durban, come the end of the month at Comrades, it’s going to be an amazing experience. We also can’t wait to meet you at the expo, we’ll be broadcasting live from the Old Mutual stand. We’d love it if you come by and chat to us, we’d love to catch up and get to meet you in real-life and wish you luck. Please do pop by, thank you so much for your time today and best of luck in the final run-in to Comrades race day.
AE: Thank you Brad. I’ll see you at the ultimate human race!