How to have your say as a runner
09 December 2016
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Welcome onto this edition of Old Mutual Live, it’s awesome to have you with us, I’m Brad Brown. A very interesting guest to introduce to you today and we’re going to be chatting running. Just a little bit about what you want as a runner. It gives me great pleasure to welcome Cornelius van Niekerk onto the podcast today. Cornelius, welcome onto Old Mutual Live, thanks for joining us.
Cornelius van Niekerk: Thank you and good morning.
BB: Cornelius, you’re up in Centurion, up in the north, I’m in Cape Town. South Africa is quite an interesting running country because it doesn’t matter where you live, we’re lucky to live in South Africa, we’re a very outdoorsy country.
The sport is growing from strength to strength, but everyone is looking for answers and sometimes too much information is a bit of a problem. I get that sense that we’re sitting in that situation in South Africa, with the internet and the resources we’ve got in SA. That runners are almost overwhelmed with the amount of information available.
CVN: For sure, there’s lots of information if you want, tips of anything, you can find it and everyone is like a coach – like you said – everyone is an expert. They want to do it themselves. They’ve got goals and they’ve got distances and races that they want to do and the question is how. It’s easy to say: Get a coach and do this, but how do you do it? Taking that person from the beginners stages or not knowing anything about it and getting them to run healthy, that’s the thing.
How running healthy became my passion
BB: Let’s take a step back and before we carry on with where we’re going with this conversation. Let’s talk a bit about your background and where you’re coming from and why you’re so interested in this.
CVN: Sure, I also started running, not at school, but after university and I also just started. If you think about running, it’s easy, you just get shoes and you run and I used to run and every six months something went wrong. If it wasn’t a shin splint it was something on the foot or the ankle or the knee and I just kept going.
You don’t think there might be a better way, you just listen to the general average advice out there and you keep going and it’s frustrating. Running is such a wonderful thing and since I’ve realised that running used to be a primal thing that everyone used to do.
When the Neanderthals were running around, that was their day. City life and modern society has since bound us to the office chair. So that skill of running has almost gotten lost or pushed to the background. That is where people try and do too much and they injured and it’s just frustrating.
Running is such a great feeling and now you can’t run and how do you fix it. It’s quite frustrating and that’s where we come in and try and get runners back on the road. Just tell them that there are simple things you can do and principles you can follow and you can get back to it.
BB: I love that because that is so often the case and we get tons of questions daily from runners who are doing exactly that. Who decided that they wanted to start running, they went out and bombed a couple of 5km or 10km and two or three weeks down the line they are injured.
But again, let’s touch on the information overload. It’s pretty easy to go onto Google and Google symptoms or Google issues that you are having. But you’ve got to be very careful as a runner as to where you’re taking advice from. Because there is so much information that it’s very easy to get conflicting information.
Watch out for Dr Google
CVN: Yes, that’s for sure. Dr Google has answers for everything. But you want to look for somebody or someone with more of a systematic approach. It’s not just tips for what you’re going to do today, use this piece of strapping or take this tablet. You need someone with a holistic view, a strategy and a system of these parts fit together in this way. This overall thinking gets you to run that 10km or the marathon.
Because running is such a complex skill. It’s not just putting one foot in front of the other, as anyone who has tried running, like you said, who has been injured, can attest. It seems easy, but it’s not so easy to keep yourself on the road, so that information has to be distilled and also based on experience.
The people you read about on the internet, what is their experience? What have they tested on themselves? We test these things daily on ourselves and we are runners ourselves. We run, we encounter a niggle or a problem or an injury and we take our principles and we use it. It’s tested and then we go back to what has been researched, so there’s accountability. There as in we are running and racing ourselves. This is what’s worked for us and you can try it and see if it works for you.
BB: It’s interesting you say that too Cornelius. I’m a huge fan of finding someone that you can relate to or work with. It’s not necessarily someone at a running club or someone you know, it could be a resource online. One of the big issues I find is that people pick and choose advice from various factors. We’ve obviously got the Old Mutual virtual coach Norrie Williamson and if Norrie is your guy, then listen to Norrie’ or if the Comrades coach Lindsey Parry is your guy, then listen to Lindsey; or yourself as an example.
But I just find too often that someone will be following, let’s say Norrie’s training programme as an example and they’ll ask Norrie a question. Because they don’t really like Norrie’s answer and even though that answer is in their best interest at that time, they go onto Dr Google. They try and find an answer that suits them better. That’s a trap that a lot of people fall into and it’s dangerous.
CVN: It is, it’s a lifestyle. If you want to run a marathon, it’s not a two-week thing, it’s a change you’ve got to make. If you want to get into it for health reasons, there’s going to be some tough decisions for yourself later down the line. It touches on nutrition, it touches on time management, are you going to be willing to put in time.
So that kind of, like you said, a cut and paste approach, it often leads nowhere. Because people who have got those systems and strategies that work, like the coaches you’ve mentioned, they’ve tested it. There’s a way of thinking that works.
If you do this, then the next step is to do that. It’s easy to just take the easy way out, but the results speak for themselves. How many runners get injured? How many people don’t finish that marathon or you see them at the end of the race and they look horrible. It looks like no fun at all.
Using you to help grow our research
BB: Cornelius, tell me a little bit about you guys. You’re in the thick of a bit of a research process, you’re trying to find out what runners are struggling with, what they need help with. Essentially what you can help them with. Tell us a bit about the thinking behind what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
CVN: Well, we just found that with our clinics that we’ve been running, that there’s an underlying need. Hopes and dreams and frustrations that people have. We just thought let’s go straight to the source. If we want to be able to provide the best product on a topic such as running injury. We need to know what people want. You need to ask them instead of tell them.
We are busy sending out a small little five-minute survey to runners to get to know what they want and from what we’re seeing already. It’s things like having to complete a 10km or a 5km and struggling with injury, things like that. We want to know how can we add value to you as a runner.
Because of that overload we want to be adding, not twice, ten times, we want to add a hundred times the value. If we can keep runners on the road because it is such a frustrating thing, having dealt with it myself, you feel so powerless. You just want to get back to it and there’s nothing you can do. Because you don’t know what you don’t know.
We want to know what people want. Where they are in terms of their goals. What are they struggling with and where can we add value? It’s been very interesting up till now, just seeing the initial responses, it’s incredibly interesting.
Like what are people worried about, you think you know, but until you hear it from them in their own words, you can’t really say that this is what your customers want. It’s a bit about building a better business and it’s also about just getting runners back on the road. I mean to ask people what they want, that is the core of how you provide value.
BB: Cornelius, you talk about some of the insights you are gaining out of it already, can you share some of the stuff? What are some of the big trends that you are seeing in this survey?
What we are finding
CVN: For sure, mostly what we’re seeing is that people want to complete some kind of a distance, in terms of a goal, whether it’s a 5km or a 10km or a Comrades or an ultra. They want to achieve a certain goal. They’ve got something on their Bucket List and they want to do it.
Then they are frustrated, mostly, with injury. Injury and then secondly safety is a big concern. Also keeping up the routine, finding people to run with. There’s a bit of a gap for a community. Then what people might want to change about the sport. We are seeing that the race entry fee is quite a big thing.
People are saying that the races are over-priced or the prize money is too small. But the monetary aspect of racing in South Africa is a big thing we’re seeing. Where people are enjoying something like the Park Run or smaller races and also the over-crowding. You get to the race and there’s hundreds or thousands of people and it’s not that much fun. It takes away from the whole experience. So we’re seeing that.
People want to know about strength and injury, they want to know what to do when they get injured. How to fix it, what to do. Like you said, there’s lots of advice, but how am I going to apply that to me as myself? People are wanting to know how they can improve themselves.
BB: That’s very interesting. Cornelius, if people want to find out more and possibly complete the survey to help you guys and in essence help themselves, where can they get more details, where can they go?
CVN: It’s on our Facebook page, the Run Easy Running Clinic. I’ve got a post there that it’s linked to, it’s a survey app that I’m linking it to. We’ll put it on the website as well, but mostly through Facebook. Because that’s where we can see who we’re dealing with and get more in touch with people on a, not just social media. But a more personal level because that’s what we’re after.
We’ve got a few w/app groups going and running groups, but we try to really connect to you as a runner, what is your problem. It’s not a cookie cutter, cut and paste approach, cause everyone is unique. On Facebook they can go to it and they can complete it. We will definitely use those insights and provide them with the products they want.
BB: Fantastic, Cornelius it sounds amazing, we’ll pop that link into the show notes for this episode of Old Mutual Live, thank you for joining us today. Best of luck, we’d love once you’ve completed it, love to possibly chat again. Find out a bit more about the insights and exactly what you did manage to find out.
CVN: Cool, see what the people have to say.
BB: Excellent stuff, Cornelius van Niekerk, thanks so much for joining us, much appreciated.
CVN: Thanks a lot.