If someone would’ve told me, three years ago, that one day my life would comprise of early morning grafts on the road in compression tights and running shoes, I would have never believed them. Back then, my days were filled with late mornings spent recovering from the “debauchery” brought on from the night before and, on the odd occasion, struggles through 2km drills around the local soccer pitch in my desperate attempt to lose weight. Three years later, with a few marathons under my belt, running has become a significant part of my life that has shaped it in a way that I could have never imagined. The comraderie I still experience amongst runners has truly been the driving force throughout my journey. It is the type of comraderie that surpasses all cultural backgrounds and barriers to unite people with the shared goal of meeting their dreams on the other side of the finish line. In light of June 16, a day that commemorates the youth of ’76 for breaking all barriers, five inspirational CHICAs who possess unique running journeys share their stories on how they have broken barriers in pursuit of their ultimate selves despite weight problems, confidence issues and life-threatening diseases. They will also be at the starting line of the J16 Run (and Ride) Festival hosted by ThesisLifeStyle (@ThesisLifeStyle) in collaboration with Nike in full armour, ready to kick some serious butt. If you are looking for some runspiration then CHICAs, get ready to be blown away.
Meet Lindiwe Maseko- @linzz_msk
Profession- HR Business Partner
Growing up, I was overweight and believed that I was ugly. It stuck with me for the longest of time. The struggle of fitting in and dealing with societal fat shaming pushed me into a dark corner. So imagine it all; I felt ugly, fat, insecure, zero levels of confidence and struggled to buy clothes, the list is endless.
Back track to 2012, I decided to join the gym and start this journey of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I would jog about 3km (at this point I felt I was going to die) and walked about 1km back home (defeated at this point). I lost weight gradually between 2013-2014 and watched myself grow into a woman who was comfortable in her own skin.
Fast track to 2015, I was running my routine 5KM route when I bumped into five guys who were running uphill as I took on the downhill. I particularly looked at one guy, who I knew was Wandile Zondo (he was a good friend to of one my brothers). His top was off, the sun was blazing on his skin and despite seeming like he was in pain, his face reflected the persistence of a man eager to finish the run against all odds. I realized that these guys were from ThesisRunCru (@thesisruncru). I had heard about them from my brother but decided that I would never t run with them because they would certainly leave me behind, which would completely be embarrassing. Surprisingly, one day, I woke and decided to attempt their 5KM run just to see how it would go. Despite almost dying, a new fire in me was born, a fire that still lives in me today and had led me to conquer anything that I attempt no matter how hard I have to push.
I journeyed with the CRU through rainy, cold, hot and unpredictable days. I have since grown from running at a pace of 09:05 (nine minutes a KM) to a pace of 06:30. I went from running 3km, which left me feeling like I was at death’s door, to conquering my first 42km marathon in 2016. I used to despise hills and avoid them at all costs, I have since faced them head on through the tumultuous route at the Two Oceans Half Marathon in Cape Town. I hated my body but have now come to appreciate my “full figure” with which I have broken barriers and understand that, it is what makes me unique.
I have turned my curse into my blessing. I am now able to coach new members who struggle with all the emotions attached to being “the big girl”. I inspire the unknown through my posts on my workouts. I minister on the changes my body has undergone. I vibe with the BEST RunCru in Soweto who have assisted me in this journey by holding my hand when I got tired, pushed me when I was about to give up and carried me through my Soweto marathon journey. They understood my disappointments after a run, wiped my tears through injuries, and made me run some crazy routes that even cars tend to struggle through. Today, I continue to run the streets with a confidence that I never thought I possessed and that is how I continue to break my own barriers.
Meet Ayanda Zibaya- @yahyahzibi
Profession: Civil Engineer
I have always been a size 28 until I fell pregnant with my son in 2009; I subsequently gained weight and grew into a size 36. In attempt to fight the weight off, I went on diet after diet which seem to work until I retired from them, and then gained the weight all over again. It was in December 2014 when I started getting concerned that simple activities such as walking to the local shops would exhaust me and make me sweat excessively; my chest began to start clogging up too. I decided to get tested for any chronic diseases and found out that I had low blood pressure with sky high cholesterol levels. This was all brought on from my bad eating habits and lack of exercise. Knowing that my condition could possibly lead to heart failure led me to finally make a change. I learnt that the one way to alleviate the situation was to change my lifestyle, so I did. In Jan ’15, I decided to start running and adopted healthier habits. I started running with Thesis Run Cru (@ThesisRunCru) and, as a result began to learn so much more about myself and life. The introvert in me began to enjoy the new friends I was making as I began to run with the Cru every Saturday. I went from someone who struggled to communicate to being someone who always offers a hand to new people who just need that extra push as they start their running journey. I have since reached my ideal weight but more importantly, I have become fitter, stronger and have a confidence that I have never possessed before.
Meet Nonkululeko Ndlovu- @nkuli0811
Profession: Full time mom
Women are often marginalized in many aspects of life, including in running. When I started running, I joined a social running group which I had learnt about from a mutual friend, Zakes. Everyone in our neighbourhood said that the only way that I could run with Zakes, is if I were some kind of superwomen. Through the years, I have come to shun the naysayers and achieve what I had previously deemed impossible. My running journey started when I unintentionally ran the Soweto 21KM race as a result of my partner receiving free entries. From then, I promised myself that I would come back to try the full 42.2KM marathon just to see how it went. That is when everything changed for me. I joined NRC (Nike Run Club) and amidst all the training and runspiration, I found myself in the mix of planning how I would beat my personal best times at certain races. I knew hard work had to follow, so I conceded and later found myself at the starting line of a couple of marathons including Soweto Marathon. I finished comfortably as I conquered the races. I have since finished three Ultra Marathons: Irene Mordene 48km Athlete Ultra, Om die Dam 50km and my biggest accomplishment, the Comrades Marathon. I believe that I have broken a few barriers of my own and there are certainly still more to come.
Running has changed and affected my daily life which is why I choose fitness, a healthy lifestyle and running. It has changed the way that I think, strategize and implement everything that I plan.
Meet Lebogang Bawela- @baweezy_1
Profession- Project Coordinator for an Insurance Company
For many years, no one (including myself) believed that I could really run. Despite having been very active as a student, my love for running fell away when I realized I was always the last to finish. I felt like I had to finish in the top three in order to be recognized as a true runner. The sad reality was that no one cheered for the child who came last. Everything changed when I was diagnosed with a life threatening disease which, my physiotherapist insisted I needed to take up exercise and regular walks in order to heal. I realized that it had to start mentally; I needed to prepare my mind for the challenge ahead before I could truly see the ultimate goal of healing manifest. I believed that I was given a second chance in life and as a result, decided to give running a second chance. I had no choice. The advice from my physiotherapist saw me getting up, lacing my shoes and attempting my first run. Before I knew it, running distances that I never imagined I could became a norm. From then, I have fallen in love with running and have taken up training so that I can run marathons. Every day, I compete g with is myself, my old self, who never believed this would be possible and I don’t want ever want to look back
Meet Nana Nokelela – @teamsqathi
I have started a motivational group called Team Sqathi. It is an exclusive group of ordinary women who were/are plus size and struggle to lose weight. This group is a lifestyle group whose goal is to motivate and support each other as we navigate through fitness programmes that will ultimately lead us to our ideal weights.
Through sharing daily motivational quotes, weekly exercise plans, monthly weigh-ins and discussion forums, we have opened up our forum to discuss drive every women one step closer towards their desired weight in a much healthier way.
Well CHICAs, I hope these stories have left you feeling runspired. If you would like to join the Thesis Lifestyle J16 family festival, as the first step to your running journey or for some serious fun, then you can get your tickets on Quicket.co.za
Statement from Thesis Management:
This event started in 2014 and originally hosted at Thesis Lifestyle Concept Store at Mofolo on Machaba drive. The cultural backgrounds that have united over the past two years has been short nothing of empowering and emotional for some. The whole point of this event has been to honour the youth of ’76 in a style befitting to the youth of today, and acknowledge efforts taken to liberate the education system which we now access. The run and ride goes through Soweto and reflects on the routes taken by the students during the revolutionary uprising. Through this event we channel the old and new energies of the youth to never forget the rich history of South Africa and remember where we are headed as the youth.