DURBAN - The Ultimate Human Race will once again lay down a gauntlet to a new athlete who has faced everything from the Winter Olympics to the Berlin Marathon, some of the toughest trail races in the world, and recently a struggle with multiple sclerosis.
Swiss athlete Jasmin Nunige ventures to Durban next week to line up for her first Comrades Marathon, and, despite being diagnosed with the disabling disease of the central nervous system in 2011, she is not letting it get the better of her.
As a trail ultra runner, Olympic cross country skier, and marathoner, Nunige knows what it means not to give up despite suffering serious physical or emotional setbacks since her diagnosis.
The Swiss athlete, who will be racing in the colours of Nedbank Running Club, has an immensely impressive racing CV. Winning the 2016 La Swiss Alpine Race for the seventh time; the 80km Eco Trail in a new record time of six hours and 54 minutes; the Ultra Vasan 90km (Sweden) also in a record time; and the Grand Trail des Templiers arguably makes her one of the best trail runners in the world.
“Running is a way of life. Through running I find inner strength for my battle against multiple sclerosis. It also helps to overcome difficult moments and to find balance between being a mom, wife and my profession (medical masseur),” is how Nunige describes her motivation to keep on pushing her physical boundaries.
Her talents are not just restricted to overcoming nature’s obstacles on dirt roads. She is possibly going to be one of 10 or so Olympians competing in the Comrades.
Nunige represented Switzerland at the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer as a cross country skier.
In 2013 she completed the Berlin Marathon in 2:39.00. Those in the know predict the 43-year-old mom of two has a realistic chance to contest for a gold medal in the Comrades.
“The Comrades is one of the oldest, most famous and most prestigious ultra-races in the world, and I always dreamed to come to South Africa. I am looking forward to competing against the best ultra-runners. It is going to be an exciting challenge. Hopefully if I have a perfect race, I could finish in top five.”
Nunige is coached by her husband, Guy, a track and field athlete who has been French champion on various occasions in the 1 500m and 10 000m.
He has also set a personal best time of 1:03:55 in the half-marathon.