WHEN JENNA CHALLENOR lines up at the Durban City Hall for her maiden Comrades Marathon on Sunday, she will be fulfilling a dream she has nursed from a very early age.
Back when she was 10-years-old, Challenor, pictured, watched the Ultimate Human Race on the television and knew she wanted to be a part of it.
“I remember sitting with my dog Kirby watching the race and saying to myself: ‘I would love to be there some day’. Bruce Fordyce was my hero and I wanted to run the Comrades just like him,” Challenor said.
It has taken a little too long to materialise, but everything happens at its own time and the 2019 Up Run is clearly what was predetermined for her to start her Comrades journey with.
Last year after getting sick and collapsing at the Two Oceans Marathon she had trained hard for, Challenor decided she would not let her fitness go to waste and decided to run Comrades.
“But I suffered a stress fracture shortly before the race and sadly had to pull out,” she said.
Nothing is as devastating for a runner as an injury so close to the race and with her earlier Two Oceans mishap, Challenor could easily have gone into a depressed state.
But thanks to an incredible support system, she managed to get over it all and her 2019 season has been pretty good.
“My husband Brett is very, very important to me. He is the reason I am able to train and race at an elite level as a mom of three kids. He has been my pillar of strength, super supportive with the children. He has done four Comrades and I have supported him in those and he is my inspiration. He will be supporting me on Sunday,” Challenor said.
The 37-year-old feels also indebted to her medical team at Prime who backed her all the way through last year as well as Durban’s EADP - Elite Athletes Development Programme - of which she is a member.
“Last year was very hard for me. Everything had gone so well and I tried to pick myself up after Two Oceans and then the injury happened. But I believe everything happens for a reason. But through all that my team at EADP have been amazing and the medical team at Prime were unbelievably good and they got me up and running again,” Challenor said.
She is more than running all right, Challenor making up for last year’s Two Oceans mishap with a brilliant 2:51:55 run in April to finish 4th in the ladies’ race.
While that run suggests she is capable of challenging for gold on Sunday, the elite are not putting her under undue pressure.
She is, after all, only going for only her first Comrades.
“I have absolutely no expectations. This year it is all about experiencing the race,” Challenor said. “I can’t go for the win. I will go and hopefully finish saying: ‘I had such fun, I’ve fallen in love with the Comrades’.”
She does admit, however, that her competitive nature will not allow her to just trudge along.
“Naturally I have a certain target and a race plan that I will stick to. I am going for a conservative approach and to have fun,” Challenor said.
The kind of fun that her 10- year-old self and her dog Kirby had when watching the race on the telly all those many years back. The kind that will make her want to go back over and over again.