Athlete Annie Bothma is ready to become what she should have been

FILE - Annie Bothma wins the Totalsports Womans Race in 2019. Photo: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)

FILE - Annie Bothma wins the Totalsports Womans Race in 2019. Photo: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Mar 11, 2023


Cape Town - Annie Bothma. That is how the athlete from Stellenbosch is referred to. It is her name, after all. But it should not be that way.

Annie Bothma’s name should be preceded by a title. We should be referring to her as former South African marathon champion Annie Bothma.

That we do not is because of Western Province Athletics’ (WPA) lack of faith in this special athlete.

Four years ago, when she made her marathon debut in the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon, Bothma had approached WPA in the hope she’d run in their colours in the race that also doubled as the South African National Marathon Championships. The province rejected the novice.

“It was my debut and they did not believe I could finish a marathon,” said the athlete, who suffers from a rare disorder, hypopituitarism, a deficiency of one or more of the pituitary hormones.

The laugh was on the province though as Bothma crossed the finish line in 10th place overall in a stellar field dominated by East Africans.

More significantly, she was the first South African home, in a time of two hours 41 minutes.

“I would have been South African champion had I run for the province,” she laments “But it was an eye-opening experience for me running the marathon for the first time.”

ALSO READ: SA long jump star Jovan van Vuuren not giving up on world championship dream despite injury

Though her achievement was something to be proud of, especially for a novice, Bothma looks back at that marathon and admits she had no clue.

“Back in 2019 I was very naive. I had not done any marathon training when I went to the race. I was doing 21s and my track training was just not enough. But my biggest failing was in fuelling. I did not understand it well. Coming from the shorter distances I did not have to worry about fuelling, I only needed one gel. But the marathon was a different beast and I learnt the hard way. I ran that slow time compared to what my fitness was because of poor nutrition.”

Scarred by that experience, Bothma decided to arm herself with knowledge and now holds a Masters degree in sports nutrition.

So there is sure to be no slow run due to poor fuelling tomorrow when she tackles the Durban International Marathon with the objective of somewhat making up for 2019 and becoming national marathon champion.

ALSO READ: Tumelo Motlagale looking to hold on to his SA Marathon title at Durban International Marathon

She will be representing her province this time around, having shown herself to be a pretty fast marathoner when she won the virtual Cape Town Marathon back in 2020 with a time of 2:33:35.

Though successful then, Bothma recalls finding that race pretty difficult.

“I was still running high mileage when that elites’ race came about and because I did not taper properly it was very tough. I ran solo doing 5-kilometre loops on cobble stones and I also had a stomach bug.”

She is in tip-top shape for tomorrow’s

race though and third time could be the charm for the athlete who stopped growing at the age of 11 and has had the kind of misfortunes that would have seen many give up.

In addition to hypopituitarism, she has also been diagnosed with coeliac disease, which triggers an allergic reaction upon the digestion

of gluten. The consequences were Bothma’s health declined and she suffered fatigue, weight loss, low iron, low blood pressure and dizziness.

ALSO READ: Cash strapped provinces cant send teams to National Championships

A multiple champion in many disciplines during her university years in the United States, Bothma was hit by a motor vehicle while running shortly after arriving in that country, where she lived for a number of years.

Her misfortunes are the stuff of movies, but she remains standing and is excitedly looking forward to the weekend.

“Training has gone very well and I am excited for this one, I would very much like to race it and see what I can do.

“I know that the marathon is a relentless pursuit and anything can happen. But it would be fantastic to qualify for the World Championships. I am very proud to be running for the province and I am thankful to be on their team. I would be honoured to be first and become national champion.”

That feat would be just reward for an athlete for whom running is everything.

When you suffer the way Bothma does – and has done for a long time – the ability to get on the road is a big deal.

“I have had many ups and downs in my life and I know I would not be the runner I am without those struggles,” explains the athlete, who was left heartbroken when she experienced yet another accident when she smashed her new car in 2017.

“For me every day and every run is a gift. I have lots of obstacles to overcome and I have to manage my chronic conditions. So running is always the best part of my day.”

And so it should be. And this weekend, she could well have the run to beat all her runs to become the national marathon champion she should have been back in 2019.


Related Topics: