JOHANNESBURG - Two of South Africa’s most accomplished roadrunners Caroline Wostmann and Nolene Conrad are mixing it up with ‘The Kenyans’ at a training camp in Iten, Kenya.
Conrad recently ran a personal best of 2 hours 35 minutes and 21 seconds at the Valencia Marathon in November, and the 32-year-old is gearing up for more top performances in 2018.
Wostmann, 2015 Comrades Marathon and two-time Two Oceans champion, has begun her journey back to full fitness after struggling most of 2017 with a torn quadratus femoris muscle (muscle under the glute) in her left leg. Hoping to defend her title at the Two Oceans marathon in April last year, Wostmann was forced to drop out of the race just after 10km as the injury became unbearable. She would later withdraw from the Comrades Marathon, as she was forced to watch her peers battle for top spot in the famous Ultramarathon.
Months of rehabilitation and recovery followed for Wostmann including time in a hyperbaric chamber, anti-gravity treadmill and aqua jogging, but she never lost her positive attitude for which she is renowned - quickly proclaiming she could have a dip at an ‘aqua jogging world title’.
When the message from Conrad came through earlier this month asking Wostmann if she was interested in a month of training in Kenya starting in Mid-January, she did not hesitate to accept.
Though their fitness levels could well be far apart, the pair set off to run with the Kenyans just over a week ago.
Kenya is a dominant force in middle to long distance running, with the greatest men’s marathoner of the modern era in Eluid Kipchoge, 33, currently excelling in the marathon discipline. Kipchoge has eight major marathon titles to his name including the Olympic title in 2016. Fellow Kenyan Mary Keitany, 36, has also been a ruthless force in the women’s marathon with six major marathon titles to her name. That includes the world record in a women-only marathon at the London Marathon in 2017, when she surged to victory in 2:17:01.
“Running is a massive culture here, and it seems that no matter the time of day you will encounter someone running,” said Wostmann, 35, on her website caroline.run.
“Some run alone and some in larger groups of 30 or more. Every Tuesday and Thursday there are groups doing fartlek sessions which anyone (who can keep up) is welcome to join.
For Wostmann, the initial adjustment to the high altitude in Iten was intense.
“The reason I could not run with the Kenyans [from the first day], was though my heart was full of motivation, it was about to explode from my chest after a couple of km’s.”
“Huffing and puffing like a steam train I could barely believe that this body once upon a time used to glide with the wind in my hair and the road under my feet. I felt like a stumbling elephant attempting to gallop. I was tripping all over the uneven gravel roads and I could not breathe.
“The higher altitude and my laziness had left me a wreck. A few Kenyan athletes who ran past me in my state of distress offered me something between sympathetic and amused glances – as if they weren’t sure whether they should be laughing or calling an ambulance.
“A taxi stopped to offer me a lift. If I hadn’t been so oxygen deprived at that point I might have felt embarrassed. I returned back to my room exhausted, humbled and grateful to be alive. That afternoon I went out for my second run which, although nothing to brag about was considerably better. And so my journey to being able to run with the Kenyans begins.”
Despite the long road ahead to full fitness for Wostmann, she is clearly optimistic.
“All in all one cannot help wanting to run here. There is something about the long dirt roads beckoning, witnessing the poetry in motion of the true Kenyan champions gliding along and the fact that running is such an accepted way of life here. I am loving my journey back to fitness and am looking forward to sharing more of this wonderful experience with you over the next few weeks.”
African News Agency (ANA)