JOHANNESBURG – Becoming a champion in your sport, we are often told, is easy. The mark of a true champion is the ability to stay on top.
This rings true for Nolene Conrad, who is keen to show that her incredible 2018 was no fluke by staying at the top of her game this year going forward.
A torn ligament is, however, threatening to delay the Cape Town road runner’s plans to build on her massive achievements from the previous years.
The 33-year-old half-marathon specialist is undergoing a six-week rehabilitation programme that could well see her miss out on defending her Two Oceans crown.
“I really want to defend my title, and I am hoping to have fully recovered by the time of the race,” Conrad says.
“They have given me six weeks of rehab time for my torn ligament, and we are now in the fourth. I am currently working on speeding up the rehab by training in the pool and on the bike.”
With Two Oceans taking place on April 20, Conrad has a little over a month to line up for the “world’s most beautiful race”.
Conrad had a breakthrough 2018 that cemented her standing as the country’s leading female half-marathoner, as she became South Africa’s first woman to earn the coveted IAAF Gold Label Status by finishing 25th at the World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia, Spain, in 71 minutes and 44 seconds (71:44).
She followed that up by winning the SA Marathon Championships with her eighth-place finish in the Cape Town Marathon in September.
Such a splendid year would not have materialised without the guidance of her mentor Elana Meyer, she says.
“It was a great year all round, and I would not have achieved that success without my partnership with Elana. She gave me the idea of what it takes to become excellent, because previously, I used to run just to win.
“Last year, I learnt about better planning and to race well. I got to know about performing well on the big stage.”
One of the key factors to her success was spending time in Kenya.
“I got to do altitude training in a camp in Kenya for three weeks, and that really set me up for the year. Also, my regular training in Stellenbosch went up a notch or two.”
It’s not about what happens to you but how you react to it. I choose to be positive and to focus on what I can do. #corestrength #rehab #motivated #5weeks2go@adidasZA @Stellenbosch pic.twitter.com/VK3PmrPL2r— Nolene Conrad (@conrad_nolene) February 25, 2019
Looking back at her career before she teamed up with Meyer, Conrad says she was just going through the motions. “She has helped me become much more professional in my outlook, and I am better focused.
“I train three times a day, and because of my Gold Label Status, I am now likely to be invited to the big races.”
Before that, though, Conrad would love to do her thing in her home city.
“It was great to win Two Oceans last year. It was a big win for me, one of my biggest. It was very special, because I was the first Adidas runner to win it.
“I remember heading to the home straight and being cheered on by people I know, while some who watched on television left me messages of congratulations on the phone.
“It would be great to do it again. I know of people who have come back from rehab to run PBs, so I remain hopeful.”
Tough day at @osakawomensmarathon yesterday. Unlucky with the tough conditions that’s all part of marathon running though , you can prepare well and be in great form but there are certain things you cannot control. #2:36.21 #16th Thanks to organizers, Japan was unforgettable ❤️ pic.twitter.com/Rf8HocgzFV— Nolene Conrad (@conrad_nolene) January 28, 2019