Where it all began… (get coffee or wine, its long)


This mornings view

After a rather satisfying Hennops Trail Run today and feeling really positive about my training for a change it is fitting that I tell the story of how I got to where I am today. I promised that I would tell the story. Apologies to those who have heard the story before!

I am not part of a sporty family. The closest we got to any sport was watching rugby and cricket on TV and ironically we religiously watched the comrades every year. As a result of a rather sedentary lifestyle and a mammoth appetite, the inevitable happened and I was became rather overweight which didn’t help the situation. I will never forget a particular PT session in highschool when we tested the gymnastics equipment. We had to do a very simple move of a short run, jump on the vault and land on the pommel (or whatever it was called). I couldn’t do it. It was rather embarrassing. It has stuck in my mind! So I never participated in any sport in school as result cause I felt I was rather useless. We didn’t have much available at a fairly new school but it was obvious that I wasn’t going to make the teams. I was not however going to let that get me down and I infiltrated on another level. I became the athletics and swimming scorer at school and I joined my friends for all the netball matches to cheer them on. Admittedly the scoring was awesome because I would always get a drink and yummy sarmie when I did it…… Think this is where my support skills developed 🙂

My fitness level was once again exposed dramatically at University when my lecturer decided it would be a fabulous idea to go climb Table Mountain before we drove back to Johannesburg after a botany prac. I warned her of my fitness levels (or lack thereof) but she insisted that I would be fine. We all got a 500ml bottle of water and off we went. We climbed up what I suspect is Platteklip Gorge (ironically this is part of UTCT) and I nearly died! I think I drank the water in the first 100m. It was insane, I have never been so broken, it felt like climbing stairs on steroids. Eventually we got to the contours and I found it a bit easier and actually made it to the top to find my fellow students waiting patiently watching the Dassies. I was not impressed with life. Funnily that didn’t even encourage me to perhaps get a bit fitter! It took me a good few years to decide that my health was actually important.

When I started working I decided that joining a gym was maybe a good idea. I mean everyone was doing it so why not. I actually even got a personal trainer but I never changed my eating habits and my heart was not in it. I didn’t train enough and it just wasn’t effective. I persevered but nothing really ever came of it.

In 2012 I joined Sasol and as luck would have it they had a gym in the building with a personal trainer. Enter Helen Mercier! I firmly believe that Helen changed my life. She will argue that she didn’t but she did. I started training with her and I still do. We are now friends and I even have her doing trail runs with me now. Helen eased me into training and I slowly got stronger whilst still eating terribly. I joined another gym where Helen also worked and started doing her Melt60 classes. These classes were so awesome. Cross training with kettle bells, loud music and lots of sweat! I miss them actually but I just can’t fit them in at the moment. In the February of 2013 Helen asked me very nicely if I would eat healthily for her for one month. I did it and I lost 10kg. Needless to say I was hooked. I went on to lose about 30kg by just eating healthily with minimal carbs. The best was I got cheat days so I could still have my coke and wine gums (those still feature greatly unfortunately….). I built a lot of muscle and my body transformed completely. I am still not a supermodel because I just love food but being healthy has been life changing.

Enter Bianca Losper! B also did the Melt60 classes and was super keen on doing a Warrior Race (the obstacle races with lots and lots of mud..). I was keen on a challenge because above everything else I know that I am strong! So we took on the Warrior Race out at Harties and it was so much fun. We laughed so much and we were soooooooo DIRTY. I emptied my geyser trying to get all the mud off!


Bianca and I after Warrior – we were diiiirty!! 

This race sparked our interest in Trail Running and thats how B became my first running buddy. Liesl who who always thought she would NEVER run was going to start running.

Our first Trail Run was out at Red Barn in Irene and a night run! The Moonchaser series. It was my first medal and I still have it (I actually have all my medals…. they are special). I was so slow, I can’t recall my time but it was well over 50 minutes I think  for 5km and I nearly had a heart attack when the photographer (now friend Erik Vermeulen) took a photo of me right near the end when a huge flash of light appeared out of the darkness and I spewed a few choice words into the darkness. Erik literally fell over laughing! LOL. It is a memory I will never forget.


I look so calm… This is where Erik gave me a heart attack!!

From Moonchaser we evolved to the Spur Trail Series and Trail Running became a passion. Being a botanist and Zoologist by profession, the trails are just that much more special. Those who run with me (when they feel like walking) know that I am forever rambling off names of plants and giving random nature facts. I even compiled a list of wild flowers I saw on my first Run the Berg. This is easy when you run as slow as I do!


Darren and I doing Run The Berg Challenge in 2016 (lots of wild flowers to be seen)

I have over the years expanded my trail repertoire. However that didn’t happen all by itself. I decided that if I needed to improve my running that I need to run more. The problem with this was safety. We all know that safety in Jhb can be a problem. So enter Randburg Harriers. I found myself a running club which is now a bit like a second home. I starting by doing the time trial on a Thursday and realised that there was track training at the club. I joined up with Clint our club coach and started training in earnest on my running as well as still continuing with Helen. So slowly but surely I started upping my distances. As the distances went up I became very familiar with the term “sweeper”. I used to run my races (and still do sometimes) with the sweeper who runs at the back of a race to ensure that everyone gets home safely. My motto always is “party’s in the back” and I love chatting at the back. I do tend to go a bit faster when I am on my own however……. LOL.


Doing 20km Captain Carrot and being swept in by Fred. Nina came to run us in.

One of my fondest memories was deciding to do the Two Oceans Long Trail. This would be my longest trail yet at the time – 20km (actually 24km…). I needed to train but how? Enter Darren Smith. I messaged Darren who seemed to be the trail godfather. Seemed like a good place to start. My words were “Darren I need to to 20km can you help?” and did he help!! I spent almost every weekend from January to March of 2016 on the trails with Darren. He made it his mission to get me trained up. He has become my most special trail buddy and I will forever be grateful for his help. I made Two Oceans and he shared that medal with me. Ironically on that journey I also met my special coach Fred Richardson.


A Happy! finish at Two Oceans! Shared this medal with my special Daz!

Fred has been the best thing that has happened to my running. I have gone from 20km trail to a three day stage race of 100km. Now we are on this journey together to UTCT together and I just hope that I don’t disappoint him.

I have done a few road races along the way but I am very selective of my road races. I much rather do trail. My first half marathon was Johnson Crane (yawn) but then I discovered Kaapsehoop, Loskop and Skukuza (my happy place) and those are now permanent fixtures on my yearly calendar. Kaapsehoop will actually be my first 42km road this year as a tester for distance running in preparation for UTCT. I also became the Race Director at Randburg Harriers to rather organise the road races than run them! LOL

Lastly, along with a newfound love for the trails, came the new friends. The amount of friends I have made on this journey has to be one of the most special journeys. Arriving at a Trail Race is always such a pleasure its like seeing family. It makes the running a little bit easier and makes getting up in the dark to get to a race just that little but more worthwhile. Many of my trailies and roadies would also attest to my cheering skills. If I can’t run or if I run short I love nothing more than to cheer my fellow runners in. I am usually the loudest at a race and I don’t apologise for it! I take my cheering very seriously. It is the most satisfying feeling to see your fellow runner turn and smile when you cheer them on. Doing this at comrades is particularly satisfying. I love it and I love my running buddies. There are however too many to mention personally! You know who you are!


Special running buddies at Run the Berg 2016


Moonchaser memories


Some of my first trail buddies now lifelong friends

A special mention to my Bubblies. Almost exactly a year ago I innocently formed a little running group, lots of us training with Fred. We developed a liking for champagne after we completed the Wolf Pack run. It stuck. We became known as the Bubbly Girls. However the group has now become my closest friends. We are like a support group that happens to run. They have become exceptionally special and they are on this journey with me to UTCT. Lets do this girls!


THE BUBBLIES with said bubbles (madam Jaxy missing as she had to run Mweni… priorities LOL)



4 thoughts on “Where it all began… (get coffee or wine, its long)

  1. Fabulous post Liesl. And you know something … that first Two Oceans medal is my favourite one! I still remember our first Kingskloof runs en route to Table Mountain. They’re seared in my trail memories. As is the moment I knew you’d finished and medalled. That was magic. With you every step of the way on the road to UTCT. This time though, I think you’ll be dragging me along with you!


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