Marna Grobler

Monday, March 16, 2020

My Journey //

I was never really a “sporty’ kind of girl when I was younger. I did a bit of netball at school and of course the compulsory PE classes where I was always back of the pack and trudged through the classes. After school I started studying for my teacher’s degree. I became a full-blown student with loads of take away food and no exercise. The most I would exert myself with was a fast walk to a class when I was late.

In 2003, due to health issues, my partner was advised to start exercising. While on our beach holiday, I joined in and soon realised that walking as a form of exercise was not for me. I started running on the beach and loved it. This, combined with watching the Comrades marathon on television on that particular holiday, made me make the bold, (some would say) stupid decision to run my first Comrades marathon the following year- #impossible. 

I remember my first training run. It was hideous and I felt a little bit like throwing up. I was out of breath after five minutes and all I wanted to do was stop. But I stuck at it, and each run became easier and easier, and I became faster and faster. After 8 months of religious training, early mornings and track sessions, I ran my first marathon. This had to be done as I first had to qualify to run the Comrades marathon. I made it on a very hot summer’s day, in a time of 3:56. The entire race was a blur, but I was in love! This only encouraged me to keep going. I had however sustained a hip stress fracture during this race (4 months before Comrades Marathon) which had forced me to train/run in the gym pool for 3 months. Friends and family were questioning my sanity and my ability to want to run this epic race with one year of training and being a “not so active” kind of girl, never mind a runner. But I was determined. On 1 June 2004 I completed my first Comrades Marathon in 10:43. I kept going back year after year and am now a member of the Comrades Green Number Club with 11 medals in the bag. 

By 2017, I realised that I wanted to spread my wings. Friends had suggested triathlon, but I could not swim, nor had I been on a bicycle since I was about 5 years old. I started joining a couple of spinning classes and soon after bought a second-hand road bicycle and wetsuit. I joined swimming classes and started an entirely new and expensive journey compared to what I was used to with running. By June 2017 I had entered my first sprint distance triathlon and ordered my first triathlon suit from Zone3. I wondered how difficult a 1.5km swim in the ocean, 40km ride and a 10km could be, I have done 11 Comrades marathons! I can do this .... I am sure you can guess what happened .... I was pulled out of the ocean after just swimming 900m. I was not allowed to continue the race. I was disheartened and frustrated. It took me a long time to feel comfortable in open water. The laps and laps of swim drills in the pool and weekends in the dam were riddled with both challenges and celebration, each time I came back I tried my best not to dwell on the mishaps (of which there were many) and made a mental note of something I’d conquered. I soon realised that it is mind over matter. 

I was all set to compete in an Olympic distance triathlon the year after. Being the last person out of the water, I managed to complete the race with about 10 minutes to spare. I was ecstatic. The hard work and determination had paid off. One year later I entered the same race. My workouts have changed so much from only running here and there, to 2hour watt bike sessions and long open water swim practise through winter (with my now brand new Zone3 Vanquish wetsuit). Race day arrived and I shaved off an hour and 20 minutes of my previous time. 

In 2019 I completed my second half ironman distance on my 50th birthday. If you had told my younger road- running- self, five years ago that she would be competing and finishing an international Ironman70.3 triathlon she would never believe you. 

I’m hooked, and almost three times bankrupt! 

I am not looking to be a pro-athlete. I am passionate about what I do. I race as best I can. I love to test my limits and I am proud of what I achieve. This triathlon journey has challenged me to do things I never thought I could, introduced me to so many new people with expert skills who have helped me so much. I feel very blessed to be where I am and keep striving to be the best version of myself and hopefully inspire other women to do the same, no matter age or circumstances. There is so much still to come and I’m already planning my adventures for 2020. For now, all the training continues and so does the fun that comes with it. 

Follow me on my adventures thought Facebook and Instagram to see what fun I get up to!

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