The “Trail Run Virgin” Diaries / 6 ~ by Jan Ham

This is possibly the most difficult blog post that I have had to write to date. It has taken me a while to get the words down on paper (or the computer screen in front of me) as it has been a month of rollercoaster emotions, running success and disappointments.

When I took on this challenge/adventure to run the 2015 ProNutro AfricanX Trailrun presented by New Balance, with my wife Karien (affectionately known as Nini) we both knew that is was going to be an adventure involving having to completely overhaul our lives and schedules, trying to manage/balance the impact on our marriage, being parents, training, work and just life in general.

In the past 6 months there were highs and lows, but in the long run I believe we came up tops. Going from a routine of work, kids, prepare supper, get kids stuff ready for school the next day etc.  Nini has started a more active lifestyle, becoming a regular at our local Virgin Active (for once somebody is bringing me home some post gym Kauai smoothies), going from a non-runner to easily hitting 20+minutes on the treadmill, followed by a solid spinning session and more. I still recall that warm, windy day in November when we had our first run on the trails together, and even though she wanted to cry when she had to start walking up the first big hill, my heart wanted to jump out of my chest beating with pride for what she has accomplished to date.

Fast forward a few months to mid-February, disaster struck. I do take all the blame for it, because my competitive nature got the better of me, and I not only pushed her into a running related injury, I picked up an niggle or 2 myself. The hardest thing for a competitive person or sportsman is to know when to throw in the towel, let go, or step back and let it be. In the past 2 years I’ve run AfricanX with injuries, and hated every painful step of the way between the start and finish lines, but managed to pull through with the help of my team mate Cole Stanton. I just don’t know whether I’ll be able to show the same patience, nor do I want to break Nini and scare her off of trail running completely.

It is still on my bucket list to run AfricanX with her, but maybe trying to get her from non-runner to multi-stage runner in 6 months was a bridge to far at this point. As a whole, the adventure did bring us closer together as we now share a love for trails, train together when I ‘m home from work early, and just enjoying a better, healthier lifestyle.

So what’s next you may ask? Well, every cloud has a silver lining; every adventure has its obstacles; the show must go on etc etc. Having done the last 4 editions of AfricanX, 3 of them with fellow Columbia/GU TRAIL team mate Cole, it was time for a fresh approach.

Up stepped Will Saaiman, Nini’s boss, now a good friend and trail runner. Will’s story is quite similar to that of Nini, having decided in 2014 to make a healthier life change, enter a half marathon and  complete this goal. When I met him in July 2014, he was training for the KFM Gun Run, a 21.1km road run, with a couple of 5km park runs under his belt as well as one 15km road run.

I recall nearly breaking the man on our first 5km run together in training for Gun Run, and a week or two after completing Gun Run, he ran his first 15km trail run. And that was where the trail bug bit him! Since then he’s joined me on a few runs exploring Jonkershoek, Helderberg and more, slowly but surely upping his trail mileage and doing back to back long runs.

So come March 13th, he will toe the line with some of SA’s finest trail runners, regulars,  weekend warriors and other AfricanX virgins to take on the 7th edition of the ProNutro AfricanX Trailrun presented by New Balance.

My job subscription for those 3 days has not changed a bit. Get my partner to the finish line come Stage 3, and let him earn that New Balance AfricanX hoodie and medal!

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