“I have lost count of the marathons I’ve done.”

“I have lost count of the marathons I’ve done.”

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Meet our Superwoman Michelle Essink, a Dutch woman living in South Africa for the past 12 years. While Michelle’s arrival in South Africa was due to a 6 month internship she needed to complete, little did she know that her journey was about to take a turn. She started running in order to prevent weight gain, however, years later her love for running grows as she achieves her goals. We caught up with Michelle to learn more about her running journey.

How and when did your love for running start?

In the Netherlands I was an active field hockey player. Starting my internship here with all the necessary braais, I realised that I needed to get some exercise to prevent going back home overweight. I started running small pieces of a couple of blocks in the city and I didn’t like it at all. When my boss joined me in the running, we were more motivated and it turned out actually quite nice. We promised ourselves to work towards doing ONE marathon to be able to tick it off our bucket lists. We did that one marathon, but I have lost count of the marathons, I only know how many ultra-marathons I have done.

What techniques do you use to motivate yourself in running?

Having one or more running partners always helps me. Especially when you have a race early on a weekend morning, I needed the pressure of a friend that you agreed to run with. You have to go because that person is waiting for you, you can’t turn around in bed telling yourself “I will do it tomorrow” (Because that doesn’t happen.).

Which races have you completed and which were your favorite?

I have done many races, especially full and half marathons, I have lost count there. The ultras are special; 6 x 2Oceans, 1 x 50km Ultra in Middelburg and 3 Comrades. The ones that I will always remember are my first 10 km, my first half and full marathon and of course my first Comrades. All of these races are special to me, but I guess the first Comrades beats it all especially for a foreigner it is a day that you can’t explain to people in your home country.

What does your typical rest day look like?

My typical rest day, is a lazy day where I read a book, walk a bit to keep the muscles moving and have my boyfriend take care of me.

What are your running goals for 2018?

For 2018 I don’t have very specific running goals. I want to look for some nice races in areas where I haven’t run before and where I can enjoy a nice scenery. Over the last year, I was a bit disappointed with some of the very busy marathons in the city. I prefer going to other areas and doing some not so busy marathons. If possible, maybe do a few in Europe, because I have never done proper races there.

How did CMIYC contribute towards your running career?

Through the CMIYC group, I have been able to run in places I would never have thought of myself and get some advice from other people. It’s great to be able to hear from others what is happening in the area and run routes that you would never run by yourself.

What is the most valued lesson you have learned during your running career?

The most important thing I have learned through running, especially in the long distances, is that it is very important that you are fit from a physical point of view, but more important that you finish (win) the race based on your mental strength. During a (ultra)marathon you have a lot of time to talk yourself down, but you need to be able to keep up the spirit. I have finished a few (ultra)marathons with strong mental strength (which you could also call stubbornness).

What advice do you have for ladies that would like to start running?

When you start running, do it with others. Make appointments on when you are running so you can’t tell yourself “I will do it tomorrow”, there is no such thing. Take it easy, and set yourself some goals, either working towards a 10km or half marathon, or even if you want to go all the way to the Comrades.

Accountability and the sense of community are some of the factors evident in Michelle’s achievements. Her mental strength and perseverance is admirable. Thank you Michelle for taking the time to share your running journey with us. We wish you all the best whilst conquering many more challenges.