“You don’t have to think about anything other than putting one foot in front of the other.”

“You don’t have to think about anything other than putting one foot in front of the other.”

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Meet our Leader Marissa Griesel. Researcher, animal lover and outdoor enthusiast with a keen passion for running. While her interest lies in trail running, Marissa does not shy away from the road, completing her first Comrades Marathon in June this year. We caught up with Marissa to learn more about her running journey.

Why did you start running?

I started my journey to becoming healthier and running regularly with earnest about 6 years ago when we moved to Johannesburg from a small town. My husband was working away for 3 weeks at a time and I got terribly depressed. I won’t bore you with all the darkness, but most notably to others, I was tipping the scale at a whopping 96kg. One day, after a lot of soul searching and sadness, I realised that I was the only one who could get myself out of that place. To force myself to get out of the house, I joined a local gym and started one of that couch to 5k running programmes. It was really slow going and I have to admit I hated running on the treadmill in the gym. Eventually I got up the courage to try a trail run and the bug bit hard! I was hooked to running little winding single track and exploring places I would never otherwise have seen.

Running connects the body and the mind. What were your happiest and most painful moments?

Happiest moment: The moment that got me hooked to running was in a local trail race in 2015. At about the 15km mark, we ran up the Magaliesburg ridge on a steep little path, pretty much crawling up on all fours. When I turned around to see where my husband was behind me, I was greeted with probably the most breath-taking view that I have ever seen. One of those that is so vast and open and big that you feel about the size of an ant. I think I finished dead last in that race, but when I close my eyes, I can still feel that serene gratefulness. Other highlights include the morning after Mont Aux Sources 50km trail run, my first ever ultra, when I woke up, sore and stiff, but feeling very badass for completing a tough as nails mountain run. Waking up the morning after Comrades 2018 had the same sort of badass swagger.

Most painful moment physically: The last 20km of Comrades 2018, Eish!

What do you think about as you run?

On a trail run – How NOT TO FACEPLANT! That’s part of the reason I love it, you don’t have to think about anything other than putting one foot in front of the other.

On a road run – I tend to count my blessings. I use the time to sort of meditate on everything and everyone who are near and dear to me. Plus food, I think about what I am going to eat after the run a LOT!

How do you manage your passion for running and your work & (family) life?

It isn’t always easy, but my family understand how important it is to me to have this therapy. My husband is a rockstar supporter and always waiting at the finish line with a cold drink and a warm smile. I also run early morning before the family wake up and the work day starts.

What do you do to motivate yourself?

We are so fortunate in South Africa to have amazing trail running opportunities, so my bucket list of races is a mile long. I also use clothes and how they fit to motivate a generally healthy lifestyle.

How do you prepare for a big race?

I like to train on similar terrain to what I know the race will cover. So, for instance for Mont Aux Sources we ran every single uphill we could find and did a lot of work on technical downhills because the race is basically split into 25km of climbing up to Monties and 25km of downhill scrambling. The same for road races. Then I like to make sure that my gear is ready to go and that I have all of the compulsory kit ready a few days in advance. Nothing new on race day!

Why did you become a CMIYC Leader?

I started running with the Roodepoort CMIYC group to just get out and meet new people. At that point there wasn’t a trail group at all and the Roodepoort group were focused on shorter runs. I love sharing my passion for running with others so decided to apply to create the trail group and to give the Roodepoort ladies an option for longer runs.

What do you love about being a CMIYC Leader?

I simply LOVE that moment when a lady has reached a milestone, however small it might be, and realise that they are actually pretty capable and awesome. Being part of that moment fills my spirit with joy.

What is your next big running goal?

I would like to improve my speed over all distances and am looking forward to my first trail stage race in August (the Kashan Quest 50km). Later in the year I also hope to improve my time for a road marathon at Kaapsehoop.

What impact does CMIYC have on you?

I have not only become a more consistent and dedicated runner but have also built true and rewarding friendships.

What is your favourite experience with CMIYC?

Our Superwoman Run in February was a huge highlight for me!

What do you think is the biggest misconception about running?

Especially in South Africa, the misconception exists that you HAVE to always aim at going further. A 5k needs to lead to a 10k needs to lead to a marathon, etc. In my opinion, running a really good 5km race takes just as much dedication and training and is worth just as many kudos!

What is the most valued lesson you have learned as a female runner?

That we have absolutely no reason to stand back for the men. Sure, they might be physically stronger or faster, but when it comes down to the wire and your back is against the wall, my money is on female guts, determination and attitude. Every female runner has the amazing ability to say “f*ck it” and just keep going.

What advice would you give other women that want to start running?

Don’t think for a second that your pace isn’t good enough to join a CMIYC group run or that you aren’t fit enough or don’t have the right kit or whatever. Just show up! We are all in this together.

Thank you Marissa for taking the time to share your running journey with us. We are grateful to have you as a CMIYC Leader!