Running

Real athletes don’t diet

By Ann Ashworth

Diet is not equivalent to nutrition
Diet, as in what an athlete eats day to day, has to be up there with one of the most frequently asked questions of any elite athlete. Followers and fans want to know if what an elite athlete eats, is the secret to their success. And it is, at the very least, a contributory factor.

Having said that, it is important to distinguish between a “diet” as the running public understand it: a list of do’s and don’ts as to what should be on your plate (or in your back pocket while training); versus the kind of readily available foods which offer your body the nutrients they require to perform at its best (or, to function optimally). Because there is difference.

You may choose to follow the banting diet plan, a low-carb, high fat diet that excludes all grains, added sugars, vegetable and seed oils, and any foods containing gluten, or similarly the Atkins diet. Another diet popular amongst active individuals is the paleo diet comprising about 20% carbohydrate (more than Banting), 40% fats and 40% protein and which similarly excludes sugars, grains, processed foods and legumes. Also popular is the practice of intermittent fasting where food intake is limited to a set window period during the day. In each instance, the goal of the diet is to “lose weight” (or, most frequently belly fat), gain muscle mass and/or improve your overall health.

Counterintuitively, each diet claims to be the only way to reach these goals successfully.
What you will find, however, is that the vast majority of successful athletes, and particularly elite athletes, follow what your Mum would have described as a “balanced diet”; a moderate mix of everything fresh, coloured and readily available. Whole foods, namely naturally grown and free from hydrogenated fats, artificial colourings/flavours and preservatives, are a stable in any athlete’s diet. Combine these with complex carbohydrates such as brown and wild rice, quinoa, potatoes, maize and other staples, as well as hormone-free proteins and you will have everything you need to sustain the activities in which you hope to achieve.


But, if you diet… and by that I mean follow a restricted regime of do’s and don’ts, count your calories and tailor your nutrition intake to the ideals of say, a supermodel… your performance will suffer. If not immediately then certainly within the medium to long term. There’s a reason why models while lean and lithe, aren’t likely to set any land-speed records over your favourite race distances; because they don’t fuel for performance, they fuel for appearance. And there’s a difference. Of course there are outliers, as there are with everything; that person who tells you the reason why they are suddenly looking so good or running so well is because of some new-fangled diet regime. Maybe whatever they are doing is
working for them, right now. Get back to me in 12 to 18 months and let me know if they were able to sustain those performance gains because, chances are, they will not. Or if they do, their diet probably won’t be as strict as it was when they first started and it will have moved closer to something more balanced… which is exactly what a diet should be.

Let’s also recognize that before “going on” or starting a particular regime, a person’s diet may not have been particularly good and may have contained a high proportion of fatty, sugary or highly processed foods. Their decision to start a new eating regime must have been motivated by something – usually a desire to eat better, to feel better and to lose excess weight. In that case, moving toward any kind of eating plan which incorporates fresh foods, of whatever nature and in whatever proportion, is going to be better for them than the diet they previously followed.

I have previously followed a high-protein, low-carbohydrate and almost fat-free diet in the pursuit of sporting excellence. And for a while it seemed that I had found the key. I was strong and lean and running faster times than I could have previously imagined. But as time progressed, my body started to fail me. By excluding certain foods from my diet and limiting my intake of others, I unknowingly started to deprive my body of essential nutrients which it required to keep me healthy. In the absence of essential fatty acids I stopped being able to generate certain hormones and chemicals required for everyday life. Without adequate carbohydrate my body didn’t have sufficient fuel for me to complete my training sessions or to facilitate recovery afterwards. Slowly but surely my body entered a state of chronic calorie deficit, my performance suffered and I started to break down; all the while filling my plate with loads of low-calorie, high protein food. Eventually I developed a condition known as RED-S – Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport.

It took me almost 2 years to recover from RED-S. It involved me taking a serious look at my diet and working together with one of South Africa’s most knowledgeable sports-focused dietitians. Within a few weeks of committing to a balanced diet, I finally felt like my old self. And better yet, I look far better than my old self – my hair has grown instead of falling out; my muscles are strong and lean. I can concentrate on what I am supposed to be doing instead of being easily distracted and half asleep. My sense of humour has returned and I don’t feel weirdly emotional for no reason. I’m back to being Ann… and my performance hasn’t suffered.


And so, in response to the question: do I follow a specific diet? I offer the following response: “My Mother always said that a little bit of what you fancy does you the world of good”.

I eat whatever is fresh and readily available, limiting my intake of highly processed, sugary and fatty foods, with the following core principles in mind:

  1. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially if you train beforehand. Make sure you include a healthy dose of lean protein (at least 25g) and complex carbohydrate to keep you fueled for the day ahead. Always choose a 3-egg omelet and sourdough bread over cereal or toast with jam.
  2. It is imperative that you fuel for recovery. This means taking in at least 25g of lean protein post-workout. If you train before breakfast – incorporate your protein into breakfast. If you train later in the day, make sure you are slugging down a recovery protein shake with 30 minutes of your training session. No excuses.
  3. Women must eat within 30 minutes of waking up. This reduces your “fat-storing” hormones and ensures you start the day on the right foot. Think about a rusk, a small banana or a smoothie which you can get down pre-morning run.
  4. Life should be colourful – include a wide variety of fruit and vegetables into your diet.
  5. Don’t be afraid of carbohydrates – they fuel your performance. But, if you do want to manage your weight (particularly as you get older), eat vegetable-based carbs at night (butternut, potato, corn) as opposed to grains or pasta.

2021 PDAC 25km

Siba Tyu

It is true that sometimes in life it’s the unexpected that will bring you true joy.  Here is my story of how I got to run the Pinetown & District Athletics Club’s 25km race. 

Friday 16 April 2021

It was a normal Friday afternoon at the office where I was wrapping up my work and looking forward to the usual 21km weekend long run the next day. Little did I know that I was in for a wonderful surprise.  Gerald, a fellow Stella Star had unfortunately encountered an injury and offered me his entry to run the PDAC 25 which was taking place on Sunday 18th April 2021.  I accepted with extreme excitement.  We contacted the race organisers and the Event Timing staff to arrange for the change of details.  I must say that I was very impressed with how efficient, polite and helpful they were.  By the time I left the office, I had received all the emails and an sms confirming my participation at the race.

Saturday 17 April 2021

Saturday morning I woke up and drove up to Lahee Park in Pinetown to collect the race pack and goodie bag.  Lahee Park is where we were to find the finish line of the race the next morning.  I had never taken part in this race before, and up until Saturday morning I had never set foot at Lahee Park before either.  This for me was unknown territory.   I had hoped to have time to drive along the route on Saturday, but I struggled to find someone to accompany me who knew the race route at such short notice. 

It was now Saturday afternoon, and to sum it all up to this point, 24 Hours ago I did not even know that I’d be running this race, and 24 Hours from now I’ll be running the race without knowing the route.  It was at this point that the good old race jitters set in.  It has been over a year since one had to carry out the “Night before race prep”.  One by one I ticked the items off the preparation list, starting with the kit, nutrition, transport, alarm clock and all the way down to the last but very important cup of coffee before the race.  I was also fortunate to have a last minute chat with a few Stella Stars about the race, race profile and their previous experience. This proved to be very valuable for me on race day.

Race Day: Sunday 18 April 2021

My alarm clock worked as advertised and I got up in time, had my cup of coffee and started my 30 minute drive to Watercrest Mall.  The song on repeat for this drive was Adele – When we were young.  Now I know what you’re thinking, but let me just say that the song gets me going, ok. J

The atmosphere at the start line and waiting area was nothing short of electrifying.  As we drove into the mall, one could see the road closure signs, cones and the red and white tape.  After such a long, difficult year of the pandemic it suddenly dawned on me that this race is actually happening. This was exciting.  Apart from a handful of runners who were doing their warm up drills outside, the rest used the isles inside the mall as a waiting area as the temperature outside was reported to be around 12 degrees Celsius. 

Everyone was so happy, friendly and greeting with big smiles. I was excited to be part of this race, not only because it was a first of many post the pandemic, but also because this was my first official race as a Stella Athletics Club member.  It felt good to see other Stella Stars in their kit and to wish each other well for the race.  

At exactly 05:30 the air horn went off and the race began.  The early start was definitely advantageous as this allowed us all more time to cover some ground before sunrise.  The advice I had received from my fellow club mates came in handy right at this point.  As advised, I ran the first 5 km gently as it was gradually climbing from the start line towards Hillcrest, and I held back on the pace once I was on the downhills.  I believe that this approach definitely spared me from possible injury and allowed me to enjoy the race in its entirety.

I had also been made aware of the two (2) hills that I was to face approximately 3 km from the finish line.  Armed with this knowledge, I reserved 10 to 20% of my effort throughout the race so that I would have enough energy to summit these hills.  I was happy to find that the strategy worked out as planned.  When I approached the hills, I gave it my all and manage to climb both hills without walking.  In fact, I ran the whole race without stopping once for a walk to recover.  After the climb, only 2km remained.  Running into the stadium and seeing the finish line always gives one that extra push and a burst of energy.  And just like that, the race was done.

One thing that was unusual and clearly notable was the absence of crowds of spectators and other athletes post-race. 

Runners were instructed to wear their masks after crossing the finish line and also were encouraged not to hang around at the stadium so as to observe the Covid-19 regulations. 

I am glad that many did observe these regulations, and do truly hope and believe that this race and the way it was organised will open doors for many more sporting events to come.  I finished the race at a time of 02:14:59.  I have set a sub 2 goal for this race for next year and would definitely recommend it to any runner to come and experience it for themselves. 

Happy Running.

Road Captain Rants

Its hard to believe we are in the second quarter of another crazy year. With lockdown restrictions lifting, we have been able to start running as a club again. This has been such a bonus to us as we can safely mingle and encourage each other along.

There has been a steady flow of people joining in on the runs, and we have tried to be a bit more creative, especially on our Saturday runs, where we have run at various locations for a change of scenery, and they have been well supported. Gerald van Wyk has joined the road captaincy team and it has been beneficial to all of us with some new meanders happening. Kevin Hendrikse will definitely get the title of “King of the Mountains” as you are guaranteed of a challenging route when he leads! So, between the team, we try and add to the running experience and cater for all to the best of our ability. We welcome any suggestions or tips, as we try make your training experience a
pleasurable one.

Winter is fast approaching, and we have seen a definite change in times with the sun disappearing earlier in the evenings or rising later in the mornings. The roads are not always well lit, so it is vitally important that we are visible to traffic. MIB’s (Men in Black) might look cool and have a slimming effect but it does not help in the dark where you become incognito! “Bright sparks” is the name of the game – wear light, white or bright luminous colours that make you stick out like a sore thumb. Lights on your head or shoes or safety belts are a good investment.

Running the pavements these days has also become a challenge with trenches been dug and rubble on the sidewalks. Please be careful as we are forced to use the roadsides. Single file when traffic approaches and if necessary, stop to allow cars to go past. Not all road users are considerate, so be aware of vehicles at all times. Just this week a cyclist was taken down by a speeding vehicle. We do not need casualties.

With not many races on the calendar, we have tried to have a few longer runs planned to keep us motivated. Comrades are having their virtual run again, and we will train towards this as a club. The options for a 45k, 21 and shorter will be made available and we will work towards having Stella ready by 13th June!

Keep plodding, keep moving! Running is amazing therapy with multiple benefits!


Running in the heat of Singapore

Hello fellow runners, my name is Marie Griffiths. I’m married to Steve and we have two daughters – Casey aged 16 and Jodi 14. With Steve being given an opportunity to work in Singapore, we moved in July 2018.

I joined Stella around 2001 after meeting Steve in 2000. He was a “well seasoned” runner and had been a member of Stella since 1995. We ran countless time trials, races, Marathons and Ultra Marathons proudly for Stella. Even after we moved house from Morningside to Kloof, we chose not to change clubs. Our hearts have always belonged to Stella. Steve and I ran Comrades and Two Oceans together in 2009.

Moving to Singapore was a very exciting time for us. We holidayed here as a family in 2016 before we moved and really enjoyed it. Steve travelled here for work over 50 times before we moved, so Singapore was like a second home to him.

Experiencing life in Asia is very different. Singapore has a strong influence of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Westerners, making for a mix of traditions and local customs. We recently celebrated the lunar Chinese New Year – 2021 is the Year of the OX. Gong Xi Fa Cai (pronounced gong she fa tsai) means Happy New Year in chinese.

This diversity of culture is also reflected in the many languages spoken here, including English, Mandarin Chinese, Malay, and Tamil. Casey and Jodi are studying Mandarin Chinese at school and both really enjoying the challenge. 

With a population of 6 million, Singapore is a small Country/City/Island, measuring 50 km from East to West and 27 km from North to South, with nearly 200 km of coastline. Despite its density and many high-rises, Singapore has an active greening policy, which has covered the island with tropical plants, paths and parks which makes it a pleasure for running. Some running highlights include waterfront running around the beautiful Marina Bay area, the extensive East and West coast parks along the ocean, the iconic Gardens by the Bay, the Mac Ritchie Reservoir and the Bukit Timah Reserve. With the sun rising around 7am and setting at 7pm all year round, many of Singapore’s running spots are well lit. The crime rate is low, so running alone at night or early morning is not a concern at all. Singapore’s location close to the equator makes for the hot, humid and tropical climate with occasional thunderstorms which cool things down…slightly.

Singapore has an excellent public transportation system. The best way to get around is the MRT system (which is a combination of trains, subways, and light rail) and the local buses. Taxis are more expensive but very convenient and available at any hour. We don’t have a car.

My first introduction to running in the ‘heat of Singapore’ was running the “Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon” in Dec 2016. I was training for my 9th consecutive Two Oceans the following April and when I found out the Singapore Marathon was being held the weekend we were visiting Singapore I thought it would be a great training run while sightseeing at the same time. 

I was very wrong ! The heat & humidity was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I walked more than expected, taking photo’s of the early morning city lights and eventually the sunrise to pass the km’s while I cooled down and sorted my head out. The marathon started at 4.30am to beat the heat (ha ha). I finished the race with my feet squelching with sweat in my shoes.

Similar to most overseas races, your time only starts and stops when you cross the start & finish line mats. There isn’t a big running club scene here like there is in SA and you don’t have to be part of a club to enter a race, so majority of the runners race in the race vest provided in your race pack. You do however see elite runners either racing or training as groups in club kit.

We get top quality race backpacks and vests which are part of your entry fee as well as a “finishers” T at the finish. The cut is tailored slightly differently for men and woman which is great so it’s not a one size fits all. Coke is not supplied along the route, only cups of 100 plus isotonic drink and water. To be honest, I’m not a great fan of running races here. I find them boring. There are very few spectators along the route to cheer you on (the races are held so early before the sun rises), you don’t know any of the other runners to chat with along with way, most have headphones so they wouldn’t hear you anyway and its dark so you don’t even get to enjoy the sights.

With nearly 3 years having passed since we moved here, my body has definitely acclimatised to the heat. The temperature gets up to between 37-40 deg C at certain parts of year,  so running in a vest instead of a t-shirt is a must ! Drinking water with sachets of rehydrate, wearing a cap and sunblock is a necessity. Unfortunately I have experienced severe dehydration which was not great so I am now very careful with keeping my electrolytes stable. After the marathon experience, the only distances I have entered have been 10 & 21k races. Further than 21 is just not enjoyable in this heat no matter how fit you are.

Park Runs however are very enjoyable and well attended. They are held every Sat morning at 7.30am in 4 different locations on the island. Steve and I ran our very first Park Run soon after we moved here.

Similar to the rest of the world though – due to COVID, parkrun’s and all road races have been cancelled. The only races available now are virtual. They are free to enter (unless you want to purchase the race t-shirt which gets posted to you).

These are great as you get motivated by entering the race and they can be run when and where it suits you within the specified date period. I enjoy running on my own so these suit me. I have just finished a 168km’s in 21 days race. I tackled it by running 8k’s each day. It was a huge challenge especially in this heat, but I felt really proud of myself for completing it.

When I’m not running virtual races, I tend to stick to 3-4 runs a week of about 5-8kms each run. This seems to keep me fit, keep my mind free but also not deplete me.

My daughters and I also entered and ran the virtual Comrades race last year. They ran 5k each and I ran 10. Comrades was such a big part of our lives when we lived in SA, so we felt proud to be participating in this virtual race. Unfortunately Steve was recovering from a hip replacement operation so he was unable to run with us, but he enjoyed cheering us on outside our house as we ran past.

In closing I would like to thank Sandy for asking me to share my story about our life and running in Singapore. I have really enjoyed reading all the expat stories and look forward to reading new ones too.

To all our Stella friends, we miss our time trial evenings/braai nights and send you all our love.

Yours in running

Marie

For The Love of Running

When you love running as much as I do, it is very difficult to rein yourself in when you need to!

2019 was where it all came together. I had completed the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon as well as the Cape Town Marathon, which was a highlight in my running career.  I had achieved two massive goals and nothing could go wrong….or so I thought!!!  At the end of that 2019 year I was enjoying a training run, a week prior to the DHS 10km. After the run I could feel a niggle in my right knee but didn’t want to overthink it although it didn’t seem to want to go away. 

The day of the DHS 10km arrived, I was still sore. My wife said rest, 10km is not worth an injury,  BUT I had to run. So off I went and unfortunately near the end as I entered the Crusaders ground my knee locked and it was over.  After lots of rest the swelling subsided but I still couldn’t run. I went to my specialist and had an MRI scan which confirmed I needed an op. 

It was a slow, long haul that for me felt like forever. All I wanted to do was hit the road but even a walk was too much.  After many motivational talks on my wife’s part, I listened and rested, took it slow and thankfully Stella began a beginners group which I started running with. It was the best thing I could have done.  It kept me in check and helped regain the strength I needed to finally get back to where I needed to be, to run again without pain. 

The moral of my long story is like running a marathon you need a plan, strength and endurance and this will help you get to the finish line, but life seems to throw curve balls all the time and you need a plan, strength and endurance to get through it as I had to do to get over my injury.  Always listen to your body, respect it and rest it when need be, for the love of running!

  – Gerald Van Wyk

Running in the Cayman Islands

After moving to Durban in 2018 I never imagined that a simple “Running Clubs Near Me” google search would lead me to such an amazing club. I felt very welcome and enjoyed every run – meeting new people almost every week and learning from the array of experienced runners the club had and still has at its disposal. I joined the club having never run more than 10kms and grew to a point where I was ready to enter for the 2020 Comrades Marathon. I loved the Gillies Saturday run and the morning weekday runs, with one of my highlights being getting the crown on the “Avenues” segment (sorry Tawanda!).

At the end of 2020 I moved to the sunny and tropical shores of the Cayman Islands. And being a running enthusiast, I had already bought my running gear and researched the running routes and races. After 2 weeks of quarantine I was ready to do my first run on the island – which turned out to be super hard as the heat and humidity was unbearable. I could not run more than 4kms. My second run was a disaster too; as after a wrong turn I found myself jogging on beach sand. I had to cancel my run and salvage whatever was left of my calves and quads.

As time passed by, I quickly climatized to the humidity and got familiar with the routes, and my runs got a lot better. I had to strategically position my runs either between 5 – 7AM or 6 – 8PM; hydrate constantly; and I was advised that I need to carry an electrolyte drink for all runs longer than an hour – and because of the sweating I was more susceptible to chafing. At the end of January, I laced up my trainers for a half marathon which I enjoyed – and I hope to do many more in this new territory.

There is a large running community on the island which made the runner in me settle in pretty quickly. I do however miss the “Go Stella” cheers from strangers during a race, and the relief you get when you see the club tent at the finish line. I hope that one day I can realize my dream of completing the Comrades in the Stella colours.

~ Mandla Mkhize

Catching up with the Greens

Dear Stella Family,

We arrived to a freezing cold London on the 10th of January having left a scorching hot Durban in our shorts and slops. We flew over Doha and a change of clothes was definitely required to be ready for the UK weather. We were collected by our taxi and dropped off at our friend’s home in London. Luckily we arrived before the UK government had introduced the new hotel quarantine regulations and therefore we had to isolate in our property for 10 days before we could go out and about. Luckily our friend’s had left an old exercise bike in the shed which we managed to revive and found some spinning class videos on YouTube. 

Needless to say, we were very excited to get out and about after our 10 day isolation. The UK is still under a hard lockdown so only essential shops are open i.e. grocery stores. No hairdressers unfortunately, but we could still get our tipple of choice.

Alistair’s Experience

I ventured out for my first run and I think the neighbours must have thought I had lost my marbles as I took off down the road in my South African flag print Funky Pants.  My second run was quite the experience as it started to sleet and then snow quite heavily when I was still 5 km’s from home. By the time I got back to the house there was a thick blanket of snow. I arrived home to the gleeful screeches of our two boys throwing snowballs at one another. I can also confirm that road running shoes are definitely not the right foot gear for snow running, it was a very slippery run home. 

Petra’s Experience

Running in the cold is definitely something to get used to, and coming from SA we had absolutely no gear to keep us warm. My first run out was in 0 degrees and I remember getting home and not being able to feel my legs or toes from the cold. I’ve had to layer up with as much as I can and use buffs around my head to keep my ears warm, but it still takes a good few km’s just to feel your hands and toes. Dodging the sneaky black ice has also been quite the experience and I’ve had a few near misses. It is safe to say that I will never complain about running in heat and humidity again!  

Running on my own has taken some getting used to and a really miss all the laughs, chit chats and motivation that comes with running in a group. We have both noticed what an effect heat has on your running ability/speed. Having taken about 30 seconds/km off our normal running time and it is definitely not down to fitness. Running is also really safe as there are sidewalks along all the roads so it is very rare that you need to run on the road. 

We’ve had some great runs through parks and open spaces and have enjoyed the change of scenery. However, we get quite homesick when seeing the routes and pictures being shared on the Stella WhatsApp groups and Strava. We miss those early morning sunrises along the Durban promenade and the coffee after our morning runs, but particularly miss the camaraderie that Stella had and how it brought people from all walks of life, ages and ethnic groups together! 

We look forward to joining a running club over here once the lockdown eases but it will be very difficult to match the many special friendships and bonds made over the years at Stella. 

Life of an Expat – Cindy Haddad

Grüezi Stella Stars!

The waaaaay I miss you guys…

For the love of running I agreed to write something in the hope that my story will inspire some of you who might be struggling physically or mentally and also just to give a glimpse of what it´s like running in different conditions.

Now an Expat living in Switzerland, I maintain my Proudly South African status with pride.  I must say, as much as it is a privilege to experience different countries and cultures, and it being a crucial factor to opening ones eyes and seeing the world from a different perspective, “you will never really truly have a sense of home until you leave home” – Unknown.  I have no greater pride than when I tell the Swiss about my country and our people. Having said that, the process of leaving my country was gut wrenching and although it gets a little easier every day, there are still days filled with emptiness and no sense of belonging and this is where my running gets me through every time!

Zechariah 4:10

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.

I wanted to put this verse in because I think about it every time I feel that my insignificant 2k walk or seriously slow 10k run just to keep going is not going to amount to anything, I remind myself that it all ads up and as long as I keep going, then I am doing better than nothing.

So far my greatest achievement is that I have kept going.

Honestly, I have not done a lot of running since I arrived in Switzerland but enough to be able to share with you about some of my challenges, adjustments, and experiences.

Since I arrived in Switzerland in Summer, the temperatures were not a problem, but the change in altitude humbled me in the beginning to say the least. I knew there would be challenges adjusting to the higher altitude, but I did not know what to expect physically.

Interlaken is located some 566m above sea level compared to Durban´s 8m. That is a significant difference in altitude to adjust to. My first couple of runs was uncomfortable. I experienced altitude sickness for the first time, with symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, and headaches.  Needless-to-say, I had to ease into it. It didn´t take long, but I just started with brisk walking and shorter, slower runs to strengthen my lungs and re-regulate my breathing. Once I adjusted to these conditions, running became a pleasure again. 

Then came my first Winter…I had been dreading it to be honest, not knowing what to expect physically and I worried about loosing fitness, thinking I would probably not run as regularly as what I am used to. And I didn´t, but again I eased into it slowly. 

I clearly did not have suitable gear for below zero temperatures. Until I could figure out what fabrics they use to combat the Winter bite, this is what I wore:

Long tights and sweatpants over that, a vest, long sleeve running shirt, a sweater, and a jacket, 3 pairs of socks (rather toit), gloves, a beanie, and a neck buff. My eyes watered from the sting of the cold air, although it is possible that I was crying, and my nose ran faster than me.  I still have no idea how I actually managed to run with all that clothing on. Also, running on snow and ice has been both scary and funny when you don´t have the correct footwear.  Finding shoes and grips suitable for icy conditions are crucial to prevent injury.  I have since adjusted quite well to the weather conditions and acquired suitable running gear which makes a big difference.  Now I love running in Winter.

I never minded running on my own but when I became part of the Stella family, I grew quite fond of training with my comrades and when I got to Switzerland I had to run alone and I still do for now. No, I can´t run with my Husband because I can´t keep up 😊 Being part of Stella made a big difference in my life and to my running. There are running clubs in the bigger towns and cities, but where we are, most people are pretty much each to their own. Perhaps I will start a little group when Aunty Rona gives us the thumbs up.

So, we keep going…because we are Stella Stars!!!

#stellaforlife

Winter running in Switzerland

by Alex Hadad

The title sounds great, the scenery is fantastic but getting out the front door remains a Durbanites biggest challenge. Running in winter is not for the faint hearted. I understand why many people prefer treadmills when temperatures fall below zero.

However, once you on the road, it can be one of the most rewarding experiences. Running alongside the rivers and lakes, between the snowcapped mountains is all worth it.

For winter running, some of the challenges include:

  1. Getting your layers right! It’s easy to pile on layers based on temperatures but what we need to consider is our bodies running temperature. Rule of thumb is normally add 10 degrees to accommodate your bodies temperature.
  2. Wearing the correct shoes, especially in icy conditions is critical. Specific winter shoes with special treads are available. We have invested in wrap around studs for icy conditions. However, get it wrong with your footing and you can potentially land on your ass!
  3. Running strides shorten due to slippery conditions. Balance is essential and looking at every step you take to ensure footing is secure.
  4. Hydration even in cold conditions. All the water fountains we use in summer are frozen or closed. We need to know where water is along the routes or have the option to run with a backpack.
  5. All the extras: beany or balaclava/buff, gloves and wind jacket. Be prepared for changing conditions.
  6. Understanding your body and performance. Bodies require more oxygen in colder conditions, but it’s also important to “read” your body and know how your lungs and muscles react to the colder conditions.

So, what makes running in winter special? Without a doubt the snow. There’s something magical about embracing a run in the cold and on snow.

Also having fresh snowflakes fall on your face is worth all the effort to get out and go for a run.

Running in winter tests your will power.  Without a doubt it takes plenty willpower to get out but once you on the road, it all systems go.

However, you cannot let the weather get to you, otherwise it can easily turn in a 3-4 month break.

What do we miss? Without the Stella and KZN runners. It’s not the same without the friendships and banter on the road. Generally, people don’t run in big groups. So its plenty solo running here.

What the 2021 plan? Hopefully races will happen this year. Plan to run Zurich marathon in April and then our local race, the Jungfrau marathon in September. For this one, it requires a lot hill training. The second half has crazy elevation changes. Total elevation gain is around 1’800m.

Last words? We live in challenging times. No matter where we are in the world, plenty uncertainty remains. Mental health is critical. So, let’s support and encourage each other. Whether your run or walk, get on the road and release those endorphins. Let’s come out of this pandemic stronger!

Life of an Expat – Darren Smith

by Darren Smith

I ran with Stella for 9 years before moving to Brisbane, Australia in 2019. My running career with Stella included 6 Comrades medals ( 2 Bill Rowans ), 2 Ultra marathons, 22 Marathons.

Starting running in a new country without a running club has been challenging. Being involved in a club gives you the support and the momentum to keep pushing your self and staying committed. This is where the challenge has come in as I struggled to keep my momentum going without anyone to keep me accountable. Needless to say I miss everyone at Stella.

I did give a running club a try here but the way the club works and the club culture was not the same. I am still open to trying other clubs here and always keep an eye open for others. However in the recent year I found a running in partner and used the time during Covid to work on our running as all gyms were closed. This was the boost and time I needed to build my motivation and my running fitness.

I’ve managed to improve my speed, fitness and found a routine that works for me. On a weekly basis I run 3-4 times a week and aim to reach 40kms a week. Thank you to my stella friends who have encouraged and supported me from a far.