AT A GLANCE
After a sudden collapse at home one Saturday morning in 1987 I decided to quit smoking. I will never forget the fear etched on my then toddler daughter’s (Fatima) face trying to revive me. I started running to avoid the inevitable weight gain. My first run was a disaster, I ran for about a km and I had to walk home. Over the next few months I slowly increased the distance and then I ran a few 6Km and 8Km Fun Runs (very popular in those days).
Later that year I ran my first official race, the Penny Lane 10Km, in the colours of Defence. I got to the start line rather apprehensive, kitted out in my new gear and analogue watch. The race started and I kept telling myself I must not finish last. I completed the race in a time of 38:54, feeling very sorry for myself not knowing that it was actually a very good time. What happened in the following year was quite amazing, 10Km – 37:45, 15Km – 58:20, 21Km – 1:24:35, 30Km – 2:09:35 and 42Km – 3:10:45.
During a routine check-up in 1989 my physician picked up a murmur in my heart beat and after a few tests I was diagnosed as having “Aortic Incompetence”. Simply put, it means that my aortic valve allows some blood to return to the heart after it has been pumped and it has to work twice as hard to deliver the same volume as a normal one. I was advised by my physician to take it easy while running as heart failure could result, not what I wanted to hear. Now that I could not make a career out of running it was time to look at alternatives.
I was stuck in a career that was not going anywhere and four small kids at home. I registered to study Mechanical Engineering part time to improve my future prospects. With working, studying part time and four small kids vying for my attention I sadly had to quit running. Soon after graduating I landed a dream job which afforded me the opportunity to grow. I could now focus on my running again.
It was in the mid 1990’s that I started again. It was a very slow process and I got reasonably close to where I was before, 10Km – 43:00, 15Km – 1:08:00, 21Km – 1:32:00 and 42Km – 3:25:00.
Then, in 2003 disaster struck….! After being reduced to walking with the aid of a walking stick a MRI scan revealed a tumour in my spinal canal which was causing pressure on my Sciatic nerve resulting in the severe pain in my legs. After a six hour operation and another six weeks of recovery I was told by the doctors that I could not run again, but rather to walk. Being a runner, this was a bitter pill to swallow but I diligently followed the doctor’s orders for a few years until I was encouraged by Hassiem and Zaid to try running again.
Looking back, as I approach my 60th Birthday this year….would I do it again? ….. in a heartbeat. I am now in a career that I absolutely love and I am running again albeit at a much slower pace. Now, with my retirement looming on the horizon, I could possibly invest more time into my running and, who knows…..?
My advice to all the newbies… “Don’t be too hasty to get to the Ultras…….Enjoy the ride”.
Amien Pietersen - July 2015