The health benefits, scenery, friendships and camaraderie…almost every long-distance runner will tell you that when the running bug bites, you’re hooked! And most South African runners believe that completing the Comrades Marathon is the ultimate ‘runner’s high’. Ballito paediatrician Dr Janine Goes is about to take on her third Comrades marathon.
You have to be ready to participate in the Comrades Marathon. Both physically and mentally. “When you get to around the 60km mark it becomes a head game,” says Janine. “You hit some real lows and you just have to push through and tell yourself you will feel better.”
A member of Ballito’s Dolphin Coast Striders running club, Janine is fit, focussed and ready to take on the ‘ultimate human race’ for the third time. Whether it’s on the road or on the trails, she is absolutely passionate about running. But it’s a passion she only discovered a little later in life, having only run her first 21km race less than 10 years ago at the age of 45.
Like with most runners, once she’d done a 21km, Janine wanted to do a full marathon . . . and then the bug had bitten. Since then she has completed six Two Ocean’s marathons, two Comrades Marathons and countless half and full marathons as well as multi-day trail runs.
Despite always having been naturally athletic at school, Janine found little time for sport while studying medicine at Wits. After 12 years of studies (qualifying as a paediatrician), Janine went into private practice almost immediately, which meant working long hours and limited time for sleep or exercise. Janine and her husband Guy moved to Richards Bay in 1994. “I was very unfit and decided to start swimming during my lunch break. After that I joined the local gym and started running 3km to 5km on the treadmill during lunch.”
Janine registered for her first 21km race, the Mondi 21km, in 2010. “My goal was to finish in an hour and 50 minutes, but by 16km I was tired and ready to pull out. I met up with two Comrades runners on the route and they pulled me through. And that was where it all started,” she laughs.
Janine and Guy moved to Ballito in 2012 and she started working part-time with Professor van Niekerk at the Alberlito Hospital. She did her first marathon, the PMB Marathon, in 2013 and finished her first Two Oceans ultramarathon in the same year. The very next year Janine completed her first Comrades. “I met a few members of the Dolphin running club on one of my training runs and they encouraged me to join them. Before I knew it, they had convinced me to do Comrades,” she laughs. “I started too fast and was hurting by 25km and wanted to pull out. I have no idea how, but somehow, I managed to finish my first Comrades.”
Janine suffered a stress fracture in her pelvis in 2015 and had to stop running for six months. Soon after starting up again, she injured her hamstring tendon. “I completed the Two Oceans in 2016, but it was very painful, and when I attempted the Comrades in 2017, I had to pull out at 47km. It was devastating.”
After a long recovery and much cross training, Janine was able to do Comrades last year and says it was one of the best runs of her life. “I know it sounds strange, but I absolutely loved every minute of the race. I felt strong and in control and finished with a fellow Dolphin, which made it even more special.”
Janine stepped away from medicine at the end of last year, giving her more time to focus on her training. Janine’s current weekly training programme includes cross training (swimming and cycling) as well as speed, track and hill work and one long run a week.
While she thinks this year may be her last Comrades run, Janine has set herself a goal of completing 10 Two Oceans’ (four more to go), and is also aiming to do the Iron Man in 2020.