Running. Just the thought of it makes some of us cringe. But when life almost knocked Michelle Damand down, she laced up some running shoes and started to run. And now there’s no stopping her.
Surprisingly, Michelle Damand has never been the sporty type. To take up running never even crossed her mind. But struggling with self-confidence and just feeling down and out with life, she’d had enough, and when word got around that a new running club opened, she thought she had nothing to lose.
She joined the club as a rookie, hoping to meet new people, get fit and maybe build up a little self-confidence. Well, she got just that … and so much more.
‘As I went running more often, my love for the sport slowly started to develop. Two years and a couple of months later, my self-confidence has skyrocketed and I’ve even lost weight. Bonus right! Nowadays I feel like a completely different person. From being shy and quiet, forever hiding in the background, I now feel alive, not like I’m just existing.’
It wasn’t always easy, Michelle admits. ‘When I just started, it did cross my mind a few times to give up. And I still get those days when quitting seems appealing. But I’ve learnt that the key to your running success is to keep showing up and try just one more time. The hardest part about running is actually getting out of the door.
‘So whenever I feel a bit defeated, especially during a race, I tell myself to just keep running, just keep running … but in Dory’s voice from Finding Nemo!’
Michelle has run the Two Oceans Half Marathon – which in retrospect ‘might’ve been a tad bit too ambitious. I missed the three-hour cut-off time by two minutes and came back home without a medal. But this only ignited my passion and the real work only started then. I’ve done the RAC 20 Miler virtual race and loads of charity and smaller races. I’m not really in a league to run competitively, I do it for fun and the health benefits … but, I am planning to run the Comrades within a few years.’
Her latest goal is to run three consecutive half marathons early this month, all in order to raise funds for a non-profit foundation, ILoveBoobies. She’s an ambassador for the foundation, which provides free breast cancer screenings to underprivileged women in some of the most rural communities in the country. These screenings assist in early detection and can lead to effective treatment and a positive prognosis.
And Michelle is really going the extra mile to give it her all. Her running coach, Evan Coetzee, has worked out a training program and uhm … let’s just say, we’re already out of breath.
‘Some weeks I run up to 80km for the week. Other weeks the distance to cover is less. My week consist of six running days and then also strength training sessions. Weekends mostly consists of a long run like 24km and a shorter run on Sunday.
‘Yes, it takes discipline and a lot of your time. But it is worth every second. If I raise enough money to screen just one woman and possibly make a life-changing difference in her life, then my purpose would be fulfilled.’
When Michelle is not running, she works as a tax practitioner and writes stories about the runners in her club – Run Zone West Rand – on her blog Running Together.
Well, Michelle, we’ll be cheering you along. And you can too … get involved or donate to Michelle’s campaign by heading over to givengain.com/activist/280764/ or follow her on Facebook and Insta, @michelledamand, and read her blog onrunningtogetherdotblog.wordpress.com
ILoveBoobies will also host a virtual race on October 23 and 24 in aid of breast cancer awareness, where you can choose to run, walk, cycle or swim.
Running 101 with Michelle:
Running tips you wish someone told you:
• Tell your friends and family that you’re taking part in an event or started running as a hobby. This then becomes a talking point and will keep the pressure on you to keep the running going.
• Not all runners are fast – runners come in all different shapes, sizes and speeds. Try not to compare yourself to others.
• Invest in a really good pair of running shoes. You’ll thank me later.
• Rest days are essential to building up fitness and allowing increased muscle strength.
Seven things you should never ask a runner:
• How far is your marathon?
• Did you win your race this weekend?
• You paid how much for those running shoes?!
• So … are you fast hmm?
• I guess you can eat anything you want?
• Didn’t you just run yesterday?
• Isn’t running bad for your knees?
Five reasons why you should take up running:
• It is one of the best forms of exercise for your overall health. From better sleep to a stronger heart and improved mental health, the benefits are extensive.
• It can boost your mood, that’s because it increases blood flow and the release of feel-good chemicals like dopamine and endorphins to your brain, which helps fight stress.
• Running provides the opportunity to meet new people, by finding a running buddy or joining a local running club.
• It is versatile and somewhat inexpensive. You require very little equipment and it can be done almost anywhere.
• Best reason … it can help with weight loss when combined with a good eating plan.
Text: RIALIEN FURSTENBERG. • Photographer: HILDA MANS. • Make-up & hair: ANTOINETTE DE BEER. Dress: LeChic Closet by Heidie. Flowers and styling: ANINE STRYDOM, CULTIV8 BOUTIQUE VENUE