Count your blessings

Not even a career-ending injury could stop one of our country’s foremost runners, René Kalmer, from hanging up her running shoes. Instead of making a run for it, she rose to the challenge. Now she’s lacing up her shoes again and doing what she loves most. To run.

A SPAR Women’s Virtual Challenge ambassador, René Kalmer has been at the forefront of road running in our country for many years. She’s a two-time Olympian, done a jaw-dropping 75 Spar Women’s Challenges – and won 28 of them. Added to that, she has won more than 40 South African titles in her competitive career, from junior to senior level.
A few years ago, setting her sights on her third appearance at the Olympics, she failed to qualify. To say she was devastated is putting it mildly. Could it be due to the lingering hip injury that had been haunting her for quite some time? René bit the bullet, saw a specialist and received more devasting news – she was facing a career-ending hip injury. Before that, she faced many different injuries but always returned back to the track. So this time will be no different. Refusing to give up, she got a second opinion.

“I was so relieved when an orthopaedic surgeon finally discovered that I had a labrum tear in my hip … something surgery could repair. Two weeks post-surgery, I actually discovered that I was pregnant with our daughter – and had been before the op. Goes to show that God sure had bigger and better plans for me in mind. Having missed the Olympics, my gold medal was Karli.”

And motherhood suits René perfectly. She and her husband Andre, who is a more relaxed runner, by the way, are parents to loving-to-sleep-in five-year old Karli and early riser and outdoor lover, eighteen-month old Ivan. Both kids keep them on their toes, in the best possible way.

“Having kids is surely a game-changer. Goodbye afternoon naps! My days as a shopaholic are also long gone. Haha. But I wouldn’t want it any other way. Of all my titles, motherhood is my all-time favourite. We all know with running you’re only as good as your last race, but according to my kids I’m the world’s best mom and they think I’m wonderful every day, so it really changed my outlook on everything.

“As an athlete, you can be selfish and also very hard on yourself, and over the last couple of years I have found gratitude and appreciation for the things I have achieved in the past.”
In between running anything between eight and 32 km daily, René is also a mentor at the Murray and Roberts Vorentoe Running Academy, which assist 50 talented athletes from disadvantaged communities. They not only provide the children with a quality school education at Vorentoe High School, but also give them every opportunity to maximise their running potential. She’s also constantly on the search for pre-loved running shoes for the athletes.

Right now, she is amped to paint the streets blue with fellow runners for the SPAR Virtual Challenge.

“I was 13 years old when I did my first SPAR Women’s Challenge. Today I’m 41. What I love the most about this race are the special friendships I’ve made over the past three decades. It has allowed me to travel our beautiful country to run the different races … PE, Durban, Pretoria, Joburg and Cape Town. I will shift my focus back to marathon running next year and maybe do an ultra or two.”

Does she ever get too tired to run, or need some motivation to lace up her shoes to hit the road? Apparently not as she will “never be able to outrun her joy of running. It is my drug of choice, my therapy sesh and my happy hour. Running will humble you and remind you both of your fragility and your strength. One moment you’ll feel like a speed queen and the next you’ll be completely out of ‘fuel’. Running challenges your will, but it also rewards you with an endurance that will see you through life’s toughest times.”

With that being said, it’s time to dust off those tekkies lying long forgotten in the cupboard. Check you on the road René!

Image by Willem Botha.

The 2022 SPAR Women’s Virtual Challenge has chosen the theme #IRise … reborn, re-energised, refreshed and refilled. They’re challenging you to rise above your challenges, struggles and obstacles that block your path. A virtual challenge is a fitness goal that tasks you to run, jog, or walk your own race, at your own pace. Anyone can participate and it can be completed at any location. Join in on Saturday, September 3, anytime between 6am and 6pm. You’ll need to enter (don’t waste time … entries are limited to 60 000), and your entry fee of R120 includes your Virtual Challenge pack, and for every entry, SPAR will donate a pack of sanitary pads to help keep a girl in school. The Virtual Challenge pack includes a beautiful T-shirt (T-shirt sizes are limited to specific regions and to inventory availability), a gorgeous matching buff, a drawstring bag, a printed copy of the My Virtual Challenge Magazine and your medal. Details and entries:

Carrot cake overnight oats – Great to have before a race!
You’ll need: ½ cup rolled oats; 1 cup almond milk or milk of your choice; ½ cup plain yoghurt; ½ cup almonds, walnuts or pecan nuts; ¼ cup chia seeds; ½ teaspoon cinnamon; 1 small apple, grated; ½ cup carrots, grated
How to:
Combine all the ingredients in a medium-size bowl with a lid. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Stir the mixture the next morning. You can add some more milk to get the desired texture.
Drizzle with some honey and enjoy!

René’s tips for a successful SPAR Women’s Virtual Challenge:
Plan your route Decide if you want to run or walk a fast flat course or if you are up for the challenge of adding some hills to the mix. It is your route race! You can use apps like Stravia or MapMyRun to help you find existing running routes in your area. I can highly recommend Delta Park or the Emmerentia Botanical Gardens if you are looking to go off-road with your virtual challenge.
Pick your tribe Arrange with fellow running friends or with your colleagues to run together. You can also check out the Run Zone Athletics Club Facebook page for more deets closer to the challenge. They are huge supporters of the Spar Virtual Challenge. I will probably join them on race day too. They offer clearly marked routes with waterpoints.
Be safe Always run on the right side of the road, facing oncoming traffic. Avoid desolated areas. Don’t run with headphones or cell phones that are visible to passers-by.
Have fun This is your race so have fun with the planning, the prepping and race day itself. And enjoy the day with your friends on race day.
Don’t forget to wear sunscreen!


Main image: • Dress: CARRIES