Nolene Conrad is a seven time National Champion who has been making a big name for herself in the running community. She has won numerous races in South Africa, including the Two Oceans Half Marathon, and has represented South Africa at a number of international running events.
Coming from a humble background in Bishop Lavis, just outside the Cape Flats in Cape Town, Nolene spent much of her childhood surrounded by poverty, drugs and violence. She was also diagnosed with chronic asthma as a child. Despite the odds, Nolene found her stride in the running community and has been doing amazing things ever since.
We caught up with Nolene to hear about her remarkable story and running career.
We know your start to running was quite different to many others. Tell us how your running journey started.
I was diagnosed with Chronic Asthma at the age of 13 years old. I was in and out of hospital and my condition was getting progressively worse as I got older. Then I had a near death experience at age 16, where I ended up spending a week in hospital. On my last day the doctor advised me to take up running or swimming and said it would be my only chance to outgrow the asthma and live to see my 21st birthday.
What are your running PB’s?
What do you consider to be your biggest running achievement?
Achieving gold Label status at the World Half Marathon Championships in 2018. Gold Label status is the highest accolade assigned by International Athletics to elite athletes. On that day I ran a big 21.1km PB of 71:44 and it was also my highest international placing – position 25. Many of the big International races need gold label athletes for their race to obtain its status as well. So as a gold label athlete you are paid appearance fees, have all expenses covered and treated literally like royalty. The status only lasted me a year as they changed the label status in 2019.
What drives you to keep pushing for success in your running and career?
I have a strong inner drive and I’m motivated by my dream to represent South Africa at the Olympic Games. Setting goals and achieving them gives me so much satisfaction and makes me feel like I can achieve anything.
Coming from a tough background, I promised myself that I never want to suffer like that again. I was always driven to create a better life for myself and my family and to do that I knew I had to go the extra mile, make the best of my opportunities and make the necessary sacrifices.
I also want to be an inspiration for the people in my community. To show them that it is possible to achieve success and create a better life for yourself regardless of your circumstances. To give them hope and testify to the benefits of the sport.
What have you been doing to stay motivated during the pandemic?
I have been focusing on strength training, strengthening my weak muscles and improving my running form and I’ve been doing my rehab program at Sports Science in Cape Town. I’m an experienced athlete that has overcome many injuries, so I believe that I am resilient and have not had any problems staying motivated during lockdown. My goals have just shifted to next year and I’m working towards those goals.
I also focused on other areas and was actually very busy during this lockdown. I work as an athlete manager at Endurocad and have been working throughout the lockdown. Part of my job was to motivate and educate the young athletes on the program through this tough period.
I also started a food relief project for athletes in need which brought purpose to my life and made me realise how blessed I am. So I realised that I have a platform to help those in need.
Lastly I started my own online coaching business, Coaching with Care, 3 months ago which has picked up and I find great joy in helping others to achieve their goals.
Any plans to one day tackle the Comrades Marathon?
Not any time soon, no. I want to run as fast as I possibly can over the marathon. I would like to run under 2h30 for the marathon and under 70 for half marathon. I aim to achieve international success.
What would be your biggest training tip for other runners?
Listen to your body! The ability to listen and manage your body is a skill that you need to learn to master as it is critical for success in running. It applies both for training and racing. By bashing hard sessions on tired legs, you can cause injuries and that would lead to inconsistent training.
Improvement happens when you are consistent with your training, so your aim should be to stay injury-free. So take all the measures to ensure you stay injury free- foam roll after workouts, get regular massages , don’t ignore niggles.
You can follow Nolene on social media or check out her website www.noleneconrad.co.za.
Facebook – @noleneconrad.co.za
Instagram – @nolene_conrad
Twitter – @conrad_nolene