Annalise was on the cover of TRAIL 34. This interview was on pages 44-46.
I started running at the tender age of five following in my remarkable mom’s footsteps.
Growing up in Patensie, I remember running for hours, covering every available dirt road, singletrack, and farm. My parents, Deon and Beatrice, were extremely supportive and I always had whatever I needed, whether we could afford it or not.
They never missed a race and my mom did not even miss one training session. My mom recorded every single race on a video camera. I have about 10 hours’ worth of footage where I’m running as a child. I didn’t realise how much my parents did for me then, and I am forever thankful.
Taking a break
Running was all I knew for a very long time. I ran competitively from a very young age and raced nationally well into my high school years. Until I woke up one day with no idea why I was doing it, and what I enjoy about running.
At the age of 16, with 11 years of competitive running behind me, I could not answer those two questions, so I stopped running… I threw my takkies to the back of my cupboard and explored a different side of life.
I could have a December holiday on the beach with friends, and not at a summer training camp in a hostel; Saturday morning lie-ins versus 5am track sessions; cinema with friends (as I actually could stay awake after 8pm).
Life flew by. I traveled the world and had so much fun. I lived in Cape Town for four years and didn’t once set foot on a trail…
I moved back to PE to be closer to my mom and sister, Emily, when my brothers, Sutherland and Pöhl, confirmed they were staying in the USA permanently.
Pieces fall back into place
This is when I met my husband Juan. We got married, and I finally settled down.
I had everything I ever dreamed of! It was amazing, but something was missing… Then I dusted off a pair of running shoes (which must have been in my cupboard for over a decade) and went for a run. It only took one run and I was hooked again.
Annalise becomes an accidental champion
I knew what was missing in my life and why I wanted to run. Everything made sense. I started training consistently in 2017, two and a half years after my second daughter’s birth.
I am the worst under peer pressure, which is how I ended up running my first ultra. I entered the 2018 Addo Elephant Trail Run 44km, but all my friends where doing the 76km. I decided to upgrade, and that was my first ultra.
It also happened to be the SA Ultra Champs, where my podium finish secured me a spot to the World Ultra Trail Championships in Spain. To say that I was thrown into the deep end was an understatement!
Not long after that, my crazy friends started planning their first 100 miler. Before I knew it, I had an Addo 100 mail in my inbox. If my friends are
doing it then so am I! Can’t miss out on the action…
Training for these events is the best part. Credit to my best friend, most loyal supporter, and now also my coach – Kelly Freeth. She and her hubby Paul make a powerhouse team, and I have endless love for them.
Juan and I had our girls quite close together, just under two years apart. With the birth of our second daughter, Kara, everything fell to pieces.
She was born with a congenital heart disease (transposition of the great arteries) and had to undergo open heart surgery in Cape Town at nine days old.
No one picked anything up in our baby scans or checkups, and no one on either side of our families has any history of anything like it – and yet it happened.
This is a big part of what has shaped me into the person I am today. Kara has shown unbeatable grit and determination to live. Countless times we had to fight for her. When I couldn’t anymore, my husband had my back. She never ever stopped fighting to have one more day to live. Her heart stopped twice, once during the operation and once straight after the operation, but she fought and made it through both times. The result was complications and damage to her heart muscles.
Doctors gave her six months to live. She turned six this year. She is still in a state of cardiac failure and on chronic medication, but you wouldn’t
know it if you were lucky enough to meet her.
She is a little miracle. Whatever the future holds for her and for us as a family, I am grateful for this journey and cannot imagine my life any other way.
I was a smoker for about 10 years. I stopped voluntarily when I met my husband. He has always been a non-smoker.
I also consumed way too much alcohol, especially when living in Cape Town as a non-runner.
I am not very proud of the person I was back then but I do believe it has assisted me in realising and appreciating what is truly important in life. I now know why I am and always will be a runner, why I love it so much and how extremely far I have come from that person to where I am today!
Full time juggler
The hardest part of being an endurance athlete is finding enough time. I have to juggle my full-time job, my husband and girls, training, time for my husband to run, and looking after my body with proper recovery.
Most of my days start at 4:30am and finish at about 10pm. On weekends I try to accommodate my family, so I get up to train really early so I can be back and spend time with them.
It’s not always easy to do a 50km training run, then spend quality time with my girls, but I will do whatever it takes.
I don’t feel like I’ll ever need to choose between any of this, but hopefully someday I will be able to catch up on some sleep!
Take on training
Because I have such a demanding lifestyle, I need to train within what my body allows. If I had a hectic week at work, or one of the kiddies are sick at home and I get even less sleep, my training needs to adapt.
I have also found if I keep pushing through stressful times I either get sick or injured. I get better results when I am kind to my body, this is not always easy when you know you have a 100 miler lurking around the corner.
I do cross-training once a week as a rest day from running. I do core training, weights, or plyometrics.
My weeks will chop and change 10 times a day as my life happens and weather changes, but I mainly train by myself at ridiculous hours. On Fridays I rest completely, spend time with my family, and get my body ready for bigger mileage on the weekends.
I ran barefoot until age 16 and loved it. I haven’t tried it again, but had no problems when I dropped from 10mm shoes to 3mm shoes. I’m positive if I wanted to do track again I would be fine barefoot.
Why I do it
What have I learned from taking an 18-year break from running? It’s never too late to start running again.
Health and mobility are not a given. Whatever you do, do it for the right reasons, and do it with passion.
I just love to run. I have no other reasons for why I do what I do: pure love and passion for this sport!
Annalise’s interview was first published in TRAIL 34.
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