Naomi Brand interview

Does Naomi Brand get dressed by little birds in the morning? She may look like a Disney princess, and have the same magical relationship with animals, but her eyes are on the podium, not a prince.

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Naomi Brand profile interview by Sven Musica TRAIL 24Naomi Brand has made a name for herself in trail running by winning the 2017 Addo Elephant Trail Run 100 miler, placing third overall, and beating the women’s record by over five hours.

When she’s not running, she studies Veterinary Science at Onderstepoort in Pretoria, and paints huge oils on canvas. 

She describes herself as a ‘plaasmeisie en kaalvoet Weskuskind’ and an artist. [Farm girl and barefoot West Coast child.]

Now get to know her in her own words…

Finding freedom

I used to do track and cross county during school years and road races as a Matie at Stellenbosch. I unfortunately struggled with a chronic injury for a couple of years, and only started getting back to serious running over the past two years.

Naomi Brand personal profile TRAIL 24I have been inseparable from my running shoes as long as I can remember.

Apparently I ran my first 21km with my mom when she was pregnant with me.

She jokes that I was born to run! And that paints the picture: my family consists of a bunch of crazy sport fanatics, and it has always been a huge part of my life.

Growing up on a farm only 1km from the beach also made it so easy to live out my passion for running: endless trails for just me and my dog to explore.

Since the beginning of 2017 I have also had the privilege representing NavWorld and Raidlight as an ambassador.

Running is more than just a hobby, or a coping mechanism, or something I do to stay strong and healthy.

I really believe running and exploring nature is the closest thing to freedom one can experience here on earth, and who doesn’t want to be free?

Raising Naomi Brand

My sport-obsessed family consists of my mom and dad who run our farms near Veldrif, my oldest sister Adri (a veterinarian) and middle sister Alae (a doctor on a cruise liner in America).

Naomi Brand by Sven Musica TRAIL 24My parents, Lise and André, love nature and were involved in a wide variety of sports growing up, so they wanted us to get the same exposure.

On holidays, Sundays, and afternoons they took us hiking, cycling, swimming, horse riding, canoeing, and camping. They also let me and my sisters try every sport we wanted to: gymnastics, netball, tennis, soccer, karate, hockey, athletics – you name it!

My mom helps me stay fit over the holidays by being my running buddy (I sometimes struggle to keep up!) and they drive all the way from the farm to support me at races.

One of my favourite race moments was when my whole family (even my one-year-old nephew) came to cheer me on at Ultra-trail Cape Town last year. My oldest sister sprinted the last 800m with me!

The most talented person in our family is my middle sister, Alae Brand. She’s competed in duathlon world championships, with wins all over the world, while being an excellent doctor.

Every person in my family is a go-getter. They never give up on themselves, or on me, and that is my inspiration.

We farm watermelon, and as children we used to help my parents with planting and harvesting. Planting seedlings entails walking with a tray full of plants through thick sand in sweltering heat, then bending over every couple of steps to dig a hole,  before securing the plant.

Naomi was renowned amongst the labourers for working too fast to keep up with, with no rest and no complaints. She has always been one hell of a tough cookie!

In terms if adventurous stuff, there are loads of things we would like to do together but we haven’t actually had the opportunity to share much.

We want to do a cycling trip from Hanoi to Saigon in Vietnam and also the Route Del Parques, Chile. She reckons she can run it, I would rather attempt it on MTB!

-Alae Brand

Read the full interview on page 36, TRAIL 24, for Naomi Brand’s intense brushes with wildlife, and her special relationship with her pets.

Racing goals

I would love to represent SA at the World Ultra Trail champs in 2018.

I obviously also have some unfinished business with The Munga. [Naomi had to drop out after 112km of the 400km race.]

Also want to do it for a charity this time around and raise some funds for pangolins: a species facing extinction.

Then, I am looking at a few international races, including Spartathlon in Greece in 2018, and Grand Raid Reunion in October.

The biggest is a self-created event though. I want to run around Lake Malawi and also raise funds.

I have spoken to a local charity and some of my Raidlight team members and have already started planning and getting a team together. It is due to happen in November 2018.

Naomi Brand quick facts TRAIL 24Last word

Podium schmodium. Every race you finish is a victory.

My favourite quote, from the movie Everest, is: “We don’t need competition between people. There is competition between every person and this mountain. The last word always belongs to the mountain.”

If you can conquer the mountain or trail, it’s a victory, but the mountain always wins anyway.

(That’s what my legs say after every race.)

See Naomi Brand on the cover of TRAIL 24, and read the full interview on page 36.

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