Nic De Beer has an epic trail and road running career spanning 21 years so far.
Beyond running and coaching, Nic’s heart is with those in need. When he’s not running for a podium, he’s dressed in a bear costume and running to raise money for his Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation.
He co-founded the organisation with Renata Schoeman, raising money to screen children in underprivileged schools for ADHD and other mental health problems.
You may have realised that his surname means The Bear in Dutch. We got to know this issue’s cover athlete much better in an interview. So can you…
Unusual running start
I never really had any interest in running at school. I played rugby, cricket, a bit of tennis, and squash. My real love was rugby, and I would have pursued it further.
Unfortunately that dream ended during my first year at varsity. On a weekend away, I misjudged a dive into a swimming pool and broke my neck. I was extremely lucky to walk away from the incident – it could so easily have ended with me in a wheelchair. My neck was fused surgically using a piece of my hip.
Fortunately, I don’t have any issues apart from not being able to sleep on my stomach. Oh, and don’t ask me to paint the ceiling or to go to an air show – I can’t look up for that long.
I will never know how far I could have got in rugby, but the incident pushed me onto another path where I would discover the love of running. Golf and hiking in the Drakensberg were my new ways to enjoy the outdoors.
During one of my hikes up Mont-Aux-Sources, I saw athletes running up and down the mountain (it was the weekend of Mont-Aux-Sources Challenge), and it really intrigued e. It looked like such fun, taking hiking to the next level.
Nic de Beer coaching trail running technique at the 2017 Cape Trail Clinic.
It was only a few years later that I tried my first trail run in 2009: a little six hour run in Parys. I ran it in road shoes. It just so happened that I won the race and got a pair of trail shoes as a prize.
Trail running was exciting and different. I immediately looked for the next challenge and signed up for Skyrun 100. That was still the happiest I have ever been to see a finish line – I was completely broken.
I loved the social side of running, meeting your friends on weekend races and running whilst chatting and joking.
The mix of running and golf did not allow me to get ahead. It was only when I stopped playing golf (6 handicap) and put all my focus in running, that my running improved.
Balancing tar and trail
Since then I have done many a run. I love the mix of road and trail. It keeps things interesting. I usually concentrate on road running during the first half of the year and on trail running the second half of the year. I still mix trail into my road season to keep it interesting.
I find this balance crucial to break the mundane pounding of the tar or the toughness of the trail. It helps my body and mind recover and feel excited about new challenges on a different surface.
Balance in running is as crucial as balance in life.
Nic De Beer gives back
The necessity of balance is probably why I coach, and the reason for Goldilocks and The Bear – to maintain the equilibrium between receiving and giving.
I love sharing my experiences (the reasons for succeeding and the stupidity of my mistakes) with fellow runners. I love giving back to children who really just want to be well-balanced kids, but struggle to succeed due to socio-economic factors and issues completely out of their control.
We can all do more. We can all be more grateful to have what we have, to realise how privileged we are to run on mountains, forests, and beaches.
Batman and The Bear
I like to celebrate landmarks in a special way. Batman has become my go-to guy. He is the coolest of all the superheroes. Running in a costume shows my gratitude for the longevity of my physical ability.
In 2011, I ran my 100th standard marathon, the Knysna Marathon, as Batman. In 2014, I ran my 10th Two Oceans Marathon, again as Batman.
Batman will return for my 20th Comrades in 2020.
You might have seen The Bear (alongside Goldilocks) at Day 2 of AfricanX Trailrun (2017), the Cape Cycle Tour (2018), and Cape Town Marathon (2018).
Running as The Bear is in aid of Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation. I cofounded it with Dr Renata Schoeman. The foundation is all about breaking mental health barriers to education by screening children in underprivileged schools for ADHD and other mental health problems, and getting them the necessary early intervention. We have a number of athletes that run for awareness and funds – all are welcome.
Running as Batman or the Bear is amazing. I get lots of high fives and loud cheers from adults and children.
I have scared quite a few children though, and made a few cry… I am sorry!
Find out about Nic De Beer’s plans and hopes for the future in his full interview, printed in TRAIL 29.
I have made so many wonderful friends through running: people with common interests, similar goals and dreams, people to share successes and disappointments with.
There is always someone to share a run with, always a word of encouragement, always a helping hand when you need one.
I am fortunate to have great sponsors who support me through my journey.
Running is an individual sport, but being part of such amazing teams, makes the journey so much more enriching.
KPMG, Salomon, and Tailwind Nutrition have been my family for the last couple of years and I am extremely proud and grateful to be associated with them.