Hey Queen, thank you for granting us an opportunity to profile your story on Cats Corner.

Channelle: Hey Mama, thank you for the love, I’m looking forward to the chat.

The Journey to Running

Can you tell us how your journey into running began? What inspired you to start?

Channelle: I’ve always been super sporty, involving myself in everything from hockey and touch rugby to athletics at school. But hockey stole my heart, and I even took it to the club level. Since hockey is a winter sport, I needed something to keep me moving during the off-season. A friend introduced me to Makwela who invited me to join the Vodaworld crew, and it was like finding my second family. I started running 10km races with them, and I was hooked! The spark to do even more lit up from there.

Was there a particular moment or event that made you decide to take running more seriously?

Channelle: Monster 2018, I remember this day so well, it was my first 10k Race (ask me why I would do that to myself) As we arrived at the venue, I remember Sham asking me if I was running 21km and I said “Is jy mal?!”  I remember regretting my life choice very early in that race because My Genade! Why would we want to punish ourselves with those hills? Also, it didn’t help that I am naturally a sprinter and wanted to sprint up hills, in Pretoria nogals! I was schooled very quickly.

After completing my 10k Ultra, I joined others who were stretching and chatting. Just listening to the “top runners” share their stats, unpack the route and talked about cadence and splits (sounded like gibberish to me). Their passion and dedication were infectious, and it struck a chord within me. I realized that running wasn’t just about staying fit during the off-season; it was a journey of self-discovery and pushing boundaries. That day, I made a promise to myself to take running more seriously. I started setting goals, joining more races. It became more than a sport; it turned into a way of life that constantly challenges and inspires me.

Motivation

What keeps you motivated to continue running, even on the tough days?

Channelle: I am a person attracted to good energies, and the motivation to wake up at ungodly hours comes from the comedians I run with! Guys, the Midrand Gesiggies are hilarious, you never know what to expect each day you join the run! The camaraderie and support from fellow runners are truly inspiring. Whether it’s the friendly banter during a group run, the shared smiles and high-fives at the finish, or the encouraging words from someone who understands the struggle. Even on tough days, knowing I’m part of this amazing community gives me the boost I need to keep going.

It’s also the incredible sense of accomplishment and progress. Every run, no matter how challenging, is a step forward. I’ve learned to appreciate the small victories, like beating my previous time by a few seconds or conquering a hill that used to show me flames. Seeing tangible progress keeps me driven to keep pushing my limits.

The Injury and 2023 Comrades Marathon

Can you share with us what happened leading up to the injury that affected your participation in the 2023 Comrades Marathon?

Channelle: In 2023 I was going for my 3rd Comrades; I had been part of the SkhindiGang program for 2 years and I was peak of my fitness level that year. I was looking to break my PB and shave off 55 mins from my previous run for a BR target.  Let’s just say I took the “break” literally At approximately 4.5Km an unfortunate incident happened where I (at the time) thought I sprained my right ankle due to the change in route and congestion that hit us as we turned off the highway and onto a smalla nyana passage. This caused many runners to either stop almost dead still in front of us and others coming at pace from behind. A runner coming from behind clipped my right leg from behind causing me to lose my balance and in the fear of not wanting to fall and be trampled on, I tried my best to stabilize myself, however as my right foot hit the road, a part of the road surface was repossessed, and I twisted my foot in the groot gat.

Trying not to give the feeling in my foot too much attention, I continued to forge my way ahead. I mean who comes to comrades to bow out in the early stages? And when it’s still dark nogals. I remember, running and shaking out my right leg to try get rid of the numb feeling but as soon as we hit Polly’s going down, I was met with a sharp pain from my ankle moving to my hip. I was running with Pemmy at the time, and I recall saying to her that something wasn’t right. We slowed down as I searched for something to help with the pain and all I could find was Cramp Eeze. Now look at that time, I told myself I’m going to pretend it’s a painkiller because they say the mind is powerful, right 😊 At this time Cindy called out to me and said let’s go VC, I tried but niks! I told the Queens to go, I’ll catch up and I called Malinds and asked who was floating on the route and if they had painkillers? Found Zee, took the painkillers and tried again. The pain was now intensifying. As I approached 11km mark I was so happy to see the Netcare tent, spent all of 7 minutes with the physios who strapped my leg but by then the ability to even run on the leg was gone. I decided to take a “Makhi walk” and tried to convince myself that at this pace I can still make it to Durban in 12 hours. Welele shem! I called Malinds again and this time no longer hopeful and ready to bow out, asked if there was support close to where I was and she said Namhla and Asa were at 24km, so that became my target. I hopped along which felt like an eternity mara I was going to walk until I see a familiar face supporting because there was no way I was going to sit in a Bailer bus! Never! Nooit! After what seemed like a lifetime, I found them.

How did you feel when you realized you couldn’t complete the 2023 Comrades Marathon?

Channelle: After the 11km mark I knew it was a tall ask but I tried hard to convince myself that all the sacrifices, all the early mornings, the double sessions, the lastag hill repeats, Van der Bijl and Harry was not going to be in vain. Worse is that I couldn’t even cry, I had this huge lump in my throat and every time I wanted to cry someone will shout “Gesiggie, whats wrong?” “Gesiggie, wat maak jy hier?” “Are you ok Queen?” and I just kept saying “I’ll be ok, go fetch your medal!”

Tjeeer, I was kwaad kwaad inside. Like Afrikaans Kwaad, hurt and disappointed but the long walk to freedom really helped me put things into perspective, deal with the emotions and be content with the fact that I was not going to finish this one.

What were some of the most challenging aspects of dealing with the injury?

Channelle: For many, running is an outlet to deal with the lemons that life throws at us and when you can’t do that, it sends you spiralling into a dark place. So mentally you have to be intentional about your thoughts and find alternative ways to not fall into that hole. The biggest obstacle in the recovery process was the fear of reinjury which I had to overcome.

Being a busy body, the mobility restrictions of not being able to do things for myself really challenged me to the core. Simple movements that used to be effortless became painful and frustrating.

Recovery Journey

How did you approach your recovery journey after the injury?

Channelle: When everything in me said, you can run, I decided to trust the process. I became a coachable adult My Bio was very intentional about delaying my return to the skontiri (also she scares me) and we started from ground zero, STRENGTH. We all know runners don’t like that word. This was so frustrating, I mean I know how to run, I should just be able to get back into it right? I sang a little Hallelujah when I was cleared to start some moderate running only for Coach Sthe to burst my bubble with grass training. Here I am thinking I’m back on the road with my peoples, kanti he had other ideas, I was already feeling isolated and now I must run alone on grass! Haai [Enter my fav word here]

Back then I thought they just wanted to torture me, but I appreciate and understand the process now even more. Patience, dedication and trust got me to where I am today.

How did you stay mentally strong and positive during your recovery?

Channelle: As soon as I was able to navigate the outdoors with my crutches and moonboot, I got back onto the streets supporting. It made me feel a little closer to my peoples and really helped navigate the dark emotions.

Documenting my journey also helped a lot, because when you are in the situation it’s difficult to notice the small milestones that are achieved. It would give me comfort watching the progress because at times I did not see it.

Journey to Comrades Marathon 2024

What changes have you made in your training in preparation for the 2024 Comrades Marathon?

Channelle: The biggest change was listening to my body. When the body was tired, I unapologetically rested. I was already joining the training way behind my training buddies, and I was not going to try and compete with them. So, I stayed in my lane, did what I needed to when I needed to. My main focus was spending quality time with the road because my longest distance since the injury in 2023 was 37kms before my qualifier this year. So, I made sure that long runs were never missed.

Driving Force and Life Changes

What has been the driving force behind your determination to return to the Comrades Marathon in 2024?

Channelle: I had a colorful cloud hanging over my head which I just couldn’t let go of my heart wanted to go back and finish the Big C.  I needed to just finish this one to gain back my running confidence.

How has your life changed since the 2023 Comrades Marathon, both personally and as a runner?

Channelle: Personally, I have developed a newfound appreciation for the simple things. We wake up every day and assume that we will always be able to see, walk, touch, hear and when the very thing we take for granted no longer works or you are not able to use it, it’s only then when we realize the magnitude of its function. When I got injured, I couldn’t even do simple things like bath/shower.

What advice would you give to other runners facing similar setbacks?

Channelle: Patience, there are no shortcuts to full recovery. Build the basics, take the time to heal properly and remain disciplined even in times where it gets really frustrating. Looking back, the slow buildup was the best thing I could have done for my recovery.

Looking into Comrades 2024

What were your goals for the 2024 Comrades Marathon?

Channelle: This year all I really wanted to achieve was a finish, a medal whichever that may be. Everything in me wanted to cross the finish line within time.

Beyond the Comrades Marathon, what other aspirations do you have in your running career?

Channelle: For now, I just want to enjoy going back to running with no pressure, the ability to greet everyone and vosho at all the waterpoints.

My name is Channelle Van Wyk, and I am a comeback, Queen.