Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Elana Meyer: not just a runner, an inspiration

An exclusive interview with South African former long-distance runner and Olympic medalist

Francois Pienaar and Elana Meyer
Africa’s first city marathon will be held from Saturday 20 to Sunday 21 September 2014. Managed by a partnership between Western Province Athletics (WPA), the City of Cape Town and ASEM Running, and endorsed by two South African sporting legends, Elana Meyer and Francois Pienaar, the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon carries a three-year ambition to become one of the World Marathon Majors, alongside New York City, Berlin, London, Chicago, Boston and Tokyo.

The classic 42.2km marathon is the centre-piece of a festival of running through Africa’s Mother City that includes a 10km Peace Run, a 5km Fun Run, trail runs in the Table Mountain National Park, a team-building relay and Prestige Mile Races. Everyone is welcome to enter any of the beautifully scenic races from world elite athletes, to club and non-club runners, wheelchair racers, casual joggers, social runners and walkers.

We had the honour and the privilege of speaking to Elana Meyer, a former long-distance runner and Olympic silver medallist at the 1992 Summer Olympics in the 10 000m event. She also set the 15km road running African record of 46:57 minutes in November 1991 in Cape Town. 

This year, she returns to The Mother City as an ambassador of the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. She gave us great insight into the preparation process before a long-distance event, and how to deal with the ups and downs during and after a marathon.

Interview with Elana Meyer: Part 1
Preparation for a long-distance race

Elana Meyer
What is your daily training routine?

Currently, I'm not training like a professional like many years ago. If I take part in an event now, a biking or a running event, it's usually linked to a cause or a purpose. I will usually do it as a fund raiser or an awareness campaign. The reason I still run is because I still love it. For me it's a great stress reliever, so when I quickly go for a run I always feel a lot better, I feel like I have lots of energy. So it's still part of my life. It's for very different reasons, but it's still very much part of who I am and how I operate.

When would be the best time to go running? A lot of people say it's better to run in the morning, while others say afternoons are better. What do you recommend?

It depends very much on the person. You get morning people and you get night owls. Personally, I love starting my day with a run. The day is just so much better when I've been out in nature, breathing some fresh air and getting a run early in the morning. But I think if you're an evening person, it's often really hard to get up in the morning. If you're a morning person, I would recommend go out first thing in the morning. If you're not, I think most people still enjoy it when they're eventually up and got on their shoes and get out the door. Work with what works for you.

What kind of diet would you recommend to follow for long-distance runners?

I think it's important to have a healthy diet that includes everything. I don't follow a very rigid diet, but I have a healthy lifestyle which includes a healthy diet. I eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. I eat protein with almost every meal. So rather go for a choice of diet that is healthy and sustainable. 

I'm not very pro trying different diets. If you are in a position that you need to lose weight, it is something that you can temporarily follow, but it's much better to have a healthy diet that you can sustain and that you enjoy, and not have too many rules.

How do you stay healthy while training in the winter, with colds and flu going around?

It's again the same. When you have a healthy lifestyle and you exercise, you're less vulnerable to getting sick because your immune system is certainly stronger.

How would mentally prepare for a long distance run?

There are a few little things you can do to be better mentally prepared and the one is to 'stay in the moment’. Every single run that you do is about staying in the moment. When you start the race and find you think about the end of the race, you often lose the opportunity because it's less the race in the moment. By staying in the moment, you do the things that you have to do now to be able to execute a better race. Concentrate on rhythmic style and on good breathing. Focus on the things you can do, rather than the things that you can’t do.

Look out for Part 2 of this exclusive interview with 
Elana Meyer 
on Friday 5 September 2014.

Cape Town City Hall

For more information on the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon, visit

Compiled by Andrea Vermaak

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