Conrad on her Commonwealth marathon campaign | SASCOC - SASCOC

Conrad on her Commonwealth marathon campaign

By Mark Etheridge

Two-time national steeplechase champion Nolene Conrad is the latest female South African athlete to step up to the standard marathon distance.

First it was her steeplechase compatriot (and also national champion) Tebogo Masehla who planned a marathon challenge, which has since been put on hold through injury.

Then it was track star Mapaseka Makhanya who moved up with an emphatic statement of a sub 2hr 40min marathon at altitude earlier this year.

Now it’s Conrad’s chance.

The tiny 28-year-old, from Cape Town originally but now based in Gauteng, has Scotland on her mind, in the shape of next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

“I took the conscious decision to move away from the steeplechase at the end of my track season in June this year and challenged myself to complete the RAC Tough One 32km at the end of November,” Conrad told Road to Rio 2016 this weekend.

“The aim was to use it as a training run to see if I could deal with that distance. This would be the longest run I have ever completed (28km was the longest before then). For the month leading up to the 32km I increased my morning runs as well as increasing my quantity in my afternoon workouts. I also focused on improving my core strength and eating healthy.

“I was so impressed with my run, not only because I completed 32km but also because I felt so comfortable during my entire run and the end result was a second position; time 2:10.32. After that run I felt confident and motivated to move up my distance and make my main goal for 2014 to run a successful debut marathon in 2014.”

There was more motivating news for Conrad as she recovered from the Tough One.

“Two days after the race, I was invited to attend the Endurocad training camp in Stellenbosch. I was very excited about this because I not only got the opportunity to meet Elana Meyer, my role model, face to face, but also to learn from her.

“She is now my mentor, and I am excited to do the journey with her as she is just the inspiration I need. I believe that with her help, my coach ÔÇô Hans Saestad, and support from my friends and family I believe that I can achieve my goal.”

As for her marathon goal she will first be looking to make her debut on the international scene some time in April and she’s got her eyes on a time of 2:38.

“I would like to qualify for the Commonwealth Games in the marathon. It would also be nice if SA can send a ladies marathon team. More ladies are moving towards marathon and there are a few ladies capable of running the qualifying time. So next year will be very interesting indeed.”

Conrad won the national 3000m steeplechase championships in 2006 and earlier this year. In 2006 she made the team for the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia. Her 10km best is 34:03 this year while her half-marathon quickest is 75.47 three years ago.

There’s no doubting that she’s fully aware of the challenge awaiting her.

“Marathons are not easy and will require commitment, discipline, hard work and mental toughness. But I’m not scared to take on the challenge ÔÇô┬á I love that feeling of satisfaction, an athlete gets at the end when they have achieved their goal. Ive always wanted to run a marathon, so why not now? I always say to myself “Nolene, how will you know if you don’t try!”

She’s also hoping to be part of the Endurocad programme┬á going forward. “Elana said the athletes that will be selected will only be announced in January when they open office. The camp was very positive and informative. I left there feeling motivated as they also just pushed me in the right direction.”

Come Commonwealth 2014 and the only direction will be forward to the finish.. with 42.2km separating start from finish!