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Conrad’s comeback gathers momentum with cross-country win
- Updated: February 3, 2015
It’s been almost a year since she won a race but Nolene Conrad is back with a bang after winning the eight-kilometre title at the national cross-country trials in Kagiso, Gauteng at the weekend.
The tiny former SA steeplechase champion turned marathoner clocked 28min 57sec in the eight-kilometre race after taking the gap on the second of four laps as Algeria’s Amina Bettiche took the runners-up slot 12 seconds later.
Conrad won the SA 10km championships in February last year and then picked up an injury five months later that has saw her sidelined from running in its entirety for six weeks. It’s only now that she is picking up the pieces and now the first places.
‘This win meant so much to me,’ Conrad told Road to Rio 2016 after her victory. ‘Especially because, with my injury, I missed out on the SA cross-country championships in George. So what I did was focus on my core and strength training to get my form back and I can tell you that nothing makes you appreciate running as much as not being able to run!’
The injury meant that during the festive season Conrad had to exchange Christmas cake for kilometres on the road.
‘I was training every single day, building up my mileage and also attended a training camp in Johannesburg with mostly school athletes from my training group. At the camp I discovered my fitness was picking up nicely and I had a good chance of winning the trials.’
Like so many other top athletes Conrad can’t afford the luxury of being a full-time athlete. So she has to juggle job and jogging at Vorento High School where she is a teacher. The school were named School Sport Team of the year at last year’s SA Sports awards which made Conrad even prouder of the fact that she was part of the school.
‘I teach social science, life orientation and creative arts and this year I’ve got added responsibilities as I’m also the hurdles coach, athletics co-ordinator and hockey manger so the last few weeks before trials have been tough, to say the least.’
Conrad is also boxing clever and using her ‘disadvantage’ when compared to full-time athletes as a spurring on factor.
‘It just pushes me to be better and to work harder to be successful cos running is not just a job to me but it’s what I love and enjoy doing and that drives in every other aspect of my life. I try to be positive and work around it. Like they say, where there’s a will there’s a way.’
So what big plans does little Conrad have for 2015? ‘In the first half of the year I want to do well at World Cross-Country Championships in China late next month. This year I don’t want to run for the experience, I have enough now! So I want to race hard and do well as an international athlete.
‘So I’m aiming for a top 20 place at world’s. I also want to run a few races here in SA and work at getting some fast times over 10 and 21.1km and get the IAAF standard.
‘And I want to run my second marathon in May.’ Her marathon debut came in Hannover, Germany last year where she ran a 2:54.
‘I’ll miss out on the first SPAR ladies’ race in Cape Town (my favourite race of the series) because of the world cross-country champs so I’ll have to make up in the other four races but I’m looking forward to having a great SA season,’ she concluded.