Make the Race Happen
In 1992, South African long-distance runner Elana Meyer made Olympic history with her iconic Olympic 10,000-m race against Ethiopian runner Derartu Tulu – but few realise that Meyer first had to make that race happen through hard work and determination. During the race, it was Meyer who made the first break that ignited this contest and turned it into one of the most memorable moments in Olympic history. She did so because in her world, you don’t wait for that perfect moment – you make it happen. “You’ll have so few chances in life where you get that perfect moment to execute something amazing. You have to take that brave step and just do it. I made that race. I made the move. I didn’t walk away with a gold medal, but it meant gold to me. I believe you have to make things happen. You must be the rainmaker.”
With the launch of Endurocad in 2013, her running academy focused on developing distance athletes, Meyer is being every bit “the rainmaker”.
Meyer believes that South African athletics is underperforming at distance level. “Currently our sprinters are doing well, but traditionally we had a wealth of distance runners winning big city marathons and Olympic marathons. But we’re going through a drought in that now. We launched Endurocad to specifically focus on the development of middle and marathon athletes.”
This year, Endurocad hosted its first highperformance assessment camp.
“We invited 20 girls from across the country and tested them physiologically and psychologically. It was a phenomenal camp. I believe there is a generation of 15-, 16-, 17-year-olds that want to do well, and I’m looking forward to seeing them mature. They’ve got a strong will and it’s about ensuring that they stay in the system and mature as senior athletes.
“We’ve had talented young girls before, but somehow they fall through the cracks before they mature into senior athletes.
“I believe we have the calibre of women athletes in this country to really do well on the international level. We’ll probably only see the fruits of this investment in four to eight years.”
But Meyer goes on to say that within three years she’s already seen the difference in performances. “In 2012, there were only three women running Olympic qualifying times in the marathon, but last year for Rio we had eight. It’s moving in the right direction, but I think we’re still a long way from where we should be.”
Meyer steers clear of mentioning any specific names, but she looks forward to celebrating South African distance runners in the future. “Hopefully by 2020, I’ll be sitting in the stands cheering young South African women on who came through our system.”
For Meyer, the support systems around these young athletes are key to their development. “In the current era, a lot of our runners run for survival rather than excellence. We need to make sure our athletes have their basic needs covered so that they can run for excellence. You can’t focus on the financial reward. I believe the financial reward will come when you achieve excellence.
“Being a distance runner you need to put in a good seven to 10 years to reap the rewards. So when you make decisions based purely on the financial gain, you will not last long.”
Meyer’s own career is another key lesson for any young athlete. “I often find that youngsters are scared to be the outstanding performer and are scared to fail, so they often just stay in this safe zone because then they’re like everybody else. The gift I was given by my parents was never to be scared to try things. As coaches, that’s the greatest gift we can give our young athletes – the space to try everything to the fullest of their ability. Be brave, be bold, and try.”
Make something happen. Make the race happen.