Posted by Kyle Redelinghuys in Interviews on May 10, 2015
Featured image: Sven Musica / Terra Motion
The recent South African Long Distance Championships held at the Molweni Trail Run proved to be an absolutely fantastic race for athletes and spectators alike. As with all races, there can only be one who takes the top honours, and for the men’s category it was the young Johardt Van Heerden. A big thanks to Sven Musica from TerraMotion for the images.
Many were surprised by Johardt’s win at the champs as he bested favourites Thabang Madiba and Lucky Miya and came into the finish incredibly strong. “The course was very tough, with some massive climbs and a lot of technical sections” says Johardt. “It was brilliantly organized and I want to thank Graham Daniel for treating the athletes with some magnificent trails. Also a word of appreciation for Salomon for being the main sponsor of the event. There were some magical forestry sections and the views at the top of the climbs were splendid. I couldn’t believe that we were actually in the middle of town. The scenery from the top, down the valleys really inspired me and I felt so blessed to experience nature in the way we did.”
The course was an incredibly tough 31km+ with some steeps drops and rises, as well as some magnificent vistas. The toughest part of the race was the last 10km, says Johardt. “The second part of the course is brutal on an already tired body and the mental agony of knowing that the SA title was mine, if I could just somehow keep things together. I pushed really hard on the last part and didn’t allow my body to recover on any section. It was also very hot and humid at that stage and I lost quite a bit of fluid over the last 10 km.” It was all worth it though, for the highlight of the race was “Coming into the finishing area and hearing the commentator saying my name as the new SA champion and that I’m going to represent South-Africa at World Champs in Switzerland. I felt so relieved and blessed, knowing that all the hard work finally paid off. I had goose bumps all over my body.” An absolutely incredible experience!
Johardt has stormed onto the scene, not being that widely known. Those who have seen him training and putting in the effort knew that he was a contender. On being asked how he got involved in trail running, Johardt relayed how his family had been behind him from the start. “My father was a very good athlete when he was younger and since we were small, he, alongside my mother, always encouraged us to do athletics and cross country.” says Johardt. “We were so blessed that they never pressured us to perform and we could do it for fun. I started running when I was about 6 years old and always did track and road races along with cross country. About 3 years ago at a training camp in Dullstroom I discovered my passion for trail running and realised I was much faster than guys on trails than the guys who used to be faster than me on the track and road. They encouraged me to start trail running and I haven’t looked back since.”
Having the strength and stamina to win such an incredible race against the top athletes in South Africa is a massive feat, and requires significant training. An average training week for Johardt involves “one long run, one midweek long run and three speed sessions a week. The rest is easy paced recovery runs. My training before SA champs went very well. I averaged about 140-160 km every week at high intensity and I could feel that my body was getting stronger. I always believed in high mileage and I’m fortunate that I’m not injury prone. So I knew I was fit and came to SA’s with confidence.”
As SA champ, Johardt is heading to Switzerland to represent the country in the World Champs. “I’m over the moon about it! Looking forward to represent my country. I have always dreamed of running in Europe and now it is a reality! Still have some very hard training to do before then.” Helping to get Johardt there are his amazing sponsors, “I’d like to thank 32gi as supplement sponsor for providing me with some delicious low gi energy on the trails and recovery shakes after hard sessions.”
As a final word to young aspiring athletes, Johardt says “Work hard, be prepared to hurt in training and follow your dreams. And remember that it is always too early to give up.” Very wise words from an absolutely incredible athlete! Johardt is only heading up, so keep an eye on this young man. Best of luck at World’s Johardt! I am sure you will make your country proud.