On interview: Ambassador Virgulle Steenkamp on how to reignite a love for runningThe Social Media Company
On-running.com recently conducted an interview with London-based musician and design student, Eleanor Dunlop. After growing apart from running due to developing an unhealthy association with the sport, Dunlop’s love for taking to the road was reignited during the lockdown brought about by COVID-19.
On South Africa decided to send the same questions to some of our On Ambassadors, to gauge how someone who has grown out of the habit can again find the initial spark that led them to running in the first place, and how the lockdown has affected that relationship.
On Ambassador, Virgulle Steenkamp, told us his story.
When and how did you discover running?
It all started in 2007 and was by fluke. A colleague invite me to a 10km run, but I did not know they entered for the 5km. Well, I completed the run. Then they persuaded me to join their running club, and I also ran my first Comrades – and the rest is history.
What brought you back into running?
I stopped running in 2010 due to my career path. In 2013, I decided to get back into running because I was living an unhealthy lifestyle and was afraid that the current lifestyle would be the cause of me dying. I gradually started to participate in all sorts of outdoor events.
Can you remember your first run or big run milestone?
It’s most certainly the Bronkhorstspruit 32km in 2007. I had only run a 10km prior to that event, and I did not know what to expect and had to dig deep – not knowing that my friends had a secret bet among themselves that I would do the Comrades that year. Looking back at that 32km, I think it was the run which started my running career.
What does running mean to you?
Running, for me, is a way of escaping from stress, and I love that it challenges me and allows me to push myself. I like to always work hard to be the best version of myself, and try and improve myself.
Is running a constant in your life?
Oh, absolutely, I don’t think I go a week without running. Running has shown me that determination, hard work, consistency and passion will get you far, whether it is in work, sport or exams. People may say I’m crazy, going out running all the time – why not go for a beer instead? But life is about finding your passion and purpose, and going for a run is mine.
What do you think about when you are running?
It might sound like a cliché, but I am constantly thinking of innovative ways to make running attractive to others.
What effect has the pandemic had; how did your relationship with running change in 2020?
Not being able to travel and run with large groups of runners was my the main negative impact on me. My goal for 2020 was to do races in neighbouring and international countries. However, I stayed positive and had some interesting runs which I creatively orchestrated, such as the “curfew run”, “10km on 3hr”, “400km challenge”, etc.
Do you have a set schedule each week?
Yes, I do, but it is based on the challenge I created and then train for.
Do you ever find it hard to get out there?
There are times when it feels that what I am doing is not worth it, but I always remind myself that there is somebody out there who is watching what I am doing. I believe that I am a role model to many, even though I might not be in contact with them. When I hit a wall and feel negative, that is what drives me.
How does running help the rest of your life?
If you have a passion for something, you will make it work. Despite the hard things life has thrown at me, I know running has opened up the path to my purpose. I have a huge number of friends that I have inspired, and I have helped people to get fit and healthy. Running is a huge mood booster and it is probably the best antidepressant around.
What would you say to someone new to running or sport?
Be patient, because it’s not an event, it’s a lifestyle.
What did you fall in love with: running or winning (if you are competitive)?
Running is like a drug, I can’t just go a week without it. There is a need for a fix every day.
Do you still get the same buzz, now that running has switched from a hobby to professional ambition or from elite level to hobby?
I get goosebumps every time I see a couch-to-runner client cross the finish line, or if a client accomplishes the goal which we set out to achieve. Don’t even talk about when I give that last war speech to my client before a big event – yes, I do shed a tear.
What does your typical run look like?
Some warm-up drills before I start the run, followed by a comfortable start-off, usually far off from perceived max effort. I do a gradual transition from there to a perceived max effort, or the desired zone, then a cool-down run to complete the distance. I recently introduced a 1km walk after my runs.
How does running help with other areas of your life?
We’re always conscious of what we’re trying to do, and that is to run goal pace. Too many people just run hard, not smart, and the same can be applied to life. We don’t see the connection between what the demands of our lives are, and what is actually required to achieve our goals. At the end, we’re trying to get a goal in life, not just live life day-in and day-out. You need to live with a specific goal in sight, and work towards it with all your effort.
When you do not feel like training, what inspires you to get out there?
That feeling of euphoria after the training is a my motivation.
What is the best running advice you have received?
Do it for yourself.
Apart from running/sport what are your passions? .
Triathlons, open water swimming, home renovations, water polo, and now I have started reading biographies and books on ultra runners.
Which On shoes are your choice and why?
The Cloudstratus, of course, I do lots of mileage and I am built bulky. The Cloudstratus accommodates my body structure, and in September 2020, I completed 400km injury-free – I’ve never run 18km with a pair of running shoes just after receiving them without getting blisters. The shoe offers more that just comfort: it also transitions easily to a trail shoe, and the toe box is broad, but still gives a snug fit. I am now on my third pair, and will certainly stick with it.
Finally, why On?
The brand is uniquely modern with a stylish appeal, and is value for money. I am privileged to be associated with On, and each time I’ve worn my shoes, I’ve been asked what differentiates them from the rest of the market. My answer is simple: it embraces my feet with the greatest comfort.