Some people start running because a friend talks them into it. Others start running on their own initiative. Jacques Van Wyk started running on doctor’s orders.
Having just undergone surgery to repair a couple of burst vertebrae in his spine, Jacques was told that exercise would help in his recovery. An independent financial director in Pretoria, South Africa, Jacques was not exactly the distance-running type. In school he’d played rugby and competed in the discus, shotput, and javelin events in track and field, and his spinal injury had occurred during a powerlifting session in the gym. Nevertheless, he progressed from walking to light treadmill jogging to—eventually—ultramarathons.
It wasn’t always a smooth road, however. Lacking any background in endurance training, Jacques, who is now 45 years old and is married with three children, had a tendency to push too hard in training and suffered frequent injuries as a result. After straining a quadriceps muscle during the 2019 Comrades Marathon, he decided to try a different approach to training, ultimately settling on 80/20. He started with a marathon plan, which resulted in a comfortable 3:07 marathon, just 3 minutes off his personal best.
Then the pandemic hit. Undaunted, Jacques abandoned the 100K program he was then following and reverted to marathon training. The outcome this time was a PB of 2:59:38 in a solo 42.2 km time trial at an altitude of 1,526 meters. “I could not be happier,” he says of the experience. “Finally, the work paid off and it was enjoyable!”
We can’t take all the credit, though—some goes to the doctor who started it all.