In ultra-distance running, and in life, there are no half measures for Erica Terblanche.
At the launch of her book, Run, at the V&A Waterfront Exclusive Books, this Sea Point runner spoke about how, at the age of 30, she took to running. Since then, she has tackled 16 000km of ultra-long-distance endurance races and conquered some of the most remote and difficult terrain on earth.
From steep mountainsides to blistering deserts, Erica has run through mud, desiccating heat and sub-zero frost. And while concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, she has given much time to pondering life and its parallels with running. Her insightful descriptions reflect how running can transform, strengthen and heal.
Erica spoke of the challenges in her life – a divorce and the loss of her father, among others. But just as she runs, she lives her life. To experience running, to experience life, we need to be 100% committed, she says.
Erica paid tribute to her parents, Dolores and Willem, who, in their own right were adventurous and gave her courage to push the boundaries and to explore by their example.
“My mom is the most resilient human being I know – a woman of iron grit and yet the most compassionate and gracious of hearts. She has taught me what it means to persevere – with gratitude and grace – no matter what the circumstances.”
Erica’s mother, Dolores Terblanche, of Plumstead, was at the launch and says it was a delight to see her daughter’s zest for life shine through in Run and how her running inspired others. “I have enjoyed reading Run tremendously,” she said.
Erica was in conversation with Linda Doke, an ultra-trail legend and running coach, who Erica met in 2011 during the seven-day Namib Ultra Marathon.
Linda describes Erica as an ultra-distance junkie with a sense of humour.
Radiating positive energy, Erica says running a race is a luxury. “To disconnect from email and all that toxic stuff that takes up your life. Running with a little backpack of everything you need – we even cut off the stem of our toothbrush – it’s freedom to only have what you really need. It provides spatial distance from your problems.
“It takes about three days to sweat out the chemicals and reach an ultra-state – to go through highs and lows and return home on a super high. There is something spiritual to it. But it’s all about the importance of positive thinking.”
The book includes tips for long-distance running. Strength training is critical – push-ups, sit-ups, squats, says Erica. She does yoga three times a week before a race and she uses dumbbells and stretches. Foam rolling, she says, has changed her life as it stretches the fascia and relaxes the muscles so they can be stretched. She swims for pleasure.
Asked about what to do to be able to remain active later in life, Erica advises finding a tribe – a group of like-minded people.
Erica’s next goal is the Spartathlon, a 246km ultra-marathon held annually in Greece since 1983, between Athens and Sparti, the modern town on the site of ancient Sparta. Erica says it is like doing three Comrades marathons back-to-back within 36 hours. Only 30% of participants finish. “It’s not spectacular scenery – tour buses, trucks, dust, roads broken in places. I’m terrified, but I love Greece and hope to do it next year.”
Erica has also found time to establish the Thrive Run Club to inspire people to get off the couch and make a change in their lives. You can find out more about the club on Facebook.
There will be a book signing at Exclusive Books Constantia on Wednesday December 15, from 11.30am to 12.30pm.