Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 144, August 2021 Aug 2021 - Page 24


Making Her Daughter Proud

No matter what life has thrown at Natascha van Zyl , she has found a way to keep going . In the last 13 years she has lost her mother , was diagnosed with cancer , got divorced , lost her father , lost her brother and then lost her young daughter as well , but she is still moving forward , still running , still climbing , because she made a promise that she would . – BY SEAN FALCONER

Overcoming challenges is part and parcel of being a runner . When you get to a steep hill , you put your head down and start climbing , and if there is another steep hill behind that one , you do it all over again , until you reach your finish line . Conquering climbs is just what runners do … and life is the same . Sometimes it throws major climbs at us , which threaten to bring us to a grinding halt , or make us turn back in defeat , and it ’ s having the strength to push on , much like a runner on a steep climb , that defines us .

One person who certainly knows about taking on and overcoming such a challenge is Natascha van Zyl , a 54-year-old runner from Stellenbosch . The hills she has had to climb could have knocked a lesser person back , especially following so closely , one after
another , but she has continued moving forward , because she is driven by a promise she made to her late daughter .
In Love with Running
Natascha was born in Holland , but grew up in the Free State , where she discovered a real passion for sport . “ I used to run a lot when I was at school . It was my everything , and the principal even told my parents that I won ’ t pass school , as all I ever wanted to do was run . I specialised in the 800m and 1500m middle distances , and earned Northern Free State colours in athletics , as well as netball ,” she recalls .
Having moved to Vanderbijlpark , she married her first husband there , and they had two children , son Justin and daughter Stephanie . Natascha was still running and playing netball at this stage , while balancing her family and work commitments . “ I joined the Yskor club and ran my first half marathon , and often when I trained , my husband would drive behind me with the kids in the bakkie , but then I injured my knee in netball in 1992 and needed an operation . The doctors told me no more running after that .”
The family moved down to the Cape in 2002 , and Natascha focused on family and career , until 2009
24 ISSUE 144 AUGUST 2021 / www . modernathlete . co . za