Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 148, Jan 2022 Jan 2022 | Page 19

Rupert starting the 2020 Om Die Dam 50km
Great running company at the Sasolburg Half Marathon
Images : Courtesy Rupert van Vuuren , Jean Brummer , Groot FM , Abigail Van Vuuren

On 14 March 2020 , Rupert van Vuuren headed to Hartbeespoort Dam for the Om Die Dam 50km ultra . He had been running , on average , a marathon a day since the previous September , so the thought of the upcoming 50km was not causing him any concern , but when he tried warming up before the race , he found that the groin niggle he had been noticing in recent runs had flared up into a serious problem . “ I basically had to hop on one leg due to the pain when I ran , and thought I may need to walk the whole race . Luckily the muscle warmed up and I could run , and then I found myself running with a great group , which took my mind off it , but I really took strain in the last five kilometres ,” he recalls .

The following morning , he drove to a local Pretoria club run to begin his daily marathon mileage , and found himself chatting to a couple during the run . “ I was telling them about my challenge , and how hard the race had been the day before , which made it even harder to get up and run that day , when they said , do you realise that the fact that you are able to express the feeling of pain is a privilege ? I asked her to explain , and she reminded me about a couple we met the previous year who have twins with cerebral palsy , and how the mom told us that her kids cannot even tell them if or when they are experiencing pain or discomfort , as they cannot communicate in that way . That really made me realise that I needed to keep going with my challenge , that it was making a difference , and that people would see why I was doing it .”
That was just one of the many conversations Rupert had with fellow runners about children with special needs , and the challenges that their families face , during his remarkable Project Run-a-1000 journey , which saw him cover , on average , a marathon distance every day for 658 consecutive days . That was precisely the goal of his challenge , to raise awareness of and funding for the needs of kids with special needs , and he says now , “ I may never know the full impact of my challenge , but I know it has helped others on their journey .”
Taking the First Steps
It all started on the morning of Tuesday , 17 September 2019 , when Rupert headed down to a friend ’ s coffee shop in Pretoria to run a marathon . It was not a race , more a social training run , with clubmates from Overkruin Athletics Club and other running friends joining him to run parts of the 42.2km distance . This was to be the first day of Rupert ’ s 1000-day challenge , and having recovered from the swine flu that prevented him running his debut Two Oceans and Comrades ultra-marathons earlier that year , he had been building up his training runs in preparation for the challenge , which he was doing in order to raise funds for the Brain Child Fund .
This non-profit organisation works to support families with special needs children , and relies on a community of special needs families , volunteers , philanthropists , athletes , adventurers and artists to raise both awareness of and the funds needed to do its work . Rupert is one of a number of athletes who participate in running or cycling events to support the Fund , and he explains that his reason to do so stems from growing up in a family that experienced the challenge of such special needs . He therefore went into his challenge with the desire to make a difference .
Ready to tackle this marathon challenge !
“ We started the first run at Bean Juice coffee shop owned by my friend Jason who also works part-time in the recording studio at my home , and I ran repeats of an 8km loop from there ,” says Rupert . “ I had invited running friends to join when they could , so I had some support along the way , but it was still hard to get going . It was even harder the next morning , when I had to go and do it all again . That day I ran from home to the coffee shop and back … but that was nothing compared to the fourth day . Everything hurt ! And I was thinking , if this is day four , there is no way I will ever get to 1000 !”
Pushing Too Hard
As a result , when Rupert tackled the fifth day ’ s marathon , he had to walk the first 20km before finally being able to get his legs moving properly . “ I must have looked like a zombie ! Luckily , I had a lot of time that day , so I could take as long as I needed , and I was able to keep the streak going , running a full 42.2km each day for the first seven days . But with hindsight , I was pushing myself too hard , especially when running alone , because I wanted to get the session done faster . Then on day eight my blood pressure shot up – for the first time in my life – so I called Doctor Anton van Rensburg , one of the Directors of the Brain Child Fund , as he had committed to help me through the challenge .”
Getting the kit ready for day 1 of the challenge