From Obesity To A 100-Miler Running Machine!

Thea Cronje weighed 154 kilograms, she was unhealthy, diabetic and unhappy. Until a fight with her daughter changed her life forever. – By Thea Cronje, Edited By RW Editors

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My story began back in 2011 when I needed to drive my daughter to the Mazda Challenge early in the morning in Pretoria.

On our way to the race from Middelburg, we had a huge fight in the car and I was bluntly told that I was lazy and that this was the only reason for my obesity – I weighed 154kg at the time.

She challenged me during this argument and said sarcastically that I could at least TRY walk 5km since I was at the race already. Bring it on, I decided I would enter and walk 5km just to show her that I could actually do it, despite her attitude about it.

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We were still fighting by the time we got to the venue and I said sarcastically ‘while we’re at it, why don’t I just do 10km then!’. The snotty reply was ‘well in that case, why not go for 15km!’. I agreed on principle to make a point, and then I thought how on earth am I going to do this in what I’m wearing? It was mid-winter and I was not dressed for the occasion. I wore black pants, a polo neck shirt, a thick and warm jersey, a knitted scarf and a pair of sneakers. Here we go… I can do this.

The race started and I walked from the moment the race started – and was dead last from the very first second (as expected).

About 8km into the race there was an incredibly steep hill with some of those little white wooden poles alongside the road. I stopped and literally hung on those poles in order to catch my breath.

Much to my dismay, a Metro Police car stopped next to me and said: ‘Tannie, klim in die bussie’. I refused and told them that I had a very snotty teenager waiting for me at the finish line and that I would rather die than not finish this race.

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So they laughed, said alright and gave me a bottle of water with a huge tablet wrapped in foil. I opened it and popped it in my mouth… and oh dear… I was just too tired to realise it was an effervescent tablet, so with a my mouth foaming I started to laugh and try breathe again.

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I honestly sounded more like a zebra in pain. I made an epilepsy joke, drank all of the water and started walking again. I managed to reach the finish line with literally four seconds left, BUT I MADE IT!

I couldn’t have been more excited! On the way home we had to make a few too many stops on the highway because I was vomitting and couldn’t see straight. I was inspired when I got home, and then I was on a mission. The following Saturday I did a 10km race in Middelburg, I came dead last yet again, but the feeling of accomplishment on just finishing was enough! I was hooked.

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From that day on, I was doing a race a week. In October 2011 I did my first half marathon, I’d lost 30kg and there was just no stopping me. 2012 came by and I discovered 100-milers! I still raced every Saturday, but now only did half marathons and some walking. By the end of 2012, I had lost another 20kg and started running properly, finishing three 100-miler events in one year. And guess what? My blood glucose levels dropped to such a level that I no longer needed to inject insulin! Before, I was a Type-2 diabetic who nearly lost a kidney because of the illness!

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In early 2013, I relocated to Namibia – which was a spanner in my well-oiled running machine. There was no real running culture there, it was incredibly hot and distances between towns were incredibly far.

So what now? I picked up 30kg and started back on the insulin again. I felt deflated, I could not go back to this life that I had worked so hard to get rid of.

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In May of this year, I changed my attitude and started up again. I now get up at 4am daily before it gets too hot and RUN! I’ve managed to lose the 30kg (again) and stopped using insulin. Success! When I run, I feel alive and certainly not my age (54). I clear my head, plan, pray, and enjoy the most beautiful sunrises every morning.

Thea today.

The best thing of all though? I am healthy, I am fit and a very, very long way from where I started at 154kg…

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