Rock The Frock

The Rokkie Runner from Stellenbosch finally found her perfect running outfit- the DIY solution.


BY RYAN SCOTT |

When Miena van Wyk couldn’t find running attire she felt comfortable in, she took matters into her own hands. Now she’s known as ‘the Rokkie Runner’, from the dresses she runs in, and has never felt more comfortable. 

Choosing running gear that makes you feel good isn’t always simple. Miena explained to RW how she went about fixing that. 

 

 

Body Image

I’d struggled with body image and acceptance in the past. And some running clothes can be really unflattering! Especially the more technical, light, kind of see-through tights. It’s terrible how they sometimes show every bump and lump. 

I feel the dresses suit my body type, and they’re unapologetically feminine – and functional. And playful, in an environment that expects you to be tough. 

I think if you feel comfortable in the clothes you wear while you’re exercising, it can and will help to boost your self-confidence – and allow you to express yourself better. And in that way, it helps you to make the process your own. 

I’ve always loved wearing dresses, and found dresses with short tights underneath a really simple and versatile option for travelling to warm sub-tropical destinations. In December 2016, a day after landing back home from a trip to Mozambique, my dirty laundry was all over the place. I wanted to go for an afternoon run; and looking for something to wear, I realised a light cotton dress from Cotton On that I’d travelled with seemed like a great option. 

I put on my running shoes, short tights, and the dress; and off I went. I remember experiencing a real sense of freedom! I felt authentically myself – feminine, but not scared to break a sweat. 

I immediately realised I loved the feeling of running in a dress, and decided on the spot that this was going to be my thing from then on. I had two of the Cotton On dresses, but they were a bit too long; so I asked my mom, Elna Nel – she lives in Saldanha, and she’s made clothes for us since I can remember – to make me a few more dresses tailored specifically for running.

That’s when I started playing around with the name #RokkieRunner on Strava and social media.

My mom and I make the dresses from lycra, or trilobal – we source it locally, at different fabric shops. They’re usually among the cheaper fabrics; and I like one-colour dresses the most, because then I can mix and match them with a funky pair of the Happy Pants tights that Haley Harpur Smith makes. 

“My mom and I are busy designing a dress for UTCT (this summer, hopefully!) that will have a closed neck; but still sleeveless, for breathability and arm movement.”

My mom even made two winter dresses, from quick-dry fabric, so I don’t get too cold from sweating in winter; but I prefer the comfort and stretch of the other fabrics.

 

The Fit

The top part of the dress is really important, because it fits close to my body – almost like a very stretchy, comfortable sports bra. It has short sleeves, for comfortable arm movement, and then kicks out just below my navel. 

I have a long torso, so I prefer a dress to be a bit longer in the torso and then shorter at the bottom, so I can still place my hands on my thighs when I’m power-hiking the uphills. The dress stays in place, allows me to breathe, fits just right for my running vest to go over it, and allows me to still stitch a race number on at the front.

I honestly didn’t start running in dresses for other people to notice. It was merely a way of expressing who I am, and feeling comfortable while running. But friends have definitely got used to me wearing them. On days that I don’t wear one, they’ll even ask, Waar’s jou rokkie? (where’s your dress?). 

I’ve had women come up to me on runs and at races, asking where my dresses are from. And males commenting how pretty it looks, in a non-sexual way, which is great.

Ultra Assist

No one can do the hard work of running ultras for you. So if you have a way of feeling completely authentic, and owning everything that makes you unique… it can be a very powerful tool. 

The real hero of this story should be my mom. She’s been a great mentor when it comes to that saying, ‘Just Be Yourself’. And her making dresses for me, so that I can feel comfortable and authentic even when running, is testimony to that. 

The fact that my dresses come back with all the battle scars of mud and stains – even rips, from branches and fynbos – after every hard day in the mountains or an ultra-distance race, is a great reminder that women can be super-tough, as well as tender. Super-feminine and fiercely strong, at the same time. 

And that’s a beautiful combo.

Get the look

Most sports dresses are intended for tennis, with only a rare few specifically for running. The last genuine running dress we saw was the Salomon Mahakali, designed

by Kiwi trail runner Anna Frost. But after extensive research, It’s the Asics Court Dress that’s our choice this season. Available on takealot.com

READ MORE ON: Rokkie Runner what we wear

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