Aiming For Paris: Wildschutt’s Ambitious Dream


South Africa’s top track athlete is currently flying somewhat under the radar, even while breaking records. But Adriaan Wildschutt is exactly where he wants to be; currently, that’s in Florida, USA, training for the Paris 2024 Olympics. It’s all a long way from his roots in the sleepy town of Ceres, in the Western Cape. We caught him on a flying visit back home, to find out about Wildschutt’s life here and in the States as he chases his goals on the track – and beyond.

Runner’s World: Ceres is a long way from Florida. Tell us about your origins as a runner, as a laaitie? 

Adriaan Wildschutt: Well, I grew up in Ceres, the Bella Vista area, which is where my running really started. In high school I played different types of sports – rugby, cricket, soccer, even chess. But I gravitated towards running, I think due to the individual nature of it. I was able to measure my progress on a weekly basis, which was exciting. 

My brother introduced running to me, as he was the one who always competed in cross-country – since elementary school. One specific day that stands out was in 10th grade. I’d finished all my homework and was very bored at home, so I decided to join my brother for his afternoon practice. And I was hooked.


But I never thought running professionally was a realistic goal, at the time. I saw it as a way to get scholarships that would cover my tuition, so I wouldn’t have to apply for student loans. I received an athletic scholarship from Zola Budd, who was the head cross-country coach at Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina at the time. My brother had received an athletic scholarship at the very same university, six months prior. So the choice was easy from there.

I then went to Florida State University, which is where I graduated with my MBA. With the great coaching I received from FSU and with its resources, which I was able to exploit fully, I realised that I could really run professionally. Thankfully I stayed healthy and injury-free, which meant I improved rapidly; and running professionally became ever so real. 

RW: How comfortable are you in the US? Does it feel like a new home? 

AW: I’ve been in the US for six years now, so I’m very comfortable at this point. I don’t quite know if it feels like home yet! Because home remains SA. At this point, I see the US as my place of employment.

RW: Claiming the 5 000m SA record was remarkable. Did you have that planned, as a specific goal? 

AW: Breaking the SA 5 000m record was always at the back of my mind, but I didn’t think it was a possibility this year. My sole goal was to qualify for the Paris Olympics in 2024. The SA 5 000m came as a result of my preparation for that, as the Olympic Standard was literally one second slower than the SA record in the 5 000m at the time. 

I still have a few more races that I’m planning to compete in, in preparation for the Olympics. I’m aiming to participate in an indoor 5 000m at the end of January in Boston, a 10 000m in March in Los Angeles, followed by the Prefontaine Diamond League in May. 

Academically I want to be very successful as well, and maybe work as a business professional eventually – to put my MBA to work. I’m really motivated on that front. At the same time, competing at the highest level at World Champs and the Olympics, and breaking records along the way, is another great motivator.

RW: Do you have any mentors or heroes, in life and in running? Who would you choose to go for a run with?

AW: I don’t have any heroes in particular; but I have people who inspired me when I was younger, especially in the running world. Elroy Gelant inspired me a lot when I was younger, and I think doing a run with him eventually would be awesome. In general though, I look up a lot to my brother, Nadeel, in my life outside running.

RW: What kind of training load do you do in a full week, when at a training peak?

AW: When I’m in the highest peaks of my build, we have a pretty heavy workload. With the elevation, my weekly mileage is always varying. Sometimes I could do 80 miles (130km) one week and 95 miles (150km) in another. We have about two workouts a week, with a long run as well.

In my downtime… I’ve been reading quite a bit, lately. I’m currently reading Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, which I will follow with the sequel, Beyond Order. I like watching movies and TV shows, as well as documentaries – I use them as tools for recovery and rest. I also get at least one massage a week. 

I use my NormaTech compression recovery boots in the middle of the week. And I also love a bit of ice cream after workout days, as part of the recovery process!

RW: How does training in the US compare to training in SA? 

AW: I love competing, and beating my previous bests. I live for that. Training in the US is really great for this. I have people to train with who are world class, and it’s fun, too. Workloads are spread more evenly during a week or even month in comparison to when I was in SA. There’s a lot of science used to get us to the best possible condition.

Why he’s SA’s most exciting runner right now.

2nd, NCAA XC champs

5th, 10 000m, Commonwealth Games 

SA 3 000m, 5 000m & 10 000m records 

14th, 10 000m, World Champs 2023



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