The 10 Most Influential SA Runners On Instagram
Meg Mackenzie, 31, Cape Town
Meg Mackenzie is one of South Africa’s strongest trail runners. For the last five years she’s been documenting her trail-running adventures on Insta, both at home and away.
“I firmly believe that sport – trail-running in particular, because it’s new – needs role models,” she says.
“I post about the tough races I compete in, because I want to show women, talented young athletes – and in general, people who want more from their already-active lifestyles – that it can be done. That’s how progression works: once someone’s done something, it inspires others to try something bigger, better or faster.”
Gerda Steyn, 27, Bothaville, Free State
Gerda Steyn started running only three years ago, and yet she came fourth in the Comrades women’s race this year. Her Insta page is an honest account of a woman who wouldn’t have thought it was possible to give up her career as a quantity surveyor, and become a professional athlete.
“I want to share with others how your life can be transformed, simply by choosing good health,” she says. “Keep showing up, and never let the bad days overshadow the good.”
Dean Leslie, 35, Durban
This Instagram feed is a highlights reel of the moments and snapshots South African filmmaker and photographer Dean Leslie collects on the trails. Probably most well-known for establishing the online short film series Salomon TV, Leslie tracks the world’s top endurance athletes; and he documents the ways in which they interact with big, wild, open spaces, where few people – if any – have been before.
The result is breathtaking posts that ooze depth and perspective – and they’re an inspiration to anyone who likes moving through remote areas on foot.
“I’ve documented every major ultra-trail-running race in the world; and yet I’ve never actually run one myself,” Leslie admits. “That’s because I’m not into keeping times and splits, or tracking mileage. I love the simplicity of being on foot, and trying to move as quickly and lightly as possible.”
Kelvin Trautman, 34, Cape Town
You want raw, real, in-the-moment stuff? For the past five years, the focus of Kelvin Trautman’s work has been on telling a story about struggle through the mediums of photography, film and writing.
“My motive for this is underpinned by the idea that people who have the greatest capacity for discomfort are generally those who are less fearful, more courageous, and creatively led – attributes that are usually keys used to unlock one’s true potential, and find the fastest way to rise,” Trautman says. “During this time, I have photographed explorers and adventure-sportsmen and -women (often runners) to drive this struggle narrative.
“At face value, my page is for adventure lovers, and those who suffer from wanderlust. But really it’s a hook to engage anyone who’s curious about daring to fail, questioning the status quo, taking the initiative, and being creative.”
Watch this space! Kelvin Trautman is scheduled to work at his first Comrades marathon next year – as part of a project called Backmarkers (backmarkerproject.com), which will be a visual and written documentation of the slowest ultra-marathon runners around the world.
Kamini Pather, 34, Durban
Kamini Pather won the second season of MasterChef SA, and has since been the host of food-slash-travel show Girl Eat World. Pather’s commitment to living a healthy, balanced life is demonstrated by vibrant images of fresh produce and ingredients.
She also shares her passion for running marathons: she trains three times a week with a running crew, The Nine Four, and admits the sport has taught her valuable lessons about her own strength.
“That phrase ‘don’t trust a skinny chef’ is an old way of thinking,” she says. “These days, food and fitness go hand in hand.”
Like Mashele, Pather challenges society’s view of what it means to be a woman runner. She’s not your average permed-hair, pastel-pink-wearing girl; and because of that, inspires women to live life by their own rules – whether in the kitchen, or out on the road.
Karabo Mashele, 24, Soweto
Karabo Mashele is the poster-child for female body positivity. She’s not afraid to run in revealing outfits that celebrate her curves, regardless of what society dictates she should be wearing. In her posts, Mashele wears a confident smile; and she looks like she’s genuinely enjoying running.
And why wouldn’t she? Her long runs are far from boring: she dodges pedestrians and taxis, and navigates shortcuts and turns as the setting sun peeks through the gaps of Johannesburg’s urban sprawl.
Stuart Hendricks, 28, Johannesburg
Stuart Hendricks’ posts reveal the nuances of the different locales where Joburg-based Braamfie Runners train, from the urban grit of the inner city to the streets of Soweto. His page bridges a gap; the images of his run crew show the general public how accessible running can be – and they’re inspiring a shared affinity for music, fashion and urban culture among the creative crowd.
Fareed Behardien, 32, Cape Town
A trail runner and blogger with over 8 000 followers on Instagram, online sensation Fareed Behardien shares his journey from couch potato to accomplished runner via a series of breathtaking trail-running photographs.
“My message is simple,” he says. “If an average joe like me can leave the couch, then everyone can.”
Cuan Walker, 32, Durban
Showing scenes from pack runs at sunset in the savannah, to the inside of a Kenyan world-record-holder’s home, long-distance runner and former athlete manager Cuan Walker’s Instagram page is a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of the elite African runners he works and trains with.
“I started it not only to share my passion for photography,” says Walker, “but also to share my world, the way I see it, through my eyes – and hopefully, to inspire and motivate anyone who follows me on my journey.”
Solly Malatsi, 31, Polokwane
Member of parliament and Asics Front Runner Solly Malatsi shows us that with discipline, it’s possible to juggle a high-profile career with a high-intensity fitness regime. He’s realised he has the potential to become an even better runner, and his Instagram feed is a testament to his consistently hard work towards achieving that. Malatsi is pictured sprinting, climbing hills… and grimacing, while he swings heavy kettlebells.