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uMhlanga Comrades runner trains the pain away

Her message to others with autoimmune diseases is to not stop living and to try to get in some exercise.

A RUNNER who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2007 is running her fourth Comrades Marathon in June to raise awareness about the autoimmune disease and to also motivate others with similar conditions.

Also read: Comrades runner – now seconder – shares tips ahead of this year’s marathon

Vanessa Frylinck is in constant pain on her back and shoulders. She also experiences extreme fatigue and isn’t on any pain medication as they were damaging her kidneys. Last year, she completed the Comrades in 10 hours and 27 minutes and won a bronze medal. This year, she is determined to finish in a better time.

“When I was diagnosed, I thought it was over for me. I was bedridden and entertained the idea of remaining in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. My doctor motivated me to start exercising as this would be effective in pain control, so I started yoga and worked my way from there. I joined DHS Old Boys Running Club in 2019 and started working with a coach. This is now my fourth Comrades Marathon that I’m going to run,” she said.

“In 2022, I didn’t finish because I experienced horrible cramps for the last 50km of the run. I cried for two weeks after that and decided that I was going to try again, so I did and finished in a brilliant 10 hours and 27 minutes,” she said.

After Comrades last year, Frylinck discovered that she had sustained an injury called Haglund’s deformity which caused posterior heel pain and swelling around the insertion of the Achilles tendon which has worsened since last year. She believes that this was caused by the shoes she chose to run in.

“I go for physiotherapy sessions, and I changed the shoes I run in. Further to that, my preparations involve a lot of strength training and eating healthy,” she said.

Her message to others with autoimmune diseases is to not stop living and to try to get in some exercise.

“Surprisingly, the exercise does keep the pain at bay. If I don’t train for five days, I start to feel the pain worsen. You can achieve so much with your mind, and towards the end of Comrades, when you are physically tired, it’s your mind that helps you cross that finish line,” she added.

Frylinck is also running for a charity – the Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust – and has raised R6 000 so far.
“Running Comrades is such an addiction. When I turned 40, I said I would run just one. Now, I am running my fourth, and my aim is to get to ten,” she said.

The one thing this runner does not leave home without on race day is her Cramp Assalt gel as it stops her from having to go to the toilet too often and causes her to sweat instead.

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