Noel Smeda (58), a Hartbeespoort businessman is looking forward to his 30th Om Die Dam ultra marathon next weekend.
“I never intended to run it 30 times, but I am privileged to have done it. Actually, these medals should be given to the people who are organising this marathon. They deserve to also be recognized,” he said.
Noel ran his very first Om die Dam in 1990 and hasn’t stopped.
It was actually the Om die Dam ultra Marathon that convinced Noel and his family to move to Hartbeespoort 16 years ago. “I was running Om die Dam in 2004 and when we ran past the Bougainvillea estate and the dam, I fell in love and knew I wanted to live here.”
Noel has done 12 comrades, ran the Washie 100 miler (which takes a day to complete) and five 100 km circuit races.
“The latter was boring but it teaches discipline. I have managed to run ultra marathons for 29 years because of discipline and focus. You have to be constant in your training, and you can only do that if you are disciplined and focused.”
To Noel running is about cameraderie, meeting good friends and peope that share your passion and being part of something.
“The hardest thing about starting to train, is the first step. I am fortunate as I keep myself fit by regular running . I also prefer to run in the heat of the day and this helps as Om Die Dam is usually in hot conditions,” said Noel.
“Finishing the Om die Dam is all about time management and knowing the road, even though it keeps changing just to confuse runners,” he laughed.
“One has to visualise the route and your time to the finish line,” he added.
He believes that running is a way of avoiding stress and keeping the body healthy. “Running has this wonderful ability to remove stress and makes you smell the roses. A healthy life will give you a long life,” said Noel.
Noel started running marathons when he was 22. He has been a business owner since he was 23 and believes the same rules apply to both. “Business is about being strategic, implementing and achieving your goals within an allocated time. Same with sport, you have to be strategic which involves planning, implementing and considering the importance of time.”
What makes his dedication even more remarkable is the fact that he suffers from acute arthritis. “The diagnosis was a lot for me to take in, thinking that I was not going to be able to run again. From that moment on I have asked myself whether I will allow this condition to have control over me or will I have control over it. I decided to take control,” Noel said with a smile.
“I am serious about my time. One has to make time to manage your activities and when that time is gone, you can never regain it. That is why it was important not to allow my condition to stop me from running.”
His inspiration to start running came from his father. “I did my first 8 km race with him and I am still grateful to him”
His wife Lana is also an athlete and has completed 22 Om die Dam ultra marathons. After knee operations she now walks half marathons and will be joining Noel on the Om die Dam route on Saturday.