If they can do it, so can I

Yolandé du Plessis might be hemiplegic, which simply means muscle weakness or partial paralysis on one side of the body, but this has not stopped her from reaching her big achievement, to fi nish a 21km road race.

At the age of three, Yolandé, her mother, father and grandfather were involved in a car accident that claimed the life of her grandfather and left her with critical injuries, an event she has no memory of. “She sustained brain injury from the accident and she was in a coma for six months. We were told that she might not walk again, or she’ll have to use crutches to walk,” said Ronel du Plessis Yolandé’s mother.

When she came out of the coma, Yolandé had to learn all the things she knew how to do once again, like sitting and eating. Yolandé was enrolled at New Hope school in Pretoria and later moved to Meerhof school and it is here where her love for running took off . “I love running, my mother is a runner and she inspired me,” says Yolandé. In 2004 while she was still a pupil at Meerhof school, she took part in the schools SA championships in the 100m and 200m race.

“When I started I did not care about the obstacles and the diffi culties that presented itself, I just wanted to run,” she laughs. Later, the marathon runner started to run 5km fun runs, and still raised the bar and joined the 10km races. Yolandé challenged herself further and started participating in 15 km runs. “Running these races was exciting and diffi cult at some point.

Yolandé du Plessis during one of the races

Sometimes in the middle these races, I wanted to give up, my body was saying no, but my mind was not ready to give up, it wanted to keep going.” Two weeks ago, Yolandé ran her fi rst 21km road race in Bela Bela, Limpopo.

“Crossing the finish line, I was tired but very excited to have finished the race. During the race I was looking at my mom and other runners, and said to myself if they can do it, so can I,” she laughs. With this big achievement in the bag, the 30-year-old athlete says she is going to take a step back for now. “For now, I will only be running 10km races just to try and improve my finishing time and maybe later I’ll go again for another 21km run.”

She has 83 park runs under her belt and received a red T-shirt when she hit 50 park runs, but she now aims to reach a 100 park runs to obtain her black T-shirt. There are challenges while running such as sometimes falling because she cannot lift her left foot high enough to avoid rocks, roots or bumps while running on rough terrain. Yolandé is part of the Hartbeespoort Marathon Club.

“I joined the club two years ago and it is nice being a member of the club, and the people are very supportive.” Landie, as she is known to friends, feels running is worthwhile because people are inspired when she runs.

“Many people approach me after a race and thank me, telling me how I inspire them to keep running. I think if it was not for my disability, I wouldn’t be a motivation to others,” she said. She has always looked up to her mother. “My mom has been my role model and she takes me for trail running and helps me work on my running speed to improve my time.”

Yolandé who enjoys pet-sitting, completed a business management course from Orbit College and she does marketing for infinity health from home, as well as trains almost every day.