MY STORY

As a little girl, I had this quote, by Nike, written against my wall, "All your life you are told the things you cannot do. All your life they will say you're not good enough or strong enough or talented enough; they will say you're the wrong height or the wrong weight or the wrong type to play this or be this or achieve this. THEY WILL TELL YOU NO, thousand times no until all the no's become meaningless. All your life they will tell you no, quite firmly and very quickly. AND YOU WILL TELL THEM YES!!"

I stopped growing at the age of eleven. During the following years we saw a multitude of doctors, each failing to tell me the cause of my strange condition. At the age of seventeen, in 2013, I was diagnosed with Celiac disease, which triggers an allergic reaction upon the digestion of gluten. The consequence of this truth was, however, not as positive as I had expected. My health declined even further over the two years that followed the news. Symptoms included fatigue, weight loss, inability to handle cold, anaemia (low iron), low blood pressure, diminished blood sugar levels, and dizziness, just to name a few.

The answer finally came through a diagnosis done by an endocrinologist in June, 2015. He told me that I have a rare disorder called Hypopituitarism, which causes the pituitary gland, situated at the base of the brain, to fail in its production of hormones by producing too little or, in rare cases, none. The hormones secreted by this bean-shaped gland influence nearly every part of the human body, including growth, reproduction, and blood pressure. The absence of these critically important hormones can thus cripple the development of the human body, which was undoubtedly apparent in my case, since I am severely undersized when compared to my family, in both weight and length, and I lack some basic development usually undergone by a growing child. The explanation behind my still reasonable length lies in my genes and normal thyroid. Despite the struggles with my health, I began to excel at distance running. By the age of 19, I already represented my country twice at the world cross country championships, won two SA Junior gold medals, and held provincial records. I was then fortunate enough to receive multiple scholarships offers to go run in the States and realized that it would have been foolish to let such a big opportunity slip.

 

I didn't have a soft landing in America, however. A month after my arrival, I was hit by a pickup truck from behind, while returning from practice. I still had right-of-way, but the truck did not stop... I do not remember much of the incident - the ambulance came, and the rest is a blur. I suffered another concussion, tore my meniscus, got bone bruising on my knees, and hurt my back. It took me two months before I could walk without pain, and another ten months before I could compete again. I had no support and was alone in a foreign country.

 

I had to sit out on a redshirt (unable to compete due to medical reasons) my whole first year at the university and my illness wasn't responding as desired to the new medication. By the end of the school year, I was medically disqualified and forced to make the decision between going home, and forgetting about my running goals in the States, or trying to transfer, and hoping another University would give me a chance.

 

I refused to give up and transferred to a different university, where I was given the chance to compete again for the first time in a year. I finally started to see results after one year of treatment on my new medication. The symptoms presently appear less frequently, except for a few times when my medication had to be changed and my body had to re-adjust to the modification. I was thankful and excited that another university was willing to take a chance with me. I was determined to succeed and prove them wrong - I was going to overcome my illness and injuries. I did. At the second University, I competed for three seasons and was able to win 4 Conference titles (2 x Indoor 5000m, 5K Cross Country and 10000m Outdoor track). I also won two NCAA Regional titles in the 10000m and 6K Cross Country. I ran in the 10000m at the NCAA National Championships at Eugene in 2017 where I became an All-American (National Top 20).

 

However, I still struggled with my back and couldn't manage to run for more than three consecutive months without stopping again. I realized that if I wanted to continue running I will have to strengthen my whole body, and not just focus on my weekly mileage. I started with resistance training and focused on strengthening my weak core and glute muscles. I was studying Exercise Science and became increasingly passionate about fitness. I received both my Personal Training and Fitness Nutrition Certifications through ISSA (International Sports Science Association). I decided to continue my education and enrolled in the ISSA Master program, wherein I completed another four certifications to obtain my Master Personal Training qualification. These include qualifications in Group Fitness, Corrective Exercise, Youth Fitness, and Senior Fitness.

Sadly, I went through yet another car accident at the beginning of that year. This time my car rolled after being hit from the side. Physically I escaped with minor injuries - only a concussion and whiplash - but mentally it broke me. I totaled my brand new car and had a lot of financial stress to deal with. I had enough, and knew it was time to come home. I know my country is far from perfect, and I often get asked why I came back, but here I am surrounded by my people - the ones that love me most.

 

Road running has always been my favourite - I love the crowds, the vibe, the long distances, travelling to different locations, and running new routes. In America, I only raced track and cross country. I didn’t enjoy it as much. I am proud to be running on the roads again. 

Follow me on my journey as I go against the odds to chase my biggest dreams and push my boundaries. It's never been an easy journey, but I didn't give up and I won't. You may see me struggle but you'll never see me quit.

NEVER EVER GIVE UP!

 

 

- Annie