Seventeen year old junior athlete, Ela Meiring, was hit by a minibus taxi while on a long run on 16 May, and less than a month later, took a giant leap forward when she raced the Comrades Race the Legends event, completing 21kms without any training for three weeks.
Meiring, whose big dream is to the take part in the 2023 Comrades Marathon, says she is now more committed than ever to achieve her goal, after her miraculous escape and recovery from her accident.
She says the whole experience has taught her to never give up on her dreams, and to always stand up when she has fallen down.
Running is everything for Meiring, who has endured challenges, and come through them through sheer determination and belief.
Her running idol is Comrades Marathon champion, Gerda Steyn, and with her winning attitude, Meiring could very well follow in her footsteps.
She talks to Celine Abrahams about falling in love with running seven years ago, and how she balances studies and sport to achieve a good balance.
Ela, you took part in the Comrades Race the Legends event after a serious minibus accident, which left out of training for 3 weeks! How did you manage to bounce back?
I took it easy, following my doctor’s advice, and day by day I started building my strength up. I am also a very driven person, nothing gets me down in life.
I just thought that I had to do this, no matter what. A week before the race I only trained for 2 days, for about 30 minutes.
Please tell us more about those three weeks and how your family supported you.
My family supported me a lot, through motivating me and keeping my spirits up. I also drew motivation from my followers on Instagram, teachers and my friends, who supported me through this time.
My faith had also helped me a lot.
My uncle told me that before the impact I had jumped into the air, and I think that God allowed me to borrow His angel’s wings for that few seconds, which ultimately saved my life.
How did having this accident change your outlook on your life and what you want to achieve in your running career?
It had a huge impact on me, I am more grateful, for the big and the small things in life. I am also even more focused and dedicated to reaching the goals which I set out in life, specifically for my running career.
Since my resting period, I have been pushing myself very hard in order to try and reach those goals.
What are you looking forward to doing the most, as you have been given a second chance at life?
Running the 21km in a time of 1 hour 35 minutes. Always remember if you put in the work, you will see the results!
Where does your passion for running come from?
It all started at the age of 10, when my uncle quit smoking, and needed a distraction.
He invited me to start walking with him and slowly but surely we decided to start jogging. From that day on, I never looked back.
What was your first competition and what was it like?
My very first race was the 5km Gun Run in 2013. My uncle and I decided to walk and run a few bits of the route.
“I didn’t stick to the plan at all and ran the entire 5km.” Ela Meiring remembers her first race back in 2013
It was pretty amazing, and I immediately fell in love with the idea of racing, and being alongside fellow runners, who have the same love for running as I have.
What has been your biggest challenges so far?
My cousin passed away at the age of 13, from brain cancer. It had affected me a lot, since he was such a great athlete himself.
It’s easy to complain about early morning, hot days, or even slow times.
But being able to run is a privilege that’s denied to so many, as in the case with him.
Who are the female runners that inspire you and why?
Gerda Steyn, inspires me a lot. Even though she has won the Comrades Marathon (in a record breaking time), she still remains humble and down to earth. I also admire her work ethic, never giving up, and giving it her all during her training sessions.
What has been the best advice that you have received, especially when you are going through a tough time?
While I was recuperating, my Mom gave me a quote, which inspired me a lot. “Your hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of your life. Keep going. Tough situations build strong people in the end.” I believe in it firmly, and it helped me get better even faster than I had expected.
What has been the best part of your running career that makes you want to always put your best foot forward?
Running my Personal Best time of 1 hour and 44 minutes, at the 21km Gun Run in 2019.
Actually, everyday running is the best part of me.
What is it like juggling your education and your running career?
It can be tricky some days, but for the most part, I do my homework directly after school. I then train for about an hour.
In the evening I would study for 2 hours and head for bed.
Saturdays are my long-run days.
When you complete high school, are you aiming to further your studies?
Yes, I would really like to become a teacher. I have a passion for helping other people, I can still remember myself as a 6 year-old, when I thought I was not good enough.
I now know that some kids are smarter than you. Some kids are better at sports than you. It doesn’t matter.
I have my own thing. Long distance Running. I’m known as the nice kid in school.
Why do you think it is important for you to invest in your education as much as you invest in your sporting career?
Anything can happen in a sporting career, e.g. being seriously injured, and you would always need a backup plan.
Having an education puts me in the best place to have a secured future for myself, and to achieve my goals in life.
What is your greatest sporting ambition?
To run the Comrades Marathon in 2023 along side my uncle.
Photo 1 Caption: Ela Meiring competing as a junior in the Cape Peninsula 21km. After a life-changing minibus accident, she is able to view the privilege of running with new eyes. Photo: Supplied
Photo 2 Caption: Ela Meiring and her uncle. The two started running when the young runner was just 10 years old, Photo: Supplied
Photo 3 Caption: Meiring in the back of an ambulance, after her minibus accident (inset). Photo: Supplied
Photo 4 Caption: Less than a month after her accident, Meiring competed the Comrades Race the Legends event with minimal opportunity for preparation and training. Photo: Supplied