Michael Gombart’s journey to becoming an athlete started when he was 25 years old. He weighed a porky 94kg, was a smoker and drinker, and had an acute fear of anything related to exercise.
“At the beginning of 2013 I had a major health scare and ended up in hospital. The symptoms: an acute panic attack and extremely high cholesterol. There and then, I decided to change my life.
In April 2013, after making necessary work changes to reduce my stress levels, I started Pilates. Then, in June 2013 I took the next step and started running.
Slowly my love for running started to take shape, and in July 2013 I got an extra boost as I attended the Knysna Oyster Festival. Having watched my friends participate in the events, especially sitting beer and cigarette in hand watching them finish the Forest Half Marathon I felt both motivated and disappointed as I also wanted to compete.
I was really enjoying my afternoon runs and so, after four months of running, I took on my first half marathon, The Gun Run in October 2013. I was happy and surprised to finish in 1 hour 46 minutes. This helped me finally kick the horrible habit of smoking and make that final push for a healthy happy life.
In February 2014, I discovered the challenge of trail running. This was the start of the next exciting chapter in my life and I started to enter as many races – running (trail and road), cycling and duathlon – as I could. I have been lucky to achieve some great results along the way in trail running and duathlon. In March, I took on my second half marathon and first Old Mutual Two Oceans Half Marathon, which I finished in 1:31.
Down to 70kg, I then also went on to compete in the 2014 Big 5 Lite in Knysna, and placed third overall! This also marked my next Half Marathon Personal Best (PB) a 1:28 at the Knysna Forest Marathon, followed by another PB at the 2014 Gun Run (1:23).
My latest PB was at the 2015 Two Oceans Half Marathon with a 1:18.
I am grateful to be off to compete in the World Duathlon Champs in Adelaide, Australia this October and also gunning for a new half marathon PB.
However, just being able to train for events and arrive at the start line are my greatest enjoyments, along with completing the challenge or race at hand.
It’s easy to get caught up racing someone else, but really at the end of the day, we are racing ourselves and our limits in the hope of getting fitter, faster, and going further.
At the beginning of my journey I could never have imagined how far it would take me, and hopefully my journey has many more miles to go!
The most important lesson learned is that no matter where you are in life, fitness or otherwise, you need to pick a goal and start. It won’t be easy, but if it was easy you wouldn’t grow in the process and the result wouldn’t be as satisfying.
As Ayn Rand said: “It isn’t a question of who is going to let me, it’s a question of who is going to stop me.”
Enough about my story, I will be writing a weekly piece on races, gear, training and hopefully some useful and inspirational advice to get you up and out on your own personal journey.
Until next week, keep moving!”