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Beyond the Finish Line: Liezel van der Westhuizen’s conquers her 3rd, Two Oceans 21.1km half marathon.

Liezel van der Westhuizen – affectionately and aptly nicknamed ‘The Giraffe’ – is a beloved SA talent currently on the airwaves as a fitness, health, and wellness Presenter on three radio stations: CapeTalk, Talk Radio 702, and KFM 94.5. Tuning in means access to her helpful Fitness Guide 6 days a week, which updates people on the latest fitness and wellness trends, among other perks!

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She’s also well-known for tackling some of the most grueling sporting events in the world, including the infamous IRONMAN Triathlon.

From stand-up paddling to tandem-cycling across the Himalayans, SCUBA diving around the world, taking on the three-day multi-stage race called the Dusi Canoe Marathon, and even braving the Cape waters to take on one of the most dangerous swims in the world from Robben Island to Blouberg, Liezel, the towering powerhouse in Radio, Television, Global Emceeing, and Sports (even as a fitness enthusiast and beloved backrunner) joins us now to share more about her recent run at the Two Oceans Marathon…

1. Can you tell us about your experience running the Two Oceans 21.1km half marathon race? What motivated you to participate in this event together?

This marked my third exhilarating run through the scenic route. However, what made this experience truly special was sharing it with my sister, Monique Swanepoel, who embarked on her very first Two Oceans adventure. When she proposed the idea of running together, it was an offer I couldn’t resist. Our similar paces and shared passion for running made it an opportunity not just to stay active, but also to bond and create lasting memories.

2. What inspired you to support the I Love Boobies foundation through your run? Could you share with us the significance of this cause to you personally?

With family members impacted by breast cancer, I deeply understand the significance of the work carried out by I Love Boobies. It’s a cause I’m passionate about, and I’m always grateful for the opportunity to contribute. Running for such a fantastic foundation felt like a true honor and privilege. Seeing over 600 runners donning I Love Boobies branded kit and hitting the pavement for this important cause was truly remarkable!

I Love Boobies is making a significant impact in our community by providing crucial education and clinical screenings for South African women who may otherwise lack access to these resources. Their dedication to raising awareness is changing lives. With the staggering statistic that one in eight women will face invasive breast cancer in their lifetime, I Love Boobies’ focus on prioritizing breast health is incredibly important. Their commitment to this cause is something I deeply admire.

3. Running alongside your sister must have been a unique experience. How did this add to the overall journey of the race for you? Was it the plan all along to run the race together? We know you love to participate in active activities, so having a family member with you must have made it extra special.

Running alongside my sister Monique was an incredibly special experience. The day before, we were cheering on my Brother-in-law as he tackled the Ultra Marathon, and then the next day, Monique and I took on the half marathon together. The entire week was filled with memorable moments! Reflecting back, the last time we shared such an impromptu adventure was about a decade ago when we decided on a whim to swim the Midmar Mile. It remains one of our most cherished memories.

Despite being seeded at the back, we stuck together throughout the swim, side by side. These shared experiences with Monique are priceless to me, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Adding the Two Oceans run to our list of cherished memories, especially being part of such an active family, is truly special. I can already envision it becoming a topic of conversation during our Sunday lunches for years to come. We’ll reminisce with phrases like, “Remember when we conquered the 2 Oceans Marathon together?” or “Remember that unforgettable Midmar Mile swim?” These moments bind us together and enrich our family’s legacy of adventure and togetherness.

4. The Two Oceans Marathon is known for its challenging course. What were some of the biggest obstacles you faced during the race, and how did you overcome them?

The biggest obstacle for us was probably the first 2 kilometers.

Here’s the thing: Everyone is rushing out the start line, and one tries to run with the group and maintain its pace as much as possible. However, knowing your pace, limits, and strengths is important in sporting events. And what we assumed would be the most challenging part of the half-marathon, we ended up laughing and talking while completing it, so even expectations and preparation cannot always hold true for the final experience.

We adapted. My everest for this event though, had to be when I had to brave the Porta Pottie and my sister ran ahead. We then had to try and find each other; So that was 10 minutes of anxious excitement mid-marathon that also added to the overall experience.

5. As a well-known personality, how do you think your participation in events like this can inspire others to get involved in charitable causes or pursue their fitness goals?

I know I’m a well-known back runner who is often misidentified as being a prime athlete based on my physique and enthusiasm to try new activities. I’m not! I am not the fittest nor the fastest. I am normally one of the last to finish an event, and THAT’s OKAY!

I do so many events, from mountain biking to stand-up paddling, OPEN WATER SWIMMING’  surfing, skiing, diving etc. and I am not good at everything, however, I can participate in it. And I’m happy. I just hope that in me staying true to who I am, that THAT will be their takeaway. 

We are inspired and motivated to do so much by the people we favour – whether it’s an entrepreneur or an influencer, a parent, or a friend. I do things because they feel right and I feel good about the deed. I do it for the right reason for that cause; And if I have to factor in those who tune in to me daily, or who follow me, hire me, or just know me, then I hope that they tread in my steps toward the good causes they feel strongly resonate with them.

If you’re being led towards participating in an event like the Two Oceans Marathon or a charity run or something, based on seeing your favourite people do it, make the final decision to participate based on being real about you and why you’re out there. YOU are who has to commit and who has to complete that goal.

Be true to you – even if you’re inspired by me. 

6. Running can be both physically and mentally demanding. How do you prepare yourself mentally for a race of this magnitude, especially when running for a cause close to your heart?

I have to say that I was a bit nervous for this one, as I had come out of a whole lot of cycling events and hadn’t spent enough time on my legs, running. So, I knew that it was going to be a long day out. What people often miss about running events like this is that you need a bit of cross-training AND mental fitness to reach that finish.

I physically spent time in the gym – working with my running coach Hannes Swanepoel (no relation to my sister), from the High Performance Centre in Bo-Kaap, Cape Town. He just gave me sold race day tips and advice. On the mental front: before an event of this magnitude, I normally do a mindfulness or meditation session beforehand.

I do this to get my mind focused and to listen to what my body is also telling me. This centres me to focus just on the running when I am in the event. It’s all about time and time management – making the time because time and effort are needed to be at your best!

7. Can you share a memorable moment from the race that stands out to you? Something that encapsulates the spirit of the event or the cause you were running for?

There’s the nerves at the beginning of an event, but my sister has such an incredible sense of humour that the nerves were fleeting. 

We ended up giggling and laughing, which was something that stayed true right through to the end of the event, and I loved that!And crossing that finish line, and the sense of accomplishment of having done it with her, as well as getting our medals together, was really special and so memorable.

Seeing the “I Love Boobies” shirt practically every few feet on the route, on runners who kept going towards the finish line happily, was honestly so in keeping with the spirit of the event to go forward purposefully.

8. Balancing your career, personal life, and training for a marathon requires dedication and discipline. How do you manage these different aspects of your life to ensure you’re able to give your best in all areas?

I am lucky enough to work on three radio stations (CapeTalk, 702, and KFM 94.5) where I present fitness updates, tips, and advice on a daily basis, and so this sporting event and activities participation is all in keeping with that and therefore balances perfectly.

But I am also a mental fitness coach in the business realm – working with a number of companies (from CEOs to Directors and other high-performers) on their mental fitness and strength. I platform how important the mental health and wellness of an individual is in their pursuits. 

These events add to my toolbox and they fit in just right. I take the training, skills, and lessons right into the other spaces I take up space in as an entrepreneur, Global Emcee, high-performance coach, The Giraffe Brand Academy Founder, and a TV & Radio Presenter. I know the importance of balance, and of REST DAYS! Some folks joke I spend more days resting than taking part in things, but I consider it vital to my work/life balance.

9. What advice would you give to someone who is considering participating in a marathon or similar endurance event for the first time, especially if they want to do it in support of a cause they care about?

I would say that if you are new to fitness or new to running, then get yourself assessed by a Biokineticist to make sure that you know what parts of your body are strong and what needs work.

My biggest game-changer was going to get myself assessed and then building on those assessments to help build strength in line with my tailored program – the same as you’d do with a business coach or even a singing coach.

I also am of the absolute belief that you need to get yourself a GOOD coach who works on you at your fitness level and speed. Get someone who listens to you and helps you with your own personalized program – guiding you without breaking your spirit.

We are all so different and unique, and you have to get someone who understands that and adapts the plan (whether swimming, running, weightlifting etc.) to who you are presently.

And reach out to me across any of my platforms should you need guidance, tips, or advice.

I’m just one comment, DM, or inbox away!

10. Looking ahead, do you have any future running goals or plans to continue supporting charitable causes through your athletic endeavors? If so, could you give us a glimpse into what’s next for you?

If it resonates with me, I absolutely will be either participating or at least platforming the cause however I can.

Stay tuned to my socials @LiezelOnline on TikTok, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Threads, and Twitter to hear about all my new pursuits as they come.

With animal conservation being close to my heart, I can say that I will always give a shoutout to The Giraffe House, which is a great wildlife education centre in the Western Cape. You can also occasionally spot me stopping in there – one giraffe to another #TheGiraffeBrand.


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