The Comrades ultra-race has over the years become synonym with heroic true life stories of athletes who refused to give up after serious suffering physical or emotional setbacks.
On 4 June when Jasmine Nunige lines up to compete in her first Comrades she will join the list of ever growing heroes. The Swiss-athlete who will be racing in the colours of Nedbank Running Club has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2011 but there is no way she is going to allow it to slow her down.
A quick glance at her racing CV will show that the figure number frequents often in her results. Winning the 2016 La Swiss Alpine Race for the seventh time; the 80km Eco Trail in a new record time of 6 hours and 54 minutes; the Ultra Vasan 90km (Sweden) also in a record time; and the Grand Trail des Templiers arguably makes her one of the best trail runners in the world.
“Running is a way of life. Through running I find inner strength for my battle against multiple sclerosis. It also helps to overcome difficult moments and to find balance between being a mom, wife and my profession (medical masseur),” is how Nunige describes her motivation to keep on pushing her physical boundaries.
Her talents are not just restricted to overcoming nature’s obstacles on dirt roads. She is possibly going to be one of ten or so Olympians who will be competing in the Comrades. Nunige represented Switzerland at the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer as a cross country skier.
In 2013 she completed the Berlin Marathon in 2:39:00. Those in the know predict the 43 year old mom of two children has a realistic chance to contest for a gold medal in the Comrades.
“The Comrades is one of the oldest, most famous and most prestigious ultra-races in the world, and I always dreamed to come to South Africa. I am really looking forward to compete against the best ultra-runners. It is going to be an exciting challenge. Hopefully if I have a perfect race, I could finish in top five.”
Nunige is being coached by her husband, Guy, a track and field athlete who French champion on various occasions in the 1 500m and 10 000m. His best time in the 1 500m was 3:36.94. He has also set a personal best time of 1:03:55 in the half-marathon.
As she loves being outdoors Nunige does most of her training on dirt roads. When running she does not use any devices like heart rate monitor or earphones. She prefers to listen to her own breathing while appreciating the beauty of the landscape she is running through.
Taking up running after retiring as a competitive cross-country skier happened spontaneously.
“It was never a conscious decision but rather a real passion that made me decide to take up running. To be out in nature feeling my body perform is just such a great experience. I am alive with each step I run.”