Meet the Athletes

We invited our intrepid Brandberg Backyard Ultra runners to tell us a little more about themselves, their background, how they got into running about their running goals.

Johan Bronkhorst

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Johan Bronkhorst

Running, jogging, call it what you want, has been part of my life since 1982. Running taught me to hang in there, be tough, persevere, and if that doesn’t work: just don’t quit!

I had some easy races and then those where you are ready for the Angel of Death … and it is these runs that make you stronger. As a 14-year-old, I was introduced to track racing by a teacher of mine (I hated sports), but I was hooked right there. At some point, I had a very bad race and was referred to a heart specialist who found I had some heart defect. I was prohibited to run again. I listened and after a while, I forgot what he said and return to running. I just thought we are all going to die, perhaps this is how I will exit.

Then came road running, from everything fast to everything slow, and my journey of long, slow runs began. My first race ever, after completing just one 7 km long run, was the Fish River Marathon (52km ) in 1988. Next up was the Rössing Marathon, way back in 1989. I remember standing there, possibly the youngest, between the Legends. After that race, I just loved the race and route and decided I will never miss this one again. And I did not. I managed to log 30 Rössing Marathons, as well as 30 Lucky Star (now Hangana Hake) Marathons.

But then in 2017 January I was diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer in my limpf that spread fast to my throat and pelvic bones, and I was stop again from running. I had a 30 % survival chance and was told to get my things in order. I do remember asking if I would be ready for Comrades 2017!

I just decided there that the disease was just a race of a different kind, that I should take it easy, but that bailing was not an option. The Thursday was chemo day after which I drove back to Swakopmund, and the Saturday was parkrun day. To celebrate my last chemo session I ran the Brandberg Rhino Run on the following Saturday. On the  bad days I just hung in there, all the while knowing that there would be a finish line. Running taught me how to survive cancer.

After more than 100 marathons, 127 half-marathons and a bit over 55 ultras I still love running. The days of chasing times are long gone, and now I enjoy the journey.

I cherish the friends made over the years, many of them not with us anymore. There is so much I learned from them, not just about running but also about life, and I am blessed that my path crossed with Jimmy Gallagher. I met Jimmy on the road in 1988 and we had thousands of runs together.

I am now part of a small training group, and as the older runner, I am guiding these youngsters. It is so relaxing being in a small group of like-minded people, and the things that come out there … remain there.  Seeing them improve and run PBs is so rewarding and makes the early morning runs worthwhile.

Running is only a part of life, and when it defines who you are, you have lost yourself.

Some years ago I had the privilege to spend two weeks with Ron Hill. He ran the first sub 2:10 in 1969. In a 15 km race in Swakopmund, he finished nearly last!!!  That afternoon I asked him: “How did you manage to go from the fastest man in a race to the slowest?” His words to me were: “Well, young Johan, I have two choices. I can take the ball and go home, or I can play with the other kids in the street.”

So if you see me on the road, know that I am playing with the other kids in the street.

Keletso Nyathi

Keletso Nyathi

My name is Keletso – translated to advice or desire (depending on how far south you go)

I’ve been running for as long as I can remember! Way back before running was cool! I’ve seen the technology evolve and the sport grow to the behemoth it has become. Back in the day, I’d measure my routes on an atlas using a string – right through the Nike plus iPod with a shoe sensor era to today’s Garmin watch! My first serious run was a half marathon, followed by the infamous Matopos 33-mile ultra 2 weeks later and I was hooked!

I don’t know how many marathons I’ve run. We didn’t keep meticulous records back then! I’ve probably run more marathons in training than actual races! I ran all the notable races in Bulawayo where I come from and Harare where I studied. My running took an upturn when I moved to Namibia where I quickly joined the running scene. I’ve gone to earn a blue number at Two Oceans and green number at Comrades.

My love for nature and off-road running overtook road running and I’ve moved almost entirely to trail running, quickly transcending from 100 km Ultras to 100 miles.

Running has taken me around the world, participated in multiple ultras in South Africa, Ultra Trail Cappadocia in Turkey, The North Face 100 in Thailand, Ultra trail 100 in Hong Kong, marathons in Phuket and Germany

Through running I have met and made numerous friendships, most notably with Kirsty. Ours transcends a normal friendship – I guess if you look death in the face together, friendship doesn’t begin to describe that relationship. Our adventures have taken us around the country running through the wildest terrain. Last year we had an absolute blast running around the country in the Gondwana 7 Marathons series

More recently, I’m involved in AMUK. AMUK consists of completing 4 x one Hundred Mile races on the South African trail calendar within a single calendar year. Having completed 3 in 3 consecutive months already this year, I’m one of 3 athletes set to complete the series later this year with the final race Karkloof 100.

I am, however, also signed up for the ultimate trail running event of the year, UTMB 100 miles in August When I’m not running, or recovering from a run I eke out a living as a doctor where I run a busy general practice in Windhoek.

Liezl Swanepoel

Liezl Swanepoel

I am a mother of 4 beautiful boys. I work as an Accountant and HR Manager. Running was always part of my fitness regime as it is the easiest way to stay fit, but it was always short distances.

I ran my first 21 km at the Sandman event in Swakop as part of a team. I was introduced to the world of ultra trail running by a friend in 2019 and at the time didn’t know anything about it, but was instantly hooked on the idea and challenge.

My first ultra was UTCT 50km at the end of 2020 where I came 7th of the women. That year during my training was also the first time that I ran a full marathon. Last year I ran my second UTCT ultra, this time the 65 km where I came 12th of all the women and 2nd in my age category.

I have no races planned for the year but would love to do the Otter next year and maybe one day the Drakensberg Ultra.

Kirsty Brits

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Kirsty Brits

My name is Kirsty. I am a mom of 2 beautiful, wild-hearted and fiercely brave children. I work for Gondwana Collection Namibia – I use the word “work” loosely. As the saying goes – “Choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.” This is without a doubt the truth about my involvement in our Adventure Brand. I have had the most amazing adventures throughout Namibia. Blessed to run in some of the most insane locations with my crazy running partner, Keletso Nyathi. 

Last year we organised the 7 marathons in 7 days at 7 lodges throughout Namibia. It was without a doubt – one of the biggest adventures, with memories, burned deeply in my heart. I could never have hoped for more. Along the way, Keletso and I have found ourselves slightly off course (dare I say lost) more than once – in the desert – with little water. “The K Adventures” as we call them. Finding our way out of situations which could have been fairly dangerous – with laughs and great photos!! I developed a habit, while travelling and running around the country, of picking up feathers and placing them in my hair, which you can see in most of my photos. Some people say that feathers are the way of our lost loved ones and angels letting us know they are with us – the thought of that gives me great comfort. Keletso has actually given me the tag of Crazy feather lady.

I have been running since the birth of my daughter, Skylah, in 2012. She had terrible Colic and Reflux as a baby and really only slept when she was upright in a pouch. I started walking on a treadmill with her at all times of the day and night. Eventually, that walking led to me running my first half marathon at Two Oceans when she was 6 months old, and my first marathon on her first birthday. As they say, the rest is history! I have run 6 Comrades marathons and 2 virtuals. If you ask anyone who ran the solo virtual Comrades – those were the world’s harder and should be counted! Excited to be able to run in Durban again this year! 

I have many bucket list races around the world but we are unbelievably lucky to have opportunities to try something new in our own Backyard! I am absolutely a road runner but my true love is trail – with a 100-miler hanging over me! While I am a runner at heart – I also have a big love for my mountain bike and swimming. Some of the many races I have been lucky enough to take part in are: Namaqua Quest 3-day stage trail, Two Oceans Ultra, Comrades Marathon, Desert Dash (cycling), Jetty Mile (Open water Swim) and Sandman Triathlon. As well as the many beautiful Namibian marathons and races. Hopefully, by the time we run BBU – I will be able to add Vic Falls Marathon.

I suppose like most people – we are all striving to find a balance of family, love, friends, work and adventure – I think I have been so lucky to be able to find them all. 

Andre’ Ross

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Andre’ Ross

I am Andre’ Ross, an adventure facilitator, who loves to work and be outdoors. I started running when I was 11, waiting for the bus after school and just felt at home with it. I would say my running journey was mostly inspired by the thousands of athletes taking part in the Comrades Marathon. I ran my first one in my matric year and finished a total of 11, with the dream to run still a lot more.

There is a constant question in the back of my mind of what the next challenge is to take on. My current club that I run for is Swakop Striders, and they help me to answer this question by allowing me to create running challenges, like the 8th annual Eggy run that we have done this year. My dream for a few years now is to run and complete a continues 100miler. In the past, I was mostly focused on road running, but lately really started to enjoy the off-road and trail runs.

I would say that one of the crucial factors for a runner to train and complete an ultramarathon is his backup team, especially the support of his family. I am incredibly lucky in this regard to have a wife, Marijke and two children, Dohne’ and Andrew (16 and 14) who encourage me to run.

Harmen Potgieter

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Harmen Potgieter

I’m a geologist, based in Swakop with a love for the mountains and the ocean. I don’t see myself as a runner per say, but rather as someone who enjoys pushing his limits in all forms of endurance and extreme sports. I’ve climbed numerous mountains in Southern Africa and South America, including two alpine-style ascents of 6000m+ peaks.

Running-wise I’ve always preferred solo FKT-style missions in the mountains, the most memorable being long runs in the Drakensberg, Cape Peninsula and Brandberg. I’ve also completed the Otter African Trail Run and numerous lesser trail and road races. I’m currently training for my first 100K adventure.

Hannes Smit

Hannes Smith

My hardloopprofiel sluit in 10 Comrades Ultramarathons in 10 jaar; twee 4Deserts Ultras (selfversorgend, 250 km oor 5 dae in woestyn); Desert Ultra (gaan oor ultemate hitte, tussen 35 en 50 grade, ook 5 dae 250 km self-versorgend); Fish River Ultra (90km); Ironman; 13 Peaks Challange (13 hoogste punte in die Kaap, 124 km); ‘n Paar multiday events, onderandere Cape Crusade.

Ek is 24 jaar getroud met die selfde vrou. Ons het 1 dogter en 2 seuns. Ek werk al 27 jaar by Santam, my bloed is geel! Ek is ‘n geseende mens. Baie bederf en happy met my lewe!

PC Visser

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PC Visser

I’m PC. short for PC. I started running in 2017 as a challenge to do the 2 oceans half marathon with a few friends. I soon realized that I kinda enjoyed it and just kept on going (like Forest Gump) Later I joined the team of Farm Windhoek Fitness and found my love for trails and long distances. In 2020 when the lockdowns happened I had some extra time on my hands and learned how to go that extra mile and started going even further distances. In October 2020 me and 3 others did the first FKT for the Khomas Hochland Hiking Trail (90km) in just under 16 hours. After that, the next best thing was to actually do a 100km event. obviously, I decided on the Cederberg Traverse (some say it’s the toughest 100km in Africa) myself and a friend completed that in under 23 hours and agreed that it might as well be the toughest thing we have ever done. A lot of people ask me ‘ why did you enter BBU?’. easy answer, WHY NOT? since 2020 I’ve had the same concept in my head to challenge myself to do it but never had the support to do it. now that there is support and other crazy people I would love to finish the challenge and push my body to the limits.

PS: I often lose my shirt while running

Melanie Honiball

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Melanie Honiball

My name is Melanie, Wife, mother and just about a little crazy…I am relatively new to running, started running around February 2020. To be honest, I have never been active in my life, so who would have thought that I would love hitting the road so much. I originally started running to change some bad habits into some good habits and well got hooked, my running eventually turned into daily discipline and the joy to see my personal improvement not only with how far I have gone, but how my body adapts and got stronger over time. Running is hard work, and my progress took years….if it was easy everyone run….. I have done four competitive half marathons and two were massive achievements for me personally but I must say I have learned so much with each of them and I am still so humbled each day. I have met so many runners from all over and have made the best running friends, who motivate me each day. The joy to see each one battling out his own road is amazing. I know a “jollige” guy who once said, just work with your package… To be honest, I have never run a marathon, so why did I enter an Ultra, If I only knew, well as they say Go Big or Go home. I must say I have no idea, I am easily convinced, someone whispered and showed confidence in me and I just went with it and decided – Just Do it.  For me, the Ultra is to be part of something amazing and I have a personal target I would like to reach, whatever happens, it is the road that is written for me that day. I could not have come this far without the support of my Husband Morne, he is an avid cyclist, a great swimmer and runs as well. A partner made in heaven 🙂  His guidance and support mean the world to me. 

Riaan Burger

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Riaan Burger

I am Riaan Burger, CEO of Namdeb Diamond Corporation. I live in Windhoek / Oranjemund and our farm near Mariental on occasion when time allows. I started running only in my 40’s and only did short distances until my brother challenged me to join him for the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon in 2017. I ran a few marathons and eventually also did Comrades Marathon in 2019. In the last two years, I have run a lot less and cycled a bit more, so the BBU event is just something I want to do for fun and I don’t really have any specific targets or ambitions to fulfil. I look forward to finishing a few loops and then supporting my friends who are the real contenders!

Faghan Pocsi

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Faghan Pocsi

I am 31 years old and I teach for my profession. I currently run my own homeschool study centre in Swakop.  I got into running in my last year of varsity in 2014. At the time, my family invited me to run the Two Oceans where I ran the 21km. In 2015, I did the 56km ultra-marathon. And I’ve been long-distance running ever since. In 2016, I completed my first Comrades marathon, and have run it 4 times. I’ve been predominantly a road runner and have not yet really ventured into trail running. The Backyard Ultra will be my first major trail event. I would say my biggest running goal is to run 100km, both on the road and on trail, specifically through a forest. Through my running maturity, I’m really liking the idea of multi-day events and am busy compiling a bucket list of must-runs. Looking forward to my first backyard ultra event!

Nadine Pocsi

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Nadine Pocsi

I was born in Namibia. I grew up travelling back and forth between Cape Town and Swakopmund, evidently settling in Swakopmund.

I had always enjoyed an active life, however running only really found me in 2018, when I started running parkrun in Swakopmund on a regular basis. I ended up really enjoying leisurely running and through it met my now husband, who had been running more seriously and for many more years than I had. Through him, I was introduced to the vast world of running and from there on started setting goals and running at events. I ran at numerous coastal events, starting with 10 km.

After I ran my first 21km in 2019 at the Hangana in under 2 hours, I deemed myself worthy enough to join the Striders running club and through them was humbled and fortunate enough to be exposed to some wonderful and experienced runners who gladly took me under their wing, sharing their knowledge and inspiring with their beautiful running stories.

Running became so much more than just a leisurely activity. I was hoping to run my first marathon at the Hangana in 2020, when Covid, unfortunately, made this impossible. To stay motivated I however continued to train and ran my first marathon in loops around Swakopmund by myself in October 2020. I continued to run socially, setting small personal goals and achieving them one by one. Only towards the end of 2021 did I really start thinking about ultra-running and after running my 2nd marathon virtually in under 4hours in March 2022, the bug really bit.

My aim is to run an ultra-distance this year still and I am very grateful to be able to take part in the BBU in July 2022. My running journey is still in its beginning phase and I am extremely excited for the adventures that lie ahead.

Elmarie Adriaanse

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Elmarie Adriaanse (left)

Elmarie Adriaanse, heerlike 52 jaar oud, (wil geen ander ouderdom wees nie!!), ma van 2 fantasiese dogters, (wat ook albei draf!!), en ook honde-ma van 3 fanatiese saam-drawwers!  My oudste dogter Lindie is ‘n fikse onderwyseres in Windhoek, en my jongste Mandie, is ‘n amper-klaar CA in Potchefstroom en ook die honde-ma van 2 fanatiese saam-drawwers!  My fotos is dan ook van my en die dogters afsonderlik, en die 2 ‘kleinkinders’ in Potchefstroom! 

Ek het eers op 40 begin draf, 2 Comrades voltooi en toe  weer ‘opgehou’, en nou laaste 2 jaar weer mooi aan die gang!  My Mandie-kind het ons verlede jaar 2021 ingeskryf vir die Potch Big Backyard Ultra in September, en dit was vir ons ‘n heerlike ervaring, en wat ‘n groot voorreg is dit nou vir my om deel te wees van Namibia se 1ste aanbieding!  Die vriende wat ek op die roete daar gemaak het is nog steeds Strava-vriende, en dit was kosbaar om die blootstelling te kry aan ander doodgewone drawwers wat kans sien vir die om-en-om van die BBU!  Nie almal was daar vir die Ultimate deelname nie, maar meeste slegs vir DEELNAME!

Ons is nie baie wat draf in Keetmanshoop nie, ons oefengroepie bestaan eintlik so uit maksimum 3!  Dit is hoekom my honde-kinders en die koppies en die veld in die mooie Suide my beste drafmaats is!  Daar waar ek kom maak ek egter seker dat ek ‘n lekker groep raakdraf en is dan so in Windhoek by 2 of 3 groepe ingeskakel asook in Upington by ‘n groep! 

Ek is die bestuurder van Santam (die geel sambreel!) in die Suide , so ek beweeg gereeld Windhoek toe en dan sorg ek dat ek lekker inval by die Hoofstad se drawwers. Ons is ook baie bevoorreg om in Keetmanshoop lekker gym-fasiliteite te hẽ waar ons onder die kundige oog van Zena Vorster cross-training doen!  Goud werd!

Shandri Viljoen

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Shandri Viljoen

I’m Shandri Viljoen, a social runner and lover of all things food. I started running about 10 years ago and fell in love with the sport, its culture, the pretty gear and all the crazy awesome people I’ve met along the way. I’m a runner before sunrise and a foodie after 5. The most fun I’ve had running was the Jan Braai Marathon in 2019, because who wouldn’t love running, eating and drinking wine all at the same time for an entire weekend. My running goal is to run a race on every continent as I also have a love for travel and exploring. If you haven’t run the Victoria Falls Marathon, bucket-list it now. It really is the most beautiful and wild race I’ve run. I’m an early morning runner and live for Saturday morning long runs as the sunrise. My running mantra is – “Your body is merely a slave to your mind” and “Every step is worth it.”

Ruth Hornickel

Ruth Hornickel

My name is Ruth. I am a wife, mom and part-time Maths teacher living happily in Swakopmund. I have only started running longer distances as of this year, so taking part in this Ultra is seriously exciting! Previously Parkrun was my main running highlight, and realising the variety out there I can safely say I am up for a new and interesting challenge. Lucky for me I have my two biggest fans backing me all the way – my husband, Jacques and my three-year-old son. 

I spend many hours training with a special bunch of people, and their encouragement has made running as awesome as it is! I could never understand how it could be this addictive, but I know now that when that “gogga” bites there is no turning back! 

As for my running goals – I aspire to complete my very first marathon within the next year. I strongly believe that every run counts, and for as long as it makes me happy, fast or slow, I will keep running! 

Hennie laCock

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Hennie laCock

Hi, my name is Hennie, I’m an avid outdoor adventurer, off-road explorer, camper and nature photographer with a serious – fairly new – love of running. I’ve only really been running for the past few years, my main sport used to be single track mountain biking since school days, but I’ve absolutely been fully converted to running. I’m an Automation & Electronic Engineer and am employed in the mining industry where I’ve executed Engineering Projects all over Africa. I’m a husband to my adventure partner and wife and we have the honour of raising two beautiful girls.

I have not run international races yet, no multi-day events and certainly no ultra runs before. I am however training for my first marathon – so I’m doing this to challenge myself, experience the world of Ultra’s and to see how far I can push myself.  

Frans Amakali

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Frans Amakali

I am Frans Amakali, 41 years old from Windhoek Namibia. I have over 15 years of experience in central banking, centred around information management. 

In addition, I serve as the Comrades Marathon Ambassador and PRO for the Windhoek City Runners Club. 

I am a fitness connoisseur and on top of that family oriented, complementary to that I participate in ultra-marathons, trail running, and cycling including the Comrades Marathon and have a keen passion for endurance sports. 

My fitness journey started in 2014 when my weight was uncontrollable, mainly due to a bad diet, alcohol consumption and lack of exercise. My gym instructor at the time suggested that I consider running as it may help me to get rid of the excess weight. I went from someone who hated running to a passionate marathoner who found a true love for running and sharing that love with others. My purpose for running for wellness is to help others prioritize their mental health and well-being through running.

Angela Alchin

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Angela Alchin

Angela considers herself a novice runner, having started running 2 years ago. Her furthest race has been a half marathon and she is taking part in the Brandberg to achieve her new distance PB. The Brandberg Ultra is also part of her preparation for her first ultrarunning stage race in December 2022 – a 100km run in Sossusvlei, Namibia. Other than that, she is testing the backyard-ultra waters, wants to have fun during the race, and looks forward to watching the more elite athletes strut their stuff. 





Surina de Wit

Surina de Wit

I work in Windhoek as a clinical technologist and in my free time I like to keep active and I’m always on the move. Sporting activities that I enjoy include running, cycling, swimming, duathlons and endurance horse riding. I’ve done the beautiful Cape Town Marathon, Two Oceans, Jan Braai Marathon and almost all local races including Lucky Star and Rossing. The Brandberg Ultra Trail run is a lekker new challenge and I look forward to meeting all the other crazy like-minded runners and the race village gees and camaraderie.

Katja Dreyer

Katja Dreyer

Originally from Germany, I have been living in Namibia for the past 15 years with my husband Naude and our 3 kids. 

Besides the odd 5k run as a student, I started running seriously about 5 years ago. I remember the excitement and joy of my first 10k “race” in Henties Bay. I have done 3 full Marathons since then (Weskus, Cape Town, Hamburg), we are currently training for the Berlin Marathon in September 2022.

The Brandberg run will hopefully be my longest run to date if weather permits. When I am not training, I run a conservation organisation called Ocean Conservation Namibia together with my husband. Running keeps us both physically and mentally healthy to deal with environmental issues every day. 

Naude Dreyer

Naude Dreyer

I am Naude, born and raised in Namibia. I recently completed my 4th full Marathon and I am excited to try a completely different format of running. I hope to run my first Ultra at the BBU.

I love running and it’s integral to my work as a seal rescuer with Ocean Conservation Namibia, an environmental organisation I started with my wife in 2020. My work demands a high level of fitness and running gives me an excuse to be outdoors as much as possible.

I love being part of a fit family and being a role model to my 3 children. The BBU will be part of my training for my next Marathon in Berlin in September.