CFP’s Catherine Luyt: Conquering a 87-kilometre ultramarathon

Our colleague at CFP, Catherine Luyt, achieved an exceptional accomplishment by completing a 87-kilometre ultramarathon (The Comrades) in South Africa in 2023. Prior to our interview with Catherine, she humorously mentioned the challenge of finding a photo where she isn’t shedding tears. Running such a demanding race, coupled with her social responsibilities and working at CFP, presented challenges. Curious about how she managed this remarkable achievement? Discover the inspiring story in this article.

How it all began

Catherine has been passionate about running since the age of 18, influenced by her parents who were enthusiastic runners. “I started my marathon journey in 2016, participating in events such as the Rome Marathon in Italy, Cape Town, and Prague. But growing up in South Africa, the goal was set to run the Comrades Marathon, a race my father had completed already nine times.”

Qualifying for the marathon demanded completing it in under 4 hours and 50 minutes, a challenge Catherine accomplished the year before the Comrades. 2023 would be her father’s 10th Comrades Marathon and her 1st. Unfortunately, her father, did not manage to qualify.

“The Comrades Marathon, renowned for its century-old traditions, holds a unique charm, such as the opportunity to place a name tag on the prestigious Comrades wall. Catherine’s emotional journey unfolded in the picturesque Valley of a Thousand Hills, a stunning backdrop for the marathon that commenced at 5:30 am and concluded at 5:30 pm.”

Preparation and dedication

In preparation for the ultramarathon, Physical training included a lot of running and gym workouts focusing on strength and muscles for Catherine. Mentally, the key was having a clear goal and understanding the significance of the marathon. Catherine: “I had a longstanding desire to participate, reinforced by stories, documentaries, and the traditions associated with the event. Drawing inspiration from my dad’s experience and running alongside a friend who had done it before provided valuable advice and support.” Catherine, who enjoys chatting during runs, found that engaging in conversation served as a mental distraction, contributing to her successful completion of the marathon.

Balancing work with training

To balance marathon trainings with work commitments, Catherine follows a flexible running training plan. She adjusts her runs based on her work schedule, sometimes running before or after work. Despite her dedication to running, Catherine prioritizes social life and work. Exercise is integrated into her work and social schedule. She maintains a consistent presence while managing her energy, choosing to abstain from drinking or opting for early bedtimes. Catherine: “I structure my training week with long runs on weekends and shorter runs during the week, totaling 6 days of training. This includes 4 days of running, 2 days of strength training, and a designated rest day.”

“My colleagues from CFP also supported me in my marathon journey by allowing me to work remotely in the week leading up to the run. They showed genuine interest, asking about my training and extending good luck wishes. The support from colleagues contributed to a positive and encouraging atmosphere as I prepared for the Comrades Marathon.”

The epic race: A test of endurance

The race not only showcased Catherine’s physical progress but also revealed the beauty of nature, particularly in the Valley of a Thousand Hills. Starting early in the morning, with the sunrise as a witness, the marathon proved to be a truly remarkable and emotional experience. The support received along the way added to the overall sense of camaraderie, making this adventure an unforgettable and cool experience for Catherine and all who participated.

“One of the most memorable moments during the Comrades Marathon was the powerful start with 25,000 people singing the South African national anthem and traditional songs like “Chariots of Fire” and “Shosholoza” in the darkness at 5:30 am. The sunrise, interactions with diverse people, and the support of family added to the experience.”

Catherine Luyt, Product & Account Manager at CFP Green Buildings

Despite facing challenges towards the end, particularly with fatigue, the finish inside a sports stadium, surrounded by cheering spectators, provided a unique and memorable moment. The mixture of emotions, from happiness to exhaustion, culminated in a deeply impactful experience that made all the hard work feel worthwhile. Catherine: “The experience was nothing short of amazing, with participants from around the world, including India, Brazil, and Europe, creating a diverse and supportive atmosphere.”

Beyond the finish line

After accomplishing the goal of completing the Comrades Marathon, Catherine took a six-week break from running to enjoy social activities. Then the training for the Marathon in Amsterdam started. Catherine: “The three-month training period for the Marathon in Amsterdam involved gradually building up fitness, with weekend distances of 15 kilometres and mid-week runs ranging from 8 to 10 kilometres.” Returning to training after a break proved challenging, and motivation played a significant role. While the six months of training for The Comrades served as substantial motivation, regaining the same level of motivation for the Amsterdam Marathon was more challenging. Ultimately, Catherine adopted a mindset of running for enjoyment, recognizing the importance of readiness for an event like The Comrades Marathon, where being unprepared could mean not finishing. Catherine: “In marathon training, the usual goal is to achieve a specific finishing time. I aimed to finish within the last hour for the marathon in Amsterdam.” For most, the primary objective is simply completing the marathon. In the Amsterdam Marathon, Catherine finished below 4.5 hours, achieving a time of 4:29 and expressing satisfaction.

Lessons learned

Completing a marathon taught Catherine valuable lessons that she believes apply to both her work and personal life. The key lessons include discipline, as evidenced by following a training plan for six months and practicing patience to see progress over time. Tough moments are inevitable, but trusting the process and understanding that difficulties will pass while keeping the end goal in mind are crucial. Setting small milestones contributes to reaching the ultimate goal. Catherine emphasizes the importance of having a goal, noting that running provides a tangible reflection of milestones, which may not be as readily apparent in work and personal life.

Are you also interested in working at CFP Green Buildings? We’re still on the lookout for new talent! Take a look at our vacancies and see if there’s something suitable for you.

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CFP Green Buildings
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The Netherlands
+31 (0)55 355 5199

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+31 (0)55 355 5199

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