Top Athlete as Brand Ambassador for Allergy Foundation SA
The Allergy Foundation SA (AFSA) is excited to announce the appointment of elite athlete Nolene Conrad, as their Brand Ambassador. She adds her outstanding drive and enthusiasm to AFSA’s vision to create awareness, advise, educate and promote responsible care and treatment for asthma and allergy sufferers of all ages.
On 19 November 2017, Nolene Conrad ran the Valencia Marathon in Spain in a time of 2:35:19 – smashing her personal best by 12 minutes. That’s a top 10 finish in an IAAF Gold Label race, and the fastest time by any South African female athlete this year. It is also a Western Province record. She will be representing SA at the World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia Spain on the 24th March 2018.
But what’s even more amazing is that this world-class athlete, a South African champion in three disciplines, whose lungs and muscles are able to push themselves to unimaginable lengths, nearly died when she was 16 years old. From asthma.
From troubled beginnings, today Nolene is one of the most successful long-distance runners in South Africa. Hospitalised due to a near-fatal asthma attack, Nolene received a stern lecture from her doctor which she would never forget.
He told her that her asthma was getting worse and she needed to incorporate some sort of physical activity and exercise into her teenage lifestyle. He told her that if she didn’t, she would not live until the age of 21.
That week, Nolene joined a friend at cross-country training. And that’s how a small, frail, and very sickly 16-year-old Nolene Conrad ended up wheezing her way through half a four-kilometre run before collapsing onto her knees and sucking desperately on her asthma pump. For the first three months running didn’t get any easier, only more tolerable.
The following year the asthma started to ease and she found herself not just fitter, but running with a passion compounded by relief. She was no longer bringing up the rear, but running at the head of the pack. Her coach recognised that the crazy little girl with the asthma pump had real talent. “You can run,” he told her that year. “So run.”
In her last year of school she was the star athlete, and received scholarship offers from the United States. But she declined the offers because her dream was to be selected for the South African athletics team.
The following year, Nolene made the Commonwealth Games team going to Melbourne in Australia. She moved to Johannesburg, where she taught at a high school, and continued to make South African teams and smash personal records. After two years of living in Johannesburg, the asthma attacks stopped completely. She had grown out of it and she had become an elite athlete in three disciplines: road running, track and cross-country.
Prof Mike Levin, the CEO of the Allergy Foundation of South Africa (AFSA) and head of Allergology at Red Cross Children’s Hospital said they were extremely excited at the thought of working with Conrad. “She is a very worthy Brand Ambassador for AFSA and we know her drive and enthusiasm will add tremendous value to all we have planned in the future.
“Asthmatics should be able to participate and excel in all sporting activities. Using regular controller medication every day whether symptomatic or not allows asthmatics to achieve their full potential.” Levin adds.
Conrad said she is delighted to be able to share her journey and encourage asthma sufferers to take charge of their health. Conrad also commented, “AFSA’s vision is a cause close to my heart as I support their vision of creating awareness and education for the treatment of Asthma and allergy sufferers. We would like to host a 5km and 2.5km fun run event this year to bring about awareness and help asthmatics and allergy sufferers take charge of their health.”
She will be the face of the AFSA Fun Run 2018 (watch this space for details!) and is testimony to the fact that with drive and determination, anything is possible.
(excerpts from an Article in the Mediclinic Magazine – Issue 33, Summer 2017)