Dreas du Plessis recently reached a parkrun milestone when he joined the 100 club. Here he tells us his remarkable story of overcoming adversity, time and time again…
I wish to thank all organisers and volunteers and fellow parkrunners who contributed to this unthinkable achievement. I would like to tell my story in order to motivate people from all walks of life to join the parkrun family.
On 17 August 2019, I completed my 100th parkrun at my favourite venue – Hartenbos – at a reasonable pace, walking the 5km in the company of wonderful friends who somehow became like family. The road to 100 was not without its “ups and downs”, but in my case the “ups” outnumbered the “downs” by a big margin.
Let me start the story way back on Saturday 17th August 1996 when my heart brutally attacked me and a very special and determined doctor who managed to resuscitate me. During the ensuing 23 years till now, I suffered a few more heart attacks and strokes and considered myself somewhat “disabled” and not fit for physical endeavors. Then, in April 2017 my wife convinced me to do three parkruns with her. Shortly after this, I had another heart attack on 24 May 2017 – albeit not at a parkrun event.
The participation in parkrun started a new chapter in my life. After the heart attack a triple heart bypass was performed on 30 May 2017. The cardiologist encouraged me to walk 5km every day after the bypass operation and I did my next parkrun on the 10 June 2017. Initially I followed his advice and I started to enjoy physical challenges. I became a 50-club member in August 2018. Unfortunately, I suffered another heart fibrillation in September 2018 whilst walking in hilly Mossel Bay Central and was fortunate enough to be fitted with a pacemaker.
Since then I learned that “giving up” is the wrong thing to do. Through all the setbacks and quite a few emotional problems, parkrun was like my “safe place” where I was welcomed every week and treated with respect and friendship of a very special kind.
My plea to persons who face physical and emotional hardship in any way, is to do what you can to overcome it. Then rise above your own limitations and expectations. And I encourage the brave and the able to inspire by their example and to bless others even if it is only with a smile. Thank you Hartenbos parkrun, for affording me this opportunity to express my gratitude.
parkrun Lamentations – Poem
If Saturday morning comes along
I would like to prove people wrong
And encourage them to be strong
Because a five kilometer route is not long
If giving up is hard to do
Then turning up is too
If my choices were limited to two
Then parkrun, one would be you.
Dreas du Plessis
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