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QA: Pamela went from running newbie to ultra-distance trail runner

Pamela Jane Paton

Port Elizabeth


What do you do?
Coach at 8 Weeks to 5km Challenge, specialising in beginner runners and Owner of SA Medal Hangers. I have now launched a “My First 5km run” Program in partnership with Sleekgeek.

What else do you do?
At the moment most of my spare time is taken up with running or spending time with my daughter. I also love to go hiking, read and do any form of creative activity, from painting and drawing to playing around with various materials to try to create different artworks. Lately, I have been experimenting with various recycled materials and plastics.


How long have you been a member of Sleekgeek?
I have followed Sleekgeek for a number of years – I am not sure exactly how many, pretty much when it started I think. At first on Twitter and then on Facebook

How did you find Sleekgeek?
I found out about it on Twitter and then later joined the group on Facebook.

What is your favourite part of the Sleekgeek Community?
I love how supportive most people are and the community feel. It feels like I have made “friends” even though I have not yet met them in real life. It is also great when you do get to meet up in person that you feel like you know them and have been friends for ages. I have met up with a few members and it has been great.

Want to learn to run your first 5km with Sleekgeek and Pamela? 

Pamela is now an experienced running coach and we have launched a My First 5km run program in partnership with her.

Pamela will teach you to run 5km in 8 weeks. You will do it together with other Sleekgeeks in an online Private Group with plenty of accountability. 

Read all about the Program here. 


Describe the “old you” before you made your transformation. How did you get there and what were you like?
The old me liked to go out late, party too hard and not really pay too much attention to what I was eating. Healthwise I was doing ok but I was definitely not fit.

What ignited your initial motivation to change?
In 2004, I was in my early 30’s and after breaking up with a boyfriend I decided to take control of my life and go for a run. That first run did not go well, nor did the next few attempts, I barely made it to the first lamp pole before turning around, totally out of breath. I also started canoeing and met an amazing woman there that was a very experienced, ultra-distance runner. I had set a goal to run a 10km race and she helped me and gave me advice.

What are some of the things that the new you does differently now?
I have been physically active now for about 16 years so being active is totally ingrained in my lifestyle. I could not imagine not being active and fit. Each year is different though as different challenges and goals present themselves.

I have realised that you have to evolve and change, but keep those changes in line with what it is that you really want and how you want your life to feel. Things happen and we need to be able to adjust, but keep your health and fitness as a central and stable point. You can adapt and change as you learn and grow. I add a few things in or take them away. Just over 2 years ago I decided to cut out all alcohol and I also changed and amended my food choices as I learned what works for me and what doesn’t.

What are some of the things that the new you still struggles with? Doughnuts… They are my weakness!

I also used to struggle with motivation to exercise if I did not have a goal or race lined up, but now it is so much part of me that this less and less of a problem. Saying that though, I do normally have a goal or race lined up.

If you could give yourself 1 piece of advice to help with that struggle, what would it be?
If you have the doughnut or miss a workout, it is not the end of the world or your fitness journey. Give yourself a break, just try to do better tomorrow.

Did you plateau, get stuck, or get disillusioned, or even slide backwards a bit on your journey?
Absolutely, the journey is never linear. There will be ups and downs. The hard part is releasing this and carrying on. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip back – you now know what it takes. There is also never an end. I have realised that even if you hit your goal or goal weight, you still need to work at it. The journey is continuous. I try and focus less on the outcome now and more on the process. Even with goal races, I try and make the most of the training. Race day, although important is not what makes it. I realised this when I got sick a few days before a big race and had to pull out. Life is what happens in the day-to-day. Make sure you are not always just looking forward to a set figure or date. Appreciate the small victories and moments.

What is better since you got healthy?
Pretty much everything. I love the feeling of being fit and know that if somebody asks me to join in on a hike or something I can say yes, without worrying about it.


What’s your favourite form of exercise? [Running, yoga, weightlifting, etc]
I love running, especially ultra distance trail running. I also enjoy open water swimming, although I have not done much of that lately.

How long have you been training and how did you get started?
I have been training since 2004 and I set myself a goal of running a 10km race.

What does your typical workout look like?
I vary my run distance and speed quite a bit, but most of my workouts are runs. I also include Pilates.

Favourite exercise? [Distance / pose / movement / etc]
I love ultra distance trail running. I think it is the fact that I get to spend hours out in nature in areas that I would not normally get to see.

Least favourite exercise? [Distance / pose / movement / etc]
I’m not sure I have a least favourite, although I am not very flexible so anything that involves stretching is not very much fun. I do Pilates as I know they are good for me and help with strength and flexibility. Although I don’t dislike them they would not be my favourite.

How does exercise make you feel?
Confident and alive. It is my happy place.

Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
I like both as they both have advantages. Running is my social space. I don’t get out much, so runs and races are the places where I see my friends and get to chat up. I do quite a bit of my training with a small group of friends but races I will generally run alone.

Most embarrassing training moment?
I have quite a few… But the one that comes to mind is the day I brought a mouse into the gym – accidentally. A dumpster tipped over at work, near my car and a whole lot of mice ran out. One mouse must have gotten into my car and hidden in my bag in the boot. When I opened my bag in the gym changing room the mouse jumped out and ran across the floor. There were women screaming and jumping up on the benches. It was actually quite funny (if I had not been so embarrassed). One woman ran out screaming and went straight to reception, when I walked to the pool area she was pointing at me and shouting, “that woman brought a mouse into the gym…”

Top 3 things you must have at the gym or in your gym bag?
Besides my running shoes….
Hydration/Nutrition (I use Tailwind)
Zambuk which I use for a whole lot of things, but mostly to avoid blisters and as an anti-chafe on long runs.

Your next training goal?
I have two for this year. In 2 weeks time I will take part in the Addo Elephant 100 Miler run (161km) and in July I will do my first 200plus mile race (380km) The Tusker running from Addo to Knysna, continuously, to raise funds for the Eden to Addo Corridor initiative. It is the first time this race is being held so to be able to take part in the inaugural run is so exciting.

Top 5 songs on your training playlist?
I don’t listen to music while I train.

How has exercise/training/Sport Changed your life? [Made it better, etc – please be specific]
Sport and exercise has totally changed my life. I am healthier and weigh less now at 47, than I did at 27 or even 37. Not only has it changed my health, but it has led to starting my own businesses. Firstly with SA Medal Hangers, as I was looking for a solution to display my own running medals that I had worked so hard to achieve, and then with my Live Fit Run, 8 Weeks to 5km Challenge groups where I get to assist people to run their first 5km.

I now have the opportunity to motivate and inspire others to change their lives and start running. It has improved my mental health and confidence. I have been able to do things that I previously would never have thought possible. I have climbed mountains, including Kilimanjaro. I have run races that I only thought other people could do, like Ironman and Comrades and 100 milers. I have seen the most amazing places that I would never have gotten to see, had I not run there. When I started running and exercising I was doubtful that I could ever finish a 10km race, I had no idea it would take me in the direction it has or that it would change my life the way it has.


What’s your favourite meal?
Haggis, with mash and gravy (yes really, my family is Scottish…)

OK, now what’s your favourite healthy meal?
I have recently moved to a more plant-based lifestyle and am still figuring out my favourite plant-based meal. I love playing with new flavours and ingredients and am excited about food, nutrition and cooking again.

What’s your nutrition philosophy / approach? [If you have one]
I am about balance and eating whole clean foods. Lately I have moved to a plant-based lifestyle. I don’t totally avoid “junk” and processed foods but will have them in moderation. I will have the doughnuts or chocolate as I find I tend to want something more if I tell myself I can’t have it.
I heard about “nude foods” a number of years back and try to follow that approach as much as possible. The more packaging something has the more processed it is, so I will not have that as often. I am very aware of the plastic and environmental problem that packaging presents so by following this approach I get to do my bit for the environment and my health.

How many meals a day do you eat?
3 meals, breakfast is usually a home-made protein smoothie shake.

Do you have a cheat meal / treat strategy?
I don’t avoid treats, I just try to moderate them.


Most memorable personal best achievement to date. Something you maybe never imagined you could do?
I have done so many things I never thought possible. When I first started, my goal was a 10km race and I was not sure I would manage that. Now I have completed a 100 Mile race.

I think the most memorable was probably Comrades though. I did not finish it the first time I tried, so finishing the second time was huge for me.

I was busy going through a divorce while training and running the 1st one and mentally was not in the right place. To finish it the following year was a huge personal victory.

Favourite quote?
I am Brave. I am Strong. I can do hard things.

Favourite book?
I love reading but don’t really have a favourite – there are quite a few I like and have reread a number of times.

What inspires and motivates you?
I love a challenge. I love doing something that seems impossible initially. I also want to show my daughter what a strong woman is. That you can do what you set out to do, and if you fail you pick yourself up and try again. You might not always succeed, but getting out there and trying is what makes life worth living.

For what are you most grateful?
My family and friends, as well as the friends I have made through this whole process, both online and in real life. I have so many people in my life that support me and believe in me. The people that reach out to me and offer words of encouragement and support for what I am doing, both with my own life and for the support I offer to others. I am always so grateful for the people around me.

What do you want to say to other community members who might be nervous or hesitant to make a start?
You will never know where this journey will take you. Making the change is the hardest part but make that decision! Put your why in place and refer back to it.

What are your top 5 tips for anyone starting on a healthy journey?
1. Just take that 1st step.
2. Start slow, you don’t need to make all the changes right on day one.
3. Put things in place to help you succeed.
4. Get a support system and people on your side, even if online – like Sleekgeek.
5. Don’t consider a small setback a huge failure, step up again.

Want to learn to run your first 5km with Sleekgeek and Pamela? 

Pamela is now an experienced running coach and we have launched a My First 5km run program in partnership with her.

Pamela will teach you to run 5km in 8 weeks. You will do it together with other Sleekgeeks in an online Private Group with plenty of accountability. 

Read all about the Program here. 

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