Thomas Vermaak is an Ultra running athlete with the goal of running 100x100miler races!

our newest team member:

Black Diamond South Africa Athlete 

Thomas Vermaak

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you first got into running?

My name is Thomas but everyone calls me Tom, I’m a mountain guide, paramedic and ultra runner, and just a general mountain bohemian. I’m keen on any challenge and love long days on and on any mountain. I have a passion for all mountain sports and love sharing this with anyone keen to tag along.

My running career started at school where I use to run cross country and track for the western province team. After school, I stopped running while I was studying and only got back to the sport a couple of years ago. I have been racing since; challenging my mind, and body and pushing the distances I run further and further with each subsequent year. 

What motivates you to hit the trail every day?

I’m honestly not sure what motivates me to throw my running shoes on and hit the trails, I guess you could say it’s my love for the outdoors, my passion for sharing those magical mountain moments with the rest of the trail community, and just the ability to test my limits while surrounding myself with breathtaking scenery. It is a time when I can just switch off, and soak up my surroundings as I cruise my way through the mountain.

What distance races do you mostly enter?

I typically prefer longer-distance races. However, I find it more challenging and a way to test my body’s limits with a dash of adventure. The races I find myself entering are usually 100km to 100 miles. I dabble in the odd shorter races, but I’m a diesel engine, so the longer the better.

How do you balance your training schedule with other aspects of your life, such as work or family commitments?

I believe I try my best to balance my work, family and training schedule to the best of my ability. Fortunately, I have an amazing partner that supports me and understands the sacrifices I go through to spend long days in the mountains.

How do you handle the mental and physical challenges that come with being a long-distance runner?

I truly believe a person only knows themselves once they have spent 24 to 48 hours alone in a wilderness environment in their thoughts with no distraction (no music or electronics). That raw self-reflection gets down to one’s inner thoughts as you ride the waves of emotions as you run along. Once you manage to concur the mind, any physical activity is possible. I guess what I’m saying is the key to any ultra race, especially a 100 miler, is to set small goals, race checkpoints to the checkpoint and compartmentalise each aid station. Once you have mastered that you will master any race.

thomas vermaak trail running athlete south africa
What do you hope to achieve in your running career, both in the short term and long term?

I have a few short-term goals I’m building towards, next season I will be attempting the AMUK Challenge, which is the holy grail of South African trail running whereby you complete 4x 100 milers back to back all over South Africa. (Addo 100, Ultra trail Drakensberg, Mac Mac and Karkloof 100)

I will also be attempting my first 200 miler race next year if my training goes to plan. In a nutshell, I’m looking forward to seeing how far I can push my body as I attempt these challenging races.

My long-term goal is to run 100×100 milers, currently, there are only 17 people in the world to have completed this challenging feat; Tobie Reyneke is the first South African to do so. He inspired me with countless others in the small 100 miler community to attempt my first 100 miler (Cederberg Traverse) and push the boundaries of running in the ultra trail running community.

What has been the most memorable race or running experience of your career so far, and why?

I think it has to be my first ever 100 miler race (2020 Cederberg Traverse) . Nothing beats the raw emotional roller coaster you experience while running your first ever 100 miler. That race taught me that anything is possible, no matter how sore, tired or despondent you are, anything is possible as long as you put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward.

How do you approach setting goals for yourself, and what steps do you take to achieve them?

I guess I was brought up believing anything is possible and achievable, just dream, believe and knuckle down and do it. The way I approach each goal is to set small bite-size achievable goals and before you know it, you have nibbled it down and eaten the whole cake.

Can you share some insights into your training regimen and any specific workouts or techniques that have been particularly effective for you?

I guess with ultra running consistency is key, the hardest part is putting on your running shoes and hitting the trails no matter the weather. I break my training up into 3-week cycles, Long week, Medium week and short week. (140km-120km, 120km-100km and 80km weeks).

How do you stay focused and maintain a positive mindset during tough times or setbacks in your running journey?

Everyone has setbacks, it’s normal, I believe the trick is to pick yourself up off the ground after tripping over that rock, dust yourself off and laugh about it as setbacks are temporary but it will all be worth it in the end.

Your can visit Toms Instagram here 

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