How Dream Chaser Hengie went from couch potato to marathon runner

Follow the three-month-long fitness journeys of 3 Fedhealth Dream Chasers

23 July 2019 - 06:21
'I’m not trying to be Bruce Fordyce, I just want to do it for fun,' says Hengie McInnes, who is part of the Fedhealth Dream Chasers reality web series.
'I’m not trying to be Bruce Fordyce, I just want to do it for fun,' says Hengie McInnes, who is part of the Fedhealth Dream Chasers reality web series.
Image: Supplied

When she took the call for this interview, Hengie McInnes was at the worst possible place she could be – her beloved couch.

As a self-confessed couch potato trying to use Fedhealth’s Dream Chasers campaign to put a healthy distance between herself and her “favourite place in the world”, hearing that she was sitting on said couch when doing this interview was probably the last thing anyone wanted to hear.

But in her defence, the 53-year-old was convalescing from a head cold on the day in question - a minor disruption of her two months’ training which meant she couldn’t go ahead with her session for the day, even though she had ambitions of catching an 8km time trial a couple days later.

Dream Chasers is SA’s hottest new reality web series, featuring the trials and tribulations of three everyday South Africans pursuing their fitness dreams by running the 10km race, the 12km trail run or the 42.2km distance at the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. Hengie is one of three Fedhealth members training to participate in the Cape Town Marathon as part of the medical scheme’s campaign to encourage them to make their fitness dreams a reality. She will be running the 10km Peace Run/Walk on September 15.

The contestants receive expert coaching, nutritional advice and gear to bolster their efforts.

Watch the video | Fedhealth Dream Chasers

The mother of one (to 21-year-old university student Keiran) got involved in the campaign when a decision to go on diet was met with a coincidental e-mail from Fedhealth inviting its members to take up the offer to join Dream Chasers.

“I began intermittent fasting and then I thought I also needed to do something with my body,” she said. “Two weeks into the fasting I got the e-mail from Fedhealth. I thought: 'should I do this, because this is really hard work?’ Then I thought, 'oh bugger it, let me just do it'.

“Then I got an e-mail saying I needed to send a one-minute video. I was taking my dog for a walk when I decided to do it, and 67,000 takes later I sent the video – and here we are.”

Hengie’s new life as an action woman is at odds with her recent past, in which she spent a significant amount of time on her couch binge-watching Netflix “for hours on end” (“skop, skiet en donner” movies, to be precise).

Once she started training with her Fedhealth-assigned coach Brendan McBirnie, she found out that she liked her action better on TV: “Brendan is ... oh my goodness, I’m so scared of him. He’s a killer, man. The day after the first shoot, I had to lower myself down on to the toilet and fall down stairs I was so sore – I’m scared of him now.”

For someone who hates training with a passion (she’d rather chew her arm off than go to gym), Hengie, who works in human resources at St Stithians College, has found something she wants to do in running. “I like running, it’s actually quite nice, I haven’t found another type of training I actually enjoy.”

Hengie has a history with running, which she took up between 2013 and 2014 before depression hit and sent her to the safe confines of her couch. But having started slowly this time around by running one kilometre and “coughing up a lung” while she’s at it, she has quickly got herself to a place where she can now continuously run 6km of a 10km race.

While she says she hasn’t even “blown the dust off the surface, let alone scratched it”, she would love to continue running after meeting her goal on September 15: “I’d like to continue, so I’d like to join running club Randburg Harriers.

“I’m not trying to be Bruce Fordyce, I just want to do it for fun. I’m very stubborn, so I’ll get there eventually.”

Follow the Dream Chasers' individual progress by keeping an eye on the following channels:

Fedhealth on Facebook and Twitter; TimesLIVE on Facebook and Twitter; and the hashtags #Fedhealth #DreamChasers

This article was paid for by Fedhealth.