'I love what I'm doing' - The Natasha Felix story
For some running is a healthy from the routine of daily life. For others it's a way to make a living. But for some, running is an act of self-determination to take control of their lives by mastering their bodies. This is the category that Natasha Felix falls into. The 46-year-old who originally hails from Cape Town is known to many in the South African running community as a sought-after bus driver and multiple brand ambassador. But what many don't know is that she is also a rape survivor.
"Growing up in the Cape Flats, I was raped at the age of 13 while on my way to school" she told #TheTopRunner. "I kept it a secret up until the age of 22. After the incident, I just went straight home. But for all those years I learnt to fight for myself, I learnt to protect myself. I had to do everything for myself because I never shared it with anybody. Maybe if I had shared it, things would be different. But as the years went on I became the Tash that I am today by making a stand to be there for others - especially other females. I let them know that your past does not determine your future. I specifically ran the Paris Marathon to raise awareness for rape victims, to let them know that you can rise up and be a phenomenal woman."
The 2024 Paris Marathon then was experience for the 32GI ambassador because less than a year after becoming an official pace maker she got the opportunity to take part in the prestigious race and use its platform to highlight the plight of rape victims. In the French capital she produced her first sub 4 hour marathon clocking, which was a culmination of a journey that began more than two decades ago when she moved from Cape Town to Johannesburg at the turn of the millennium.
"I've been in Johannesburg for 23 years. I came here in the year 2000 because I wanted better opportunities. Growing in Mannenburg, I came here for better opportunities. Back in the day it was a big challenge for me to run with females. I was always the rose amongst the thorns. In every training run I was with men. I had the desire to run with women, but where were they? But over the years the doors have opened and ladies have been welcomed into running and accepted for who and what they are. I'm an activist for women empowerment and supporting women in all areas and in every sporting code that I practice," explained the woman doubles as a football coach.
Spending those early years running predominantly with men, sharpened Felix into one of the faster runners who boasts more than one podium finish. Her ability to consistently achieve her time goals, was soon noticed by other runners who started following her. It was only a matter of time until the woman who is a teacher at a school for children with special needs was asked to become an official pacemaker. Starting her pace making duties in 2022, she has gone on to pace at the 2023 Totalsports Two Oceans Half Marathon in April and the Venice Marathon in October.
"You know you go to races and people come and say: thank you've helped me or when I see you I know I'm gonna to the finish line. Most of the time I wasn't aware that I was helping people. I was not aware that I was helping people. So that's why I always advise runners to keep on pushing because you don't know who you inspire. So when I got the invite to pace officially I said, I'll do it. And I love what I'm doing because it's about helping people. Back then when I wanted to run a race in a certain time, I had to fight to do it. Now they can relax because I'm there to help. It's all about helping one another to reach our goals."