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  • Mosibodi Whitehead

'I was not disciplined and that took me out' - Kaptein is back and in it to win it!

More than one exhausted runner has been heard to exclaim in exasperation after crossing the finish line - never again! The pain of running still fresh in the mind of the battered body that has been dragged over forty or more kilometres, it's owner is quick to denounce this once-loved past time as an act of lunacy. And it seems that the 'never again' syndrome is limited not only to social runners, because having had to endure the hardship of trying to make it as a full-time professional athlete, many a top runner has also been known throw in the towel.


William Kaptein did exactly that. Unable to breakthrough into the upper echelons of South African distance running on a consistent basis, the man from the Cape turned his back on the sport. But like the weekend warrior who reconsiders his decision once the pain has subsided, Kaptein also thought better of his choice and is making a come back which is slowly starting to bear fruit.


Kaptein at this 2022 Absa RUN YOUR CITY DURBAN 10km after returning to the sport. Photo Credit: William Kaptein.

"I've been out of the sport for so long. I was planning to give up my career," he told #TheTopRunner when asked where he has been for the last three years. "My life was dysfunctional. Financially, I was broke. It was a lot of pressure on me. For you train as a professional athlete when you don't have money in your bank account - it's crucial. I was in the wilderness, I was partying and doing everything. So if you hang around with friends that don't do sport, that's the biggest mistake."


Not liking who he was becoming the man from Robertson in the Western Cape chatted to an old primary school teacher who encouraged him to return to running. You see Kaptein's decision to quit was also based in part on the results that never fully materialised after much had been promised. He initially made a name for himself back in 2015 when he won the Cape Town 10km in the impressive time of 28:34. Hailed as the next big local distance running star, he however failed to challenge the likes of Stephen Mokoka, Elroy Gelant and Gladwin Mzazi and the ensuing depression saw him take exit the sport.


Kaptein during the glory days when he won the Cape Town 10km. Photo Credit: William Kaptein.

"I decided to go back so I contacted coach Chris Bruwer to help me with my training. I love this sport. I can't go a day without it, even if it's just a jog in the morning. So I was still keeping the engine running, but I was not competing that level that I was competing at in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Chris helped me and after that we went to Michael Meyer and he's helping me also. Running brings out the good William Kaptein," he shared.


And once he had made the choice to comeback, the results followed almost immediately. On April 27 after just a few months back, he won the Retail Capital Langa Run for Freedom 10km in the time of 29:34 much to the delight of the host club which is also his own club. Although he produced a disappointing 33 minutes during the Absa RUN YOUR CITY DURBAN 10k, he bounced back with another victory at the Curro 21,1km race over the weekend.


Kaptein and clubmate Fortunate Chidzivho pose for a photo at the Curro 21km which both won this weekend. Photo Credit: Chris Bruwer.

Those encouraging results leave the engaged father of two right back where he was when he quit three years ago: on the cusp of something great. But this time he has vowed to go the distance. "I believe I am one of the best athletes in South Africa. For the youngsters that are going through tough times they must go to the professionals and talk to them. It can even be a coach in your community or school. I was not disciplined and that took me out. I'm here and I want to give my best at least for another ten years if the will of God is with me. I will run through the roof if I have to. I'm in it to win it like a lottery ticket."


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