I work at Men’s Health South Africa and every year, the big bosses take a hard look around the office and think, man, these guys are pathetic. Their solution: a 3-month course of hardcore physical training where we aim to go from scrawny to brawny: pack on muscle, shed a bunch of body fat, and achieve something great. We get to choose our discipline, and we call it the Men’s Health #StaffChallenge.

This year, I wanted to do some running. My goals: run 5km in 20 minutes, double my deadlift, and do my first half-marathon, straight up a mountain. To reach all of those in just 14 weeks, I knew I’d need three things: a vicious competitive streak, balls of steel, and expert help. And that’s when I found RaceFit Gym.

The first time I met Chris Lippstreu I warned him it wouldn’t be easy. I’m a generally grumpy person who gets grumpier with exercise, and running, at that point, was just the worst thing in the world: I was slow, and it felt bad, and I must have looked, while slogging around empty streets hating my life, like shit.

One hundred days later all of that has changed. I’m faster, and it feels better, to be stronger all over. Even now I’m surprised at how well Chris has done in training me – he has pushed me and guided me and helped me. He has put up with my endless bitching. And he has helped me find a sense of exhilaration in reaching the top of a mountain without wanting to fall over, vomit, and die.

There are too many numbers to count: I’ve covered 420km, or 10 marathons, and have got my 10km PB down to 47 minutes, and am right now 6 short seconds away from smashing my 5km goal, and I climbed 24km up the Kogelberg, and earned the hell out of that Spur Winter Trail Series medal, and can squat 90kg and deadlift 80, and when I finally get my VO2 max test result from the nerds at Sports Science, I’m sure that will be amazing too.

It might be impossible to thank Chris enough for everything he has done for me. But I’ll try. Because without him, I wouldn’t have been able to climb those mountains, or finish this challenge, or grown strong enough to feel like I could fly.

Thanks, Chris! For all the early morning training sessions. For the encouragement, and advice, and the support. I’ve learnt a lot, about my body and myself. I’ve picked up more iron than I thought possible. I’ve run further than most people do in a lifetime. And I’ve discovered, with your help, the joy of being able to explore my world.