Caroline Wostmann CA(SA) was the first woman over the line at the 2015 Two Oceans Marathon. She completed the 56-km ultra-marathon in a time of 03:41:23, thus becoming the first South African woman to clinch the title in 14 years. Yuven Gounden reports
Frith van der Merwe’s 1989 unbroken record time for the Two Oceans Marathon is 3:30:36 and her unbroken record time for the Comrades Marathon of 5:54:43 also still stands. Wostmann’s time is fairly close to that of Frith’s record in the Two Oceans Marathon. Asked if she intends breaking these records, Wostmann said, ‘At the moment I can’t even begin to compare myself to Frith, who was a phenomenal athlete with far superior times to me in all distances. My time for the Comrades was 6:51. But if you train hard and prepare, anything is possible.’
Champion runner Frith van der Merwe said: ‘It was good to see a South African woman win after such a long time. I watched the race and I saw that Caroline finished the race strongly and while others ran strongly at the beginning and finished badly, Caroline ran the race to perfection.’
Wostmann, 32, lives in Pretoria and is a lecturer in management accounting and finance at Wits University. She is married to Haiko, who also acts as her manager. A born multi-tasker, Wostmann is a mother to two young girls, Isabell (4) and Gabriella (7). She loves running (with renewed passion now) and spending time with her family, and manages to enjoy a good work–life balance. It does not end there: this young lady submitted her master’s a few days before she ran the Two Oceans. To her, running reflects most of what of life is about: perseverance, hard work, and commitment.
‘I used to train on my own, but after I did so well in the Comrades last year, I decided to take it more seriously, and engaged Lindsey Parry from the High Performance Centre (HPC) in Pretoria as a coach. Winning the Two Oceans was a surreal experience for me. Often one visualises achieving something that’s far beyond what you think you are capable of in an attempt to push your boundaries. I had never even got to the point of visualising that I could win Two Oceans because it felt so far out of my reach. So imagine my surprise. It’s a moment I will cherish forever,’ she says.
Of course, like most things in life, hard work is a prerequisite. And preparing and training for the marathon was no exception for Wostmann.
‘It is still a challenge to fit in the time for running. Often I don’t feel like getting up at 4 am when the alarm goes off, but I know that if I don’t get up I will not be able to complete my session, and so I drag myself out of bed to train. I train every day of the week.On Mondays to Fridays I train twice a day. Apart from my Two Oceans win, I came sixth in the women’s category in the 2014 Comrades and was the first South African lady over the finish line,’ she says.
‘I matriculated in 2001 from Midrand High School and went on to study BCom(Acc)(Sci) at the University of Pretoria (UP). My aptitude test had indicated that I should go into a field of a financial nature and the CA route was as one of my options. After doing some research into the nature of the profession I decided that it would be a good fit for my strengths and personality. After four years I left UP with my Certificate in the Theory of Accounting (CTA) and honours degree and joined Deloitte, where I spent five years as part of the Deloitte family. Three of those years were spent on my training contract which I completed attaining the highest possible rating at that time. I was then thrilled to be accepted as an audit manager and spent another two years in this role. During my time at Deloitte I married Haiko and soon after we started our family.
‘After the birth of my second child I realised that I was not able to give both my family and my career the attention I wanted to simultaneously and with a heavy heart I decided to leave Deloitte. I moved into a more flexible lecturing role at Wits and quickly learnt that I have a passion for teaching. I have loved every minute of my time spent interacting with students and providing them with the guidance, knowledge and skills that they will need to become the future business leaders of South Africa. It is my fifth year at Wits and it has been an extremely fulfilling job. I do, however, often miss the challenges of the corporate world and am certain that once my children are older I will move away from academia. For now, however, I am blessed with the flexibility and fulfilment the academic world offers.
‘During my time at Deloitte I started running (initially as a means of losing the weight I had gained during my first pregnancy). As soon as I got over the original discomfort from lack of fitness I found the running to be a source of calm before the storm of audit deadlines and found that it helped me to plan and structure my day and start the day on a high. After leaving Deloitte, with the luxury of more time on my hands, I spent more time running and set myself higher goals, which created a ladder to reach my current success.’
Wostmann has a decisive message for youngsters out there – for those who intend pursuing the CA(SA) route and for those who intend hitting the open road. ‘Dream big and aim high. Then realise that dreams do not become a reality unless you are willing to put in the preparation and hard work that it takes to make them real. There are no short cuts and easy fixes,’ she says.
Chantyl Mulder, Executive Director: Nation Building, at SAICA, who also enjoys running as a sport, is ecstatic about Wostmann’s win.
‘Caroline is a shining example of how versatile our members are. Sport is one of the avenues that helps to build a nation, and her achievement epitomises what nation building in our profession is all about. SAICA is proud to have such a valuable member in its fold – someone who also embodies the SAICA tenet of responsible leadership. I am sure that this quality will be handed down to her students,’ says Mulder.
Bill Squires said, ‘The long run puts the tiger in the cat.’ When one considers what Caroline Wostmann has achieved, these words are apt. She certainly demolishes the stereotype that CAs(SA) are dull and boring people.
Go to the link to see Caroline’s comments on YouTube: https://youtu.be/B802w5fRK0Q
Yuven Gounden is Project Manager: Communication and Marketing at SAICA