Marathon runner Renier Grobler can finish a gruelling 90 km race in under six hours but says it has been a longer journey to finding what he describes as “the victorious life”.
From a young age Renier was crazy about sports and loved everything from rugby to cricket.
"I realised at age 16 that I could run well and be competitive at athletics and cross country," Renier says.
A friend persuaded him to start training and he soon received provincial colours in both cross country and athletics, finishing the U/19 cross country season as the second best runner in the Gauteng-North province, South Africa.
Yet despite Renier's success and sportsman mindset, after graduating from school his interest turned to hard-core heavy metal music.
"This lured me into a new world where I started to meet people with brilliant music ability but who also abused alcohol and drugs," he shares.
His love for running soon faded away as he started singing in a heavy metal band.
"We used very explicit lyrics, abused alcohol and smoked marijuana," Renier confesses.
"There was no more time for running and also no time for God."
Renier grew up in a strong Christian family but says partying soon replaced time spent attending church and praying to God.
"From being a youngster so in love with sports, using my God-gifted talent of running and really living a good life, I became a university student so lost and full of sin, losing my identity and becoming someone that God really did not plan for me to be," he adds.
"After two years of being in a really dark place, something inside of me, which I now know is the Holy Spirit, started to be unhappy with the life I was living."
When he took up running again and started returning to his Christian roots step by step he saw God remove people from his life and place new people in his path.
Then in December 2006 Renier met Beatie while on holiday in Jeffery's Bay and shares that this "angel" turned his life around.
Beatie's love for Jesus Christ shone to those around her and Renier saw what it truly meant to serve God and live a Christian life.
“I was faced
where I want
to live life
or hell”"We started attending church together and in the beginning I wanted to impress her but as time went on God really touched me," Renier explains.
Then in July 2007 Renier realised that he could no longer live for God half-heartedly.
"I was faced with the question of where I want to live life eternally – heaven or hell," he shares of his revelation from God.
"I realised Jesus is the only way, the truth and the life (see John 14:6) and no matter what your past circumstances, your sins and failures, Jesus has paid for all of them on the cross so we can have a victorious life on earth now and forever into eternity."
With this understanding, Renier says he committed his life fully to Jesus Christ and was soon baptised as a public declaration of his faith.
"I still make mistakes and will never be perfect but at least I know I have a Saviour, a friend in Jesus when times are tough and I have messed up. I can go to Him on my knees and He will never reject me nor forsake me. He is always there for me," he says.
Since making the decision to put God first in his life, Renier says his life perspective has change and he has found his true identity in God rather than in people or things.
"I have realised that you can have an intimate relationship with Jesus, talk to Him every day and pray to Him and He listens. Bad language and the way I see people have changed. I try to see people through the eyes of Christ and not be judgmental. I try and focus on other people and not myself, and to be humble in my ways," he shares.
"God has helped me to have a victorious attitude towards life, being positive and getting rid of all the negative things that distract me from living a life that pleases God."
Renier is now married to Beatie, father to son Arion and enjoys training for the Comrades Marathon each year – a gruelling 90_km race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.
"I have gradually improved my times and positions until I finished 18th this year in 5 hours and 49 minutes, breaking the elite barrier of sub 6 hours," he shares happily.
"God has really turned my world around and I am so blessed with a good job, beautiful wife, incredible family and very good friends. If He could do all this for me, why not for you?"•