Her Story: Reyana Ewing, Persistence Pays Off

Because nothing motivates us to stay healthy and active more than hearing stories of other athletic women, Her Sports + Fitness brings you Her Story, profiles of women like you.

Photo courtesy of Brightroom.com

Reyana Ewing
Santa Rosa, California

Sports: Running, tennis

Age: 38

Job: Dietitian

How I got started in sports: My mom got me into tennis at age 4, and by 12 I was winning tournaments. Growing up in apartheid-era South Africa could be quite damaging to the self-esteem of a young black girl. On top of that, I was ridiculed by peers for being 5 feet 11 inches. Tennis kept me focused and allowed me to ignore my detractors. As an adult, I began running to regain fitness after having my second child.

Biggest challenges: Growing up, I could only practice at substandard tennis facilities. My dad rented a hall so I could practice, but the ball continuously hit the ceiling. I won the South African Council on Sport (SACOS) junior championship in 1987. The SACOS title really didn't mean anything in my country, where sports were segregated, but it was a big deal to me.

Athletic highlights: I was the first black South African woman to get a four-year tennis scholarship to an American university, and I became an All-Conference student athlete at Georgia State University. Recently, my running highlights include a 3:22 marathon, a 1:32 half marathon, and a 19:53 5k.

Scariest thing I've ever done: Leaving home at 18 and moving 10,000 miles away to go to college. I had to get permission from SACOS and promise not to play against "whites." My dad had to request donations for my airfare to the U.S.--his efforts caused Arthur Ashe, Desmond Tutu and Andrew Young to write letters wishing me well.

Athletic goals: To be injury-free and to run the New York Marathon in 3:09.

My inspiration to run: Susan Loken, who started running at 35 and qualified to run at the 2008 Olympic Marathon trials. She is inspiring because she is just a regular mom who went from jogging to becoming an elite runner.  

Favorite saying: Pain is weakness leaving the body.

Discuss This Article