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by Michelle Carnegie
06 March 2019

Turning 50 years old is a momentous occasion in the lives of most people, and many celebrate it with a big birthday bash. But a Gauteng mom of four, who not too long ago vowed she would ‘never ever’ run, is planning on celebrating this epic milestone in her life by tackling the Virgin Money London Marathon next month.
In fact, Chiovonne Figueiredo is celebrating more than just turning 50 this year. She is actually celebrating a whole new lease on life. Having lost more than 50kg over the last couple of years she has gone from couch potato to avid cyclist and now also runner. The Virgin Money London Marathon will be her first ever marathon. Not bad for someone who only 18 months ago went for her very first run when friends invited her to join them at a parkrun. Having never run Chiovonne planned to walk the whole way. “When they invited me I thought why not? I will walk the whole way and at least get some good pics to share on Instagram and Facebook.” But as with many running stories, the bug bit, and so Chiovonne’s running journey started.
Younger years
“I come from a family who has run and exercised all their lives. I was the only lazy one as I called myself. Don’t get me wrong. I was very sporty at school. But after University I started working, and exercise was for the birds. I remember joking with my mom that my sister and Dad would drive 100km to run 21km. Now I do exactly the same!”
After getting married and having four children Chiovonne started battling with her weight. “After my four kids were born I just never felt good about myself. When we went on holiday I never wanted to get into a pool and always looked for excuses not to go in the water but sit under the umbrella.”
Taking control
Chiovonne slowly started taking control of her health again and remember the day the cycling bug bit. “I was in the gym and looked at everyone in the spinning studio, wondering how they could sit on a spinning bike for an hour. Then one day my friend pulled me into a class, and we sat on our towels for the first couple of sessions as our bums were so sore! The spinning instructor George Knoetze, who has since become a very special and dear friend, approached us a couple of weeks later and convinced us to buy bikes.” George took them under his wing and their first ride was 28km. “We felt like we had just done the Tour de France.”
Since that day seven years ago Chiovonne has completed five Cape Town Cycle Tours (formerly called The Argus), seven 94.7 races and numerous other cycling events. She will be lining up for her sixth Cape Town Cycle tour this weekend. “The longest rides I have done to date is the Kremetart which is a 4 stage race in one day consisting of 175km. The other one was the Prudential Ride London which was a 160km ride. I was on the bike for just short of 7 hours and it poured with rain for 6.5 of those 7 hours, which made for a very interesting ride.”
From Cycling to Running
The running bug bit about 18 months ago. “My very good friends Shelly and Nicola convinced me to join them at a parkrun 1.5 years ago. I thought why not? I will walk the whole way and get some good pics for Instagram and FB. Needless to say the bug had bitten. I have since completed the Two Oceans Half Marathon, a couple of other 21.1km races and a whole bunch of 10km races. I have to be honest getting up at 4am in the morning to be at a race in Pretoria in winter is a bit difficult. But standing under the start banner with the sun rising makes it all worth it. And the feeling of accomplishment when you cross the finish line and get your medal is addictive for sure.”
She remembers how she told everyone that she would never run. “I actually told my Dad that I might have taken up cycling, but I will never ever take up running. I couldn’t then imagine running 1km, never mind 21km. I suppose never say never.”

Chiovonne turns 50 on 29 April, one day after the running of the London Marathon on 28 April. “I wanted to do something epic for my birthday that would be a day to remember. My sister then said why not the London Marathon? At first I laughed it off. But the more I thought about it the more I thought why not? The cutoff is 8 hours, and I am sure I will make it. I entered the ballot but needless to say we didn’t get in. My husband and I then gained an entry through Vreni’s Sporting Tours.” The couple will travel with their two younger daughters and will extend their trip as their eldest daughter is studying in the UK.
The big day
Chiovonne admits to feeling a bit nervous for the big day, but she has watched at all the video clips of thousands of supporters lining the streets and people of all shapes and sizes crossing the finish line. “I can’t wait. And the fact that we will be running in a running vest with the South African flag and our names on it…even better!”
She is not sure what to expect from the distance. “I would like to finish the race in 6.5 hours, if however, I go over that time so be it. I just want to experience the whole vibe and atmosphere and take loads of pictures too. I won’t ever forget what one of my friends jokingly said to me years ago when I did my first Argus. We took so many pictures that he asked whether I was there to race or was I doing a photoshoot? But let me tell you one thing, I still look back at those very first pics and realize how far I had come. And those are memories you treasure forever.”
Celebration Times come Home
After marathon day Chiovonne and her daughters will stay on in the UK for a bit of sightseeing whilst her hubby will leave for Portugal to participate in the Trans Portugal mountain bike race, a 1000km of racing crossing Portugal, north to south, in 8 days.
“Our family’s whole lifestyle has changed over the last 7 years or so. I started cycling first and because my hubby didn’t want me to be out on the road alone he decided to join me 2 years later. We have never looked back. We have never felt as good or been as healthy as what we are now. My hubby will be doing his 2ndCape Epic next week. He has also taken up running and has taken to both cycling and running as a fish to water. He excels at both.”
Looking ahead
The London Marathon is definitely not where Chiovonne is stopping the bus. In fact, she is contemplating tackling triathlons and has set her sights on completing a 70.3 triathlon. “I am a complete beginner when it comes to triathlons and swimming in particular. I have recently attended a swim clinic to help me with my stroke and breathing. I definitely feel it helped, but I need to get my swimming fitness up to scratch. I would love to complete a 70.3 just to know that I am capable of doing it. I keep on joking with friends that I will either just make cutoff or just miss it. Only time will tell when I will tackle this adventure.”
Any other international marathons in the pipeline? “Well, let me see how the London Marathon goes. I am definitely not against entering any other overseas marathons as long as the cut off is quite long. Any excuse to travel I suppose.”

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