Mandarin Teacher and His Running Stories- The Rising Sun Chatsworth Ultra

By: Chuanwei Wang (Smile)

Joining Stella Athletic Club is probably the best decision I have made this year. Running with the club always highlights my day. That is why I make all my efforts to run with the Club.

One of the running mates Darren, who became my coach now, promised to arrange a lift to Chatsworth Marathon. Darren, Mark, Candice, Alex, Dimitri and I would be running together. Therefore, I gave up my original plan to run Durban City Marathon, which is too flat and boring. Chatsworth Marathon is famous for its numerous hills. The moment when you climb to the top of a hill, a downhill is waiting for you to conquer. Since we all had qualified for Comrades, we agreed to run Chatsworth as a training run for Comrades instead of a race.

As instructed by Coach Darren, I was up early on the morning of 22 April and battled to eat the last three toasts left in the fridge. Worrying about getting hungry at the end of the race, I grabbed another three handfuls of jungle oats and I could eat no more.We met up by Darren’s apartment after Mark fetched Dimitri and me. We all went in Alex and Candice’s car. We were off in the direction of Chatsworth, Alex driving and Mark directing.

Alex parked his car by the finish, the Chatsworth Stadium. While we were heading to the start, one Stella member was jumping and clapping his hands above his head to warm up.  I thought he was waving to us, I embarrassedly waved to him.

The start was simply decorated. My friends in China are always fussy about how casual the start is in South Africa. A banner with the name of race was hung up by a machine, no year printed. The Chatsworth Athletic Club probably reuses the banner for years, which is environmentally friendly and should be encouraged. So far, not many participants had arrived. A bunch of Stella members were gathered for a group photo.

2018-04-27-PHOTO-00000042.jpgThe South African Anthem was played and sung at around 5:20am. At 5:30am the start siren went off, and everyone immediately began to run. Many ran so fast. “If you go first, you lost.” Remembering what Coach Darren told me, I just stuck with  him. The first part of the route went through the residential areas of Chatsworth, but there wasn’t lots of crowd support as it was described in the event description.

The sun started to come up around 6:30am when we were running a downhill. Amazed by the view, I took out my phone, trying to take a rising sun photo. “Smiley, really?” I heard a sound from behind. I recognised  it as the voice of Nana from Stella. I knew what she meant is that I shouldn’t take photos while I am running.  Embarrassed, I put my phone into my waist bag and kept running. By the next downhill, I saw the sun rising above the horizon. I was thinking that the marathon is called “Rising Sun Chatsworth Freedom Marathon”,  how can it be done without a photo of the rising sun? Hence, I couldn’t help taking out my phone again and stood still for a second to take a quality photo of the rising sun.

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Coach Darren, Mark, Candice, Alex, Dimitri and I were running together. Dimitri was ahead of us from time to time, and finally out of our sight. The rest of us slowed down the pace if there was a big hill and picked up some pace afterwards. The ones who went ahead would slow down to wait for those who were left behind. “Whoop whoop” is often shouted, which I was told that it means here comes the hill.

The sun was climbing higher and higher. We drank water or coke at every water table to avoid dehydration. Salted potatoes and oranges were served as well. Candice and I both could not have salted things when we were running.

At around 28kms, Mark felt it was very hard to pick up his pace if he waited too long. Candice thought it should be fine if Coach Darren and Alex were running together. Therefore, the three of us ran at our pace, leaving Coach Darren and Alex behind us.

2018-04-27-PHOTO-00000044.jpgA special treat for the ultra marathon is to run through the scenic Silverglen Nature Reserve. At the beginning of the reserve, an uphill with about 75 degrees slowed down every runner. Nobody ran up to the top of the hill. The rest of the route in the reserve is relatively easy with lots of downhills. A snake was spotted by Mark and Candice in the reserve. We were running at an easy pace so that I got a chance for sightseeing and taking photos.

2018-04-27-PHOTO-000000512018-04-27-PHOTO-00000048When we went on to the hilly highway from the reserve, Mark dropped his pace. Candice and I were running a little bit ahead of Mark. I invited Candice to push ourselves for the last three kilometres. She said she would definitely push herself but after me and she asked me to go by myself. Feeling lots of energy left, I picked up my pace and started to sprint.

At the 51km sign, a marshal saw me running fast and said “It is like your last kilometre in a 10km race!”  I passed everyone in front of me and managed to move my way into the Chatsworth stadium. Crowds were lined up by the two sides of the entrance and shouting for every runner. Getting excited by seeing the track and field ground which I used to race at for years when I was still in university in China, I pushed myself even harder to cross the finish line. Everyone by the finish line was cheering for me. A warm welcome was given by a lady from Stella who finished her 21k.

Later Candice, Mark, Coach Darren and Alex arrived successively. Another group photo was taken afterwards for some Stella finishers.

2018-04-27-PHOTO-00000046.jpgI felt that Chatsworth Ultra Marathon was the easiest race I had ever done due to easy pace. However, some thought that it was the toughest race and even harder than Comrades. Completing the ultra marathon did make me happy and gave me a certain amount of confidence, a distance that is closer to Comrades.

Many thanks to Coach Darren, Mark, Candice and Alex for their companionship, guidance and encouragement. The next training run before Comrades will be the 55km route tester on 5 May. I am looking forward to running with my mates again.

“I run not because I want to live longer, but because I want to live life to the fullest. ” says Haruki Murakami, a Japanese writer and runner, and I agree with that.

Smile has written a longer version of this article in Chinese.

You can read that article on his own blog here

Fun at Parkrun

By: Roger Bailey

29983423_10216054104805340_5616207277103332316_o.jpgI suppose racking up 50 Parkruns (which I achieved at North Beach on 14 April 2018) is a minor milestone of a sort and I must admit to a small glow of satisfaction on eventually “earning the T-shirt”.  I now no longer feel like a novice when mixing it with the literally hundreds of runners and walkers who sport 50s or 100s on their running shirts on the promenade on Saturday mornings.

Stella members might have noticed that I have not exactly been a regular at Gillies runs on Saturday mornings over the years; coffee and the newspaper in bed in the morning have long exerted an irresistible pull. But with advancing years making their presence increasingly felt in the shape of steadily slower training paces and race times, it was time for action. So, from April last year Parkrun has filled my need for a regular, short, sharp race to keep my pipes open and heart pumping.

North Beach Parkrun has a lot going for it.  It is probably one of the fastest Parkrun courses anywhere, the promenade is wide, flat and made for racing, and it regularly attracts the largest number of participants; more than 2000 most Saturdays and a worldwide record of over 2500 a few weeks ago.

And it is very well organised – off we go at 08h00 sharp heading south from Suncoast, down the gentle slope past Circus-Circus and on to the hairpin turn-around point at South Beach, then the fun of trying to maintain pace on the return leg, where we old dogs usually make up places and time against the field, then the final sprint for the line at Suncoast.  Of course, one doesn’t have to race – there are plenty of joggers and walkers, lots of family groups, and plenty of dogs taking their owners for a stroll.

After a while it gets in the blood, and most of the regulars turn up most Saturdays.  From Stella, we have Pat Fisher, with well over 200 runs to her name and Pat Freeman with more than 100. Therese Hurly, also with more than 100 runs, usually shows me a clean pair of heels these days and Arthur Zimmerman always ranks highly in his and my age-group category.  And there are dozens of long standing acquaintances from other running clubs, as well as more than a handful of new friends made at Parkrun, all doing our best to bust each other’s guts.  In fact the element of competition is remarkable.

Is it doing me any good?  It must be. And I no longer have any problems getting out of bed early on Saturday mornings.

Running a ‘PB’ at the Two Oceans Ultra

By: Debbie Wessels

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With my 4th Two Oceans done and dusted, I thought I would share a few of the highlights of the day to hopefully encourage and inspire someone who may think it’s too big a  challenge  to consider.

I started running in the mid 80’s and thought I going to die after my 1st 4km time trial!

I moved on to 10km runs (Spar ladies run etc.) which I thought was about my limit until I tackled my 1st  half marathon (Mandene HM I think it was called) –  the one that started at  varsity and went up and down Ridge Road! Some of you may remember it! I will NEVER forget it, coming in last as people were packing up their braais and going home!

Then I heard about the Two Oceans marathon!!! It sounded amazing, not that I ever thought that I could do that, – that was for real runners!

Fast forward a few years to 2010 after being away from KZN for 16 yrs I was introduced to Stella, joining in 2011 and meeting real runners who had run Two Oceans and Comrades! With their ongoing encouragement and support, I found myself on the start line in CT (2012) for my 1st TOM on a very wet, windy and freezing cold morning but the atmosphere and excitement was something that has to be experienced to truly understand! (that’s why you have to put it on your bucket list).

Standing on the start line this year, in  almost perfect weather conditions (wind can’t be avoided lol), training that had gone more or less according to plan, I was hoping for a PB, just maybe!

The national anthem is always goose bump stuff, no matter how many times I hear it, we are about to run a beautiful race, in a beautiful part of the country, with beautiful people from all over the world!

It takes a good few minutes to cross the start line but when I do, then I feel the tears flowing! Don’t be daft girl, save them for the end I tell myself! And so we are off! The months of training, getting up early, all the sacrifices every runner has made, are about to be put to the test. We are running as ONE!

The first 28 kms are generally uneventful except when suddenly before me I see two Stella Stars!! Aka Amanda and Warren! In races far from home, it lifts the heart and the legs to see a familiar, smiling face!  Thanks guys.

Chappies is meant to be a challenge but I always forget how breathtaking the views are! It is a good enough reason for a few walk breaks, me thinks!

Up and over we go, calves protesting and quads letting us know they also feeling sorry for themselves. Toenails are joining the party too, all the while trying to ignore the unhappy knee!

The crowd support through Hout Bay carries us to the marathon mark where, even though I am feeling stronger than I had expected to, I realised a PB may not be on the cards but that didn’t damped my enthusiasm, in fact I decide to focus on another PB to get me to the end.

P for Privilege

The privilege of being able to run, something I never thought I could do, and certainly not in my 50’s! It’s not a right afforded to everyone so yes, Constantia is tough on tired legs and it does hurt, a lot actually, but God in His goodness has allowed me the privilege to be part of this beautiful race!

B for Blessed.

Blessed to have a family and friends who support me, let’s be honest, without their support and belief in us, we may be tempted to throw in the towel when the going gets tough!

Blessed to belong to Stella, where there is always some Stella Star to encourage, wipe away the tears, listen to our tapering aches and pains, and then to celebrate/console with us when the race is over!

The last 6kms of the race are the best! They are not easy, but knowing that the field is close definitely helps to put some vooma in the legs! And the crowd support literally gets you there!

Receiving that beautiful BIG medal and knowing that after a shower I can proudly wear my beautiful orange shirt, helps me hobble the loooongest 3kms back to my accommodation! LOL

So you see, I got my PB, it may not have been the one I had planned on but it is a PB nevertheless!

P.s. a little foot note :  a real runner is someone who gets out of bed when they really want to stay there, and puts on running shoes! And then greets other real runners with a smile, ok maybe not every time!

To all my real runner club mates, you are all stars! Thank You!!!!

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Debbie running ‘back in the day’

My 6th Two Oceans Ultra

By: Thozi Mazibuko

TwoOceans1.jpgOn the 31st of March I ran my 6th Two Oceans 56km Marathon.

Background: I picked up running in December 2010, and my sole motivation was to shed some kilos after the scale told me I was 98kg all by myself. I proceeded to complete a few 21km’s, then 42km’s and ultimately managed to complete Comrades 2013 and 2014 for my back to back medal. Out of all these races in my 7 odd years of running, my favourite remains the Two Oceans!

2018 Change:  Last year I decided that 2018 will be the year that I venture into a new challenge, the Triathlon… guess my Mid Life Crisis is right on time. So I have joined a Tri Team with their 7 day training programme (just awesome.. NOT).  Anyway long story short, due to this Tri Training, I have far less running mileage then I would have normally had this time of the year.

The Race:  It is mostly because of the 2018 training change that I decided not to chase any time at the race but rather to just go ahead and just enjoy the race, if ever there is such a thing in an Ultra.

I started out at a quite an easy pace until about the 5th kilometre then increased to a steady pace until Chapman’s Peak where I slowed down for obvious reasons. Usually I start battling after the 42km mark but this year I was happy that I felt strong-ish, even up Constantia Nek (maybe cycling had some part to play there). At 6km to go I came across a friend of mine who was struggling and since I knew he was aiming for his PB, sub 5:30, I decided to try and help him get it and I am happy to say that we got in at 5:28!!!

To all my Stella Stars who have not done the 56km yet, you better put this race on your To Do List quick… because they don’t call it ‘The world’s most beautiful marathon’ for nothing. Just be warned that after about the 44km mark you will most definitely need your mental strength to take you to the Finish.

My First Two Oceans Half Marathon

By: Belinda Cresswell-George

18920405_10160258472415603_511053123278252057_n.jpg I had always thought that the TWO OCEANS was for serious athletes or other people. So had never really given it any thought until an old walking friend invited me to join her to do the Two Oceans Half Marathon in 2018. After a bit of consideration I thought WHY NOT!

We began planning towards the end of 2017 and started to train. I got input from experienced athletes on training and what races to do on route. Unfortunately along the way I picked up an ITB injury about 6 weeks before the race, not ideal. I was very frustrated. But I got through it.

Arriving in Cape Town was super, there was such a buzz.

The race day had officially arrived it was a cold, dark and daunting morning. Daunting as I was still unsure if I was going to be able to complete the race ahead of me.  We arrived at  4.15am and made our way towards the front of E Batch, which is the last batch to be sent off. It was fantastic watching thousands of athletes getting ready to run their races. I saw a chap who was doing the race on crutches. Later I googled to see if I could find out who he was and how he did. Well he finished with the help of fellow runners. His name is Ipeleng Khunou. That’s the spirit of the Two Oceans.

When the cannon boomed and it was our time to get cracking I actually got quite emotional and had to tell myself to get a grip. It’s an awesome experience running with soo many people, it truly was a privilege. Don’t underestimate the race it’s a toughie. Train hills. Along the route I’d asked someone “Does this hill ever end?” to discover it was the famous Signal Hill which went on and on. I was very glad to get through the 18km cut off. I think there were a few more hills before the end, my legs were finished but just soo chuffed to have finished the race. I’d love to do it again with more training.

I want to thank Dave and the Newbies for all your input I wouldn’t have been able to do it and Cindy for flying the STELLA flag was super seeing a familiar face.

 

 

Drakensberg Northern Trail

By: Maureen Lyons

#DNT2018

Oliviershoek Pass, Northern Berg

March 24th 2018

Trail shoes – check; Water packs – check; Emergency kit – check

Two Stella ladies, Samantha de la Porte and Maureen Lyons ready to tackle the 20km Trail hosted by KZN Trail Running.

With two days of continual rain prior to the race we knew all the elements would come our way.

Fully kitted out and apprehensive we approached the starting line.   It was windy, cold and misty to begin with but no sooner had we started the sun made an appearance and we were presented with glorious running conditions.

With a 1900m elevation, numerous icy river crossings and wet/muddy conditions it called for cautious running but added to this adventure.

The scenery was insane and the rock formations humongous.

A few sightings of vultures and the calls of wild cats were some of our spoils.

We were welcomed back to the finish line by the well organised kzn trail team and awarded a well deserved medal with a difference.

Put this event on your “to do”list.

Roll on #DNT2019……..

Persevering through my first marathon: The Deloitte Challenge

By: Bongeka Cele

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I loved my first marathon. I went into it with an injury (which was not a good idea, it was awful), but I really wanted to run, and I don’t regret it. Even though I was still elevating and rubbing and stretching over a week later.

I started feeling pain early on, before the 10km mark even, but I had told myself that no matter what, I was going to finish. Once that decision was made, although I was in a lot of pain for most of the race, I really enjoyed it.

The race was eventful and fun! There were the stunning views along the way, which I took in. The weather was amazing, and I loved the little bit of rain that come down along the way. There was also the confusion around which bus was the real sub 5 bus, because the 4:30 bus was lagging behind! Lots of laughs, cheering and random conversation. I think though, one of the most enjoyable parts of the race is running with people you know! The first 18-19kms or so, I ran with some awesome people from the club. Marie-Claire, Kwenza and Mbongeni really made that part of the race awesome.

At some point obviously, my knee eventually started to really affect me, and I had to slow down considerably at around kilometre 25.I don’t really remember much between the 25km and 32km marks, except cramping and a lot of pain. But then I hit the 10km-to-go mark and I told myself home-stretch. That was hard, the whole time I kept thinking, this is crazy, why am I still doing this? I should just stop running!

But I couldn’t. I couldn’t stop running because in my mind, I was GOING to finish! That was the agreement I had with my legs, my body, my heart and my mind! I’m pretty sure I looked crazy giving myself pep talks in that last stretch. But that’s what needed to happen. And I wasn’t alone either. There were so many people along the route in the last 10km who were walking, hobbling, limping and mumbling like me. But the determination to finish was intense. Medics would stop, and they would be waved off with “I’m fine thanks, I just need to stretch it out”. That was cool. I loved the fact that at the end it was a few people, in pain or not, just wanting to finish. I didn’t get my sub 5 this year, but next year, I’ll smash it!!!

The Deloitte Challenge: My first half marathon

By: Jasmin Borstlap

Jasmin Borstlap

On the 18th of March 2018 I completed my first half marathon at the Deloitte Challenge.

Two months ago I joined Stella Athletic Club. At first I just wanted to run and get some cardio in, little did I realise how addictive running is. After a month of running with Stella and having members push you to do your best and give you the  best advice to improve your running, I decided to enter the Deloitte Half Marathon – 21 km. I must say my expectation to finish in 2 hours 30 minutes wasn’t very high. As I spoke to more members, friends from other running clubs and even family members the more they encouraged me and told me I could do it.

The morning of the Deloitte my heart was racing, I had never been so nervous. Walking to the start and seeing so many people I become anxious, am I going to finish on time, will I be okay, can I do this? I began to doubt myself. We started all cramped up and many people pushed past you to get to the front. I just reminded myself to start slow and ease into it, as many Stella runners have told me to do.

After about 20 minutes of running, I started to enjoy it, with people spread out and having room to run, to the ocean views to your left, it was breathtakingly beautiful. Having so many supporters on the side of the road telling us “we can do it”  or “GO Stella” was that extra bit of motivation to get us through the next 5 km or however long we needed to get that extra boost to keep going.

Stopping for a short walk, a lady ran past me and said come on we nearly home. I decided to push through – running the best I have ever run. With about 5 km to go, this energetic lady tells me “we have 30 minutes, our bodies can do anything in 30 minutes”, as she over takes me, I repeated in my head “we are capable of anything”.

Getting to Suncoast and knowing the amphitheatre was a mere 2 km away, I was excited to be at the finish line soon, running so fast past my family that they didn’t even see me, until I phoned them to see where they were. They were more shocked to know that I finished in 2 hours 13 minutes, a whole 17 minutes before my expected time.

Seeing all the Stella runners, I have never been more proud to be a part of such an amazing and supportive group of people. Wearing our Stella uniform with pride.

KZNA Seniors and Masters Champs: There is no cure for stupidity

By: Michael Mostert

(Photos courtesy of Martin Roestof)

After some encouragement and motivation from fellow walkers, I decided this year to give myself a new but daunting challenge, to compete in Masters Track Race Walking. My fellow walkers had sold track as fun and social and a way to improve your speed and technique. My rubbery arm was bent.

After only two official track training sessions, the KZNA Seniors and Masters Championships were upon us, the 5km being held on the Friday evening. The butterflies soon turned into vultures descending on a carcass and I began asking myself what I had got myself into as I had just completed the notorious hilly Savages time trial through Burman Bush on Thursday! I was politely told by the Master’s secretary “There is no cure for stupidity” with a wry smile on her face. Before I could locate the exit to plan my escape we were under starters orders for the 5km race walking track event. The 5km event is 12 and a half times around the track under the watchful eyes of race judges, spotters/time keepers and spectators. The spotlights were on as the sun was setting as we pounded our way around the track, to the motivation of the stadium announcers encouraging the crowd to cheer for us.

Once the 5km was over, reality set in once again as we were told that we would be doing the 10km road race at 05h30 on Saturday morning which comprised of 1 km lap on the road that runs alongside Peoples Park. I dragged myself out of bed to heavy legs at 3h45am on Saturday morning. At the start line I met with a number of enthusiastic walkers who had the sanity not to do the 5km the previous evening. Why didn’t I get that memo?

The sun started to appear from behind Suncoast and we knew we were in for a hot 10km. The gun went off and we were off like the opening of doors on an Edgars red hanger sale as all walkers jostled for position around the 1km track which had to be conquered 10 times for the sane and 20 times for the ultra-insane under again the watchful eyes of the appointed race judges and officials. These officials were  placed around the track and all of us were hoping to avoid the dreaded yellow paddle warning against bent knees or lifting feet. Three warnings by different judges means you are disqualified, so concentration is paramount.

Feeling the effect of the Thursday time trial and Friday evening’s 5km, I received a warning for bent knee on the 7 km lap on my tired jelly legs . This gave me a wake-up call that this was no joke, I corrected my technique with heaving lungs for the next 3 km to waddle over without any further warnings to complete my 1st 10km KZN Master’s Track race.

Track race walking is definitely not for the faint hearted as fellow athletes told me it’s another  beast …true words! I was still crazy enough to do the Martitzburg half marathon on the Sunday morning.  I am sure there is a padded cell with my name on it somewhere! Next time I will be better prepared  to fly the Stella flag with pride.

Walking with purpose,

Mike

Running like a man-possessed. Deloitte Marathon 2018

By: David Mohale

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On Sunday, 18 March 2018, I ran my 4th marathon since I joined the multitudes of people I used to think are mad. It was my first marathon in 2018, given that I had to pull out of Hillcrest Marathon due to a bad injury. I had not had a long run since that fateful rainy and cold Sunday. It is somewhat an oxymoron, therefore, that with this background, I managed to snatch my PB at 3:40:40. And I must hasten to point out that this was my goal going into this marathon, given that my previous PB was 3:50, achieved at a more difficult Township-Township Marathon last October.

Few things made this possible. Firstly, the weather was great on the day. Secondly, although I had not run the route before, I knew it from my travels up north Durban every now and then. I had a better sense of what to expect. In my first few races, I made a mistake of always starting the race in the middle or towards the back of the pack. In big fields like the one we had on Sunday, that is self-defeating…counter-productive if you like. You easily lose 2-3 kilometres still trying to find your space to run comfortably. That can cost you anything between 12-20 minutes which you will not recover.

In races where seeding is not a requirement, I prefer to be closer to the start line. Once the gun goes off, you sprint like a man possessed until you find your comfortable space to pace yourself. This worked wonderfully for me when I ran Sydenham 32km race. I hope to maintain this moving forward. Be that as it may, Deloitte might have given me my PB; but it was also a horrible run but with take-home key lessons. I started like a house on fire precisely because I had doubts about the injury. It took me 12 minutes to cover the first 3 kilometres. 30 minutes into the race, I had covered 7 kilometres. This average continued for the next 30 minutes, at which I sat comfortably at 14km in 60 minutes. I reached halfway mark at 1:35. Had other things remained constant, anything below 3:10 was possible.

The start of the second 21km changed the ballgame altogether. I started cramping. I was out of energy. It was at this point that I had to push myself to maintain at least 5:30 a kilometre until the end. This was not be. I was completely out of energy in the last 7 kilometres. I walked almost half the distance, barely managing to run the last kilometre until I found two Stella stars who were running 21km and prodded me to jog towards the finish with them. At this point, you have got to be strong psychologically as the battle is no longer physical. It is not nice when everybody starts to overtake you and they are all looking semi-fresh. You start to doubt yourself, and think the worst about the upcoming races. What was perhaps rather encouraging was to see at least five Stella members passing me; at that point, you celebrate the brand more than the individual glory.

After my injury at the Hilcrest Marathon, I took about two week’s break from running in accordance with the advice I got from Dr Grant Matkovich, my useful and friendly Chiropractor since I started with the madness of running (thanks to Linda Mabika for recommendation). Because I sustained the injury shortly after training with the legendary Prodigal Khumalo on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I had to explain my absence from his sessions lest he thinks of me as a truant boy.

At that time my injury was a confluence of excruciating tummy muscles and the groin. Prodigal advised that I should continue jogging in order to accelerate groin recovery. This left me confused, and I guess that running generally leaves athletes with confusion. There is always an over-supply of advice, from training techniques, and nutrition versus supplements, to what sneakers one should have, and which watch is best for what information. I received two contradictory pieces of advice from the two experts, of course, each focusing on what they considered important. What do I do? I did both; I moderated my jogging and ensured that I had enough rest before I could start with serious training.

I started with lonely longer jogs about two weeks leading to the Deloitte Challenge. I must confess that part of the reasons I jogged alone was that I started to panic that I would not be ready. Psychologically, simple talks with colleagues about the forthcoming race could be torturous. I could still feel discomfort each time I jogged or stretched. For a moment, I thought I was always right that running is not for rational people. But what do you do when addiction has taken over rationality? What is even worse is to hear seasoned runners telling you that you learn to run with ‘niggles’. As if that is not enough, you keep counting days towards your first Comrades Marathon and feel depressed with each hour you are losing.

I joined some Stella Stars on Saturday morning for the 25km long run the weekend before the Deloitte Challenge. During and after the run, I felt that I was not ready for 42km, although discomfort had eased significantly. On Sunday, 11 March 2018, I had to get myself out of the comfort of my bed that morning to run a long, lonely run of 34km to the top of Cowies Hill. It was after this Sunday long run that I knew my 3:40 finish was possible.

Before the injury, I had two back-to-back amazing runs, PDAC 25km and Sydenham 32km. I was particularly pleased with my achievement for the hilly Sydenham race as I finished it in less than 3 hours, averaging 4:57 a kilometre. It was in that race that I saw the results of Prodigal’s training sessions. And I knew from that day that I was definitely going to improve my previous PB of 3:50. So, credit to Prodigal and Stella colleagues I normally run with.

Since this is my first article in the Stella Newsletter, perhaps it behoves me to take this opportunity to heartily thank all Stella members for an awesome welcome they gave me towards the end of last year when I joined. Admittedly, it may be unfair to single out individuals but some few names deserve a mention. For instance, Pat Freeman went out of her way to get my membership transferred from my old club in the Free State. She also gave me a million dollar advice on the impact of altitude when I prepared for my first marathon in September in Vaal last year. I am not too sure if I must thank her and Louise for trapping me to register for 2018 Comrades Marathon though! (Pun intended). Amanda, Kevin and Tawanda and the forever effervescent Nana made it easy for a shy me to feel welcome.

Indeed, I am now fully positively mad because of the company of Stella stars. With many more months and years spent in the Club, I am looking forward to many more personal records. As I always say, it is not what we achieve that matters. But it is our ability to sustain and continuously better our previous records that matters. That’s called character. Excellence is not, and cannot, be a function of fluke. It is intentional. It goes back to two simple statements: Garbage In, Garbage Out (GIGO) or its direct opposite: Perfect Practice Makes Perfect (PPMP). For my remaining years in Stella, I personally hope to be in the latter. For this reason, excuse me for not celebrating my current PB; my eyes are set on what I need to achieve next to better the past.