After being in Lockdown, which seems to be forever, some dreams and goal have had to be put on hold. 2020 was supposed to have been the start of reaching my dreams, my plan was to run The Two Oceans Marathon that year and then go on to run the Comrades Marathon in 2021. However, the universe had other ideas.
After being injured I was unable to qualify for the Two Oceans Marathon up until the very last qualifying race, which was the Deloittes Marathon (no pressure). I really did not have a good day out there, I fought hard because I was adamant that I was going to qualify. With only a few minutes to spare, I crossed the finish line and qualified! I was broken, but I had done it and so I was one step closer to making my dream come true. Whilst sitting at the Stella tent after the race, with a happy heart knowing I had qualified, I was told that the Two Oceans Marathon had been cancelled due to Covid-19. I honestly thought that they were joking, I had fought so hard to finish the race and to qualify only for it to be cancelled. I felt so defeated. Lots of negative thoughts went through my mind but once I had time to process everything, I realized that I had gained so much from running the Deloittes Marathon. I learnt so much about myself on that day and I am forever grateful.
Shortly after, South Africa was placed in total Lockdown. Running and exercising (outside of your home) was prohibited. Some decided to not let this dampen their spirits and created a running circuit in their gardens. Running in circles, some creating distinct pathways in the process and then changing direction for a bit of variety (I think some gardens are yet to recover). Some may call them crazy… well, we are runners after all.
Although this was a set back, it gave my body time to heal and recover from all the niggles. Eventually we were allowed to run again, but with restrictions, having to run with a mask or buff, making sure you were socially distanced and only being allowed to run between 6am – 9am. I was just happy to be out on the road again, even if it was just within a 5km radius from home.
As time went on, restrictions were eased and we were allowed club runs again. It was so awesome to see all the Stella Stars again. It really made many hearts happy.
Fast forward a few months and going up and down Lockdown levels like a yo-yo, all races, including Comrades Marathon 2020 were cancelled. There was so much uncertainty as to when or if we would be able to run our next race. With motivation and morals running low, we all needed a ‘pick me up’. Just when we thought it was all doom and gloom and that races would be a thing of the past and a distant memory, virtual races were born. Even though it was not the same as a real race, it gave us purpose and boosted our moral. We now had something to train for. YAY!!
We all had our hopes up that by some miracle Comrades 2021 was going to go ahead. Unfortunately, this was not to be and it was cancelled again. In spite of this, the organizers decided to create a virtual race (as they had done the previous year) with various distances. So, a few of us novices decided to get a taste of what we would be getting ourselves into when we got to tackle the Comrades Marathon. We decided to enter the 45km race and oh boy, did we get a taste!!
The route was planned. We would start and finish at Stokers Arms in Kloof and run part of the Comrades route, to the top of Inchanga and back, giving us the experience of a few of the iconic hills. It was the Comrades Centenary Hope Challenge after all…
As the days grew closer to race day, I still did not feel as though I was about to run the furthest I have ever gone, never mind about to conquer those famous hills. I think one thing that Covid-19 has taught me, is to be flexible and be able to take things in my stride. So, my goal was to go out there, enjoy the day out on the road, do my best and take things as they come. And I did just that!
Arriving at Stokers Arms and seeing our fellow Stella Stars, which included many experienced runners and a few novices, was thrilling. It defiantly got the butterflies going. A very passionate Stella Star got everyone’s blood pumping by playing Chariots of Fire and the National Anthem. I can’t wait to be able to experience ‘the real thing’ with them at the start line one day.
5:30am came and we were off. Being surrounded by a few of my favourite Stella Stars was incredible. It was a brilliant day on the road for me, however, it wouldn’t have been possible without the support from our fellow Stella members, manning water tables, supporting us on the side of the road and of course my number one fan 😊. Without them, this day would not have been a success. To see those happy faces and hear those words of encouragement were always well received. So, I thank you on behalf of all of us who ran.
I have always had a huge amount of respect for those who not only complete Comrades, but also those who are there at the start line waiting for the run to go off. However, I now have newfound respect for you all. I now also understand why everyone knows those hills by name, they are a real test mentally and physically. Although I had to dig deep and give myself a few pep talks (we all need a good talking to from time to time) I thoroughly enjoyed my day out there. What an amazing experience.
Although I have not reached my goals and dreams just yet, I have made some new goals along the way. I will never give up and will continue to strive to achieve what I have set out to conquer. Cheers to everyone who is going out there and making their dreams come true, despite the curve balls that have been thrown your way.
It is true that sometimes in life it’s the unexpected that will bring you true joy. Here is my story of how I got to run the Pinetown & District Athletics Club’s 25km race.
Friday 16 April 2021
It was a normal Friday afternoon at the office where I was wrapping up my work and looking forward to the usual 21km weekend long run the next day. Little did I know that I was in for a wonderful surprise. Gerald, a fellow Stella Star had unfortunately encountered an injury and offered me his entry to run the PDAC 25 which was taking place on Sunday 18th April 2021. I accepted with extreme excitement. We contacted the race organisers and the Event Timing staff to arrange for the change of details. I must say that I was very impressed with how efficient, polite and helpful they were. By the time I left the office, I had received all the emails and an sms confirming my participation at the race.
Saturday 17 April 2021
Saturday morning I woke up and drove up to Lahee Park in Pinetown to collect the race pack and goodie bag. Lahee Park is where we were to find the finish line of the race the next morning. I had never taken part in this race before, and up until Saturday morning I had never set foot at Lahee Park before either. This for me was unknown territory. I had hoped to have time to drive along the route on Saturday, but I struggled to find someone to accompany me who knew the race route at such short notice.
It was now Saturday afternoon, and to sum it all up to this point, 24 Hours ago I did not even know that I’d be running this race, and 24 Hours from now I’ll be running the race without knowing the route. It was at this point that the good old race jitters set in. It has been over a year since one had to carry out the “Night before race prep”. One by one I ticked the items off the preparation list, starting with the kit, nutrition, transport, alarm clock and all the way down to the last but very important cup of coffee before the race. I was also fortunate to have a last minute chat with a few Stella Stars about the race, race profile and their previous experience. This proved to be very valuable for me on race day.
Race Day: Sunday 18 April 2021
My alarm clock worked as advertised and I got up in time, had my cup of coffee and started my 30 minute drive to Watercrest Mall. The song on repeat for this drive was Adele – When we were young. Now I know what you’re thinking, but let me just say that the song gets me going, ok. J
The atmosphere at the start line and waiting area was nothing short of electrifying. As we drove into the mall, one could see the road closure signs, cones and the red and white tape. After such a long, difficult year of the pandemic it suddenly dawned on me that this race is actually happening. This was exciting. Apart from a handful of runners who were doing their warm up drills outside, the rest used the isles inside the mall as a waiting area as the temperature outside was reported to be around 12 degrees Celsius.
Everyone was so happy, friendly and greeting with big smiles. I was excited to be part of this race, not only because it was a first of many post the pandemic, but also because this was my first official race as a Stella Athletics Club member. It felt good to see other Stella Stars in their kit and to wish each other well for the race.
At exactly 05:30 the air horn went off and the race began. The early start was definitely advantageous as this allowed us all more time to cover some ground before sunrise. The advice I had received from my fellow club mates came in handy right at this point. As advised, I ran the first 5 km gently as it was gradually climbing from the start line towards Hillcrest, and I held back on the pace once I was on the downhills. I believe that this approach definitely spared me from possible injury and allowed me to enjoy the race in its entirety.
I had also been made aware of the two (2) hills that I was to face approximately 3 km from the finish line. Armed with this knowledge, I reserved 10 to 20% of my effort throughout the race so that I would have enough energy to summit these hills. I was happy to find that the strategy worked out as planned. When I approached the hills, I gave it my all and manage to climb both hills without walking. In fact, I ran the whole race without stopping once for a walk to recover. After the climb, only 2km remained. Running into the stadium and seeing the finish line always gives one that extra push and a burst of energy. And just like that, the race was done.
One thing that was unusual and clearly notable was the absence of crowds of spectators and other athletes post-race.
Runners were instructed to wear their masks after crossing the finish line and also were encouraged not to hang around at the stadium so as to observe the Covid-19 regulations.
I am glad that many did observe these regulations, and do truly hope and believe that this race and the way it was organised will open doors for many more sporting events to come. I finished the race at a time of 02:14:59. I have set a sub 2 goal for this race for next year and would definitely recommend it to any runner to come and experience it for themselves.
I turned 40 during 2020. We had just gone into hard lockdown 4 days before the big Four Oh and I had to cancel my fortieth birthday/house warming party. We moved into our new house on the 6th March and were so busy with house hunting, bond applications and packing and unpacking that my dream of being forty and fabulous had fallen along the wayside and I ended up celebrating my birthday being forty and fat!
Needless to say, we were all bored and had to find ways to keep sane during these crazy times. And this is probably where you are thinking that I decided to start running. Nope, I decided to indulge in one of my other pleasures….baking! And along with hubby’s love for cooking I grew even more fabulously fat!
Isn’t it amazing how we only notice what we really look like when looking at pictures? And during November 2020 I saw a picture of me that made me realise that I needed to find a hobby other than baking. A friend of mine was going through a weight loss journey at the same time and gifted me with a weight loss coach and an eating plan. Part of this weight loss program was having to make at least 10 000 steps a day. Ten thousand!? How was I going to do this when most of my day was spent sitting on my office chair in front of a computer!? Queue the running!!
I was serious about being forty and fabulous and went digging through my drawers to find the smart watch which hubby had bought for me more than a year ago. Hauled out my running shoes, which I had only used for gardening up until now. The plan was to start running with Ronnie, but I just never seemed to get around it. Life was always getting in the way and with three very busy kids, two of them being very sporty boys, there just never seemed to be enough time in a day. I decided that the only way that this was going to happen was for me to get up earlier. This being a struggle in itself as I am no early bird. But like clockwork I would get up every morning and jump on the treadmill in the corner of our room to try and get as many steps as I could before my day started. Headphones on and in the dark as Ronnie was still sleeping. I was oblivious to my thud, thud, thud, thud on the treadmill. Ronnie not so much! And on the 17th November 2020 he promptly decided that he would have to get up and do this with me….there was no sleeping through my thudding….but there was one condition….we were going to do it his way. I was secretly petrified knowing that he had completed three half marathons and was very chuffed with himself that he could run 13,5kms without stopping!
He downloaded an app called Couch2 5K on my phone and off we went every morning for me to train to run 5kms without stopping. Because I had to make 10 000 steps every day as part of my weight loss plan, we had no rest days. But this worked for me as routine and a new habit set in very quickly. I am a very organised person and routine is what makes me tick! And on the 27th December 2020 I ran my first 5kms without stopping! (And I lost 9kgs in the process!)
Getting up to go run had become easy and within two days we started the 10K training program. But the running wasn’t getting easier. It was getting hotter by the day and I literally felt like there was going to be nothing left of me by the end of each run. No energy and no fluids. But I pushed through each run.
Finally the day arrived on the 7th February 2020! I was going to do this! Ronnie decided that my first long run should be on the promenade. Just to make it a bit easier. Our son Daemien decided to run with us this day. It was really hot and my legs felt like lead. Admittedly I only start feeling comfortable after about 5kms into a run. But today was not getting easier. Daemien is just a natural runner and was a couple of steps ahead of me without having trained at all. Ronnie wasn’t having a good day and started battling at around 5kms. Daemien was ahead and Ronnie was falling behind. I was struggling in the heat and my legs were failing me. Was I going to give up and start walking with Ronnie? After all, he has always held back so that I can keep up. The urge to just start walking and the heat was just getting too much. My mind started taking over. I have trained so hard to get here and would have to wait a whole week before I could attempt this again. There is just not enough time in the mornings before work and school. And I had already started bragging to everyone about doing this ….no backing out now!
I asked Daemien to go check on Ronnie and he came back and told me that Ronnie was okay and said I must just go. Knowing that he was fine and no longer feeling guilty for leaving him behind put my mind at ease. And at around 7kms I just found my rhythm. Somehow my body just kept going and I managed to find a comfortable pace. By the time I reached Suncoast (running toward Bike & Bean, being the finish) it was extremely hot and I tried to keep to the shade as much as I possibly could. My legs no longer felt like they belonged to me. I remember thinking that I hope I don’t trip and fall down in front of Bike & Bean. And somehow I made it, past everyone relaxing and sipping their coffee and enjoying their breakfast, without face planting. I made it and I still had my own legs, although they felt like jelly at the time. I made it, although I had planned to divorce Ronnie many times in my head when he made me run hills. I had run 10kms without stopping!
And who knows….maybe there is a 21km on my horizon (with Ronnie by my side!)
The title sounds great, the scenery is fantastic but getting out the front door remains a Durbanites biggest challenge. Running in winter is not for the faint hearted. I understand why many people prefer treadmills when temperatures fall below zero.
However, once you on the road, it can be one of the most rewarding experiences. Running alongside the rivers and lakes, between the snowcapped mountains is all worth it.
For winter running, some of the challenges include:
Getting your layers right! It’s easy to pile on layers based on temperatures but what we need to consider is our bodies running temperature. Rule of thumb is normally add 10 degrees to accommodate your bodies temperature.
Wearing the correct shoes, especially in icy conditions is critical. Specific winter shoes with special treads are available. We have invested in wrap around studs for icy conditions. However, get it wrong with your footing and you can potentially land on your ass!
Running strides shorten due to slippery conditions. Balance is essential and looking at every step you take to ensure footing is secure.
Hydration even in cold conditions. All the water fountains we use in summer are frozen or closed. We need to know where water is along the routes or have the option to run with a backpack.
All the extras: beany or balaclava/buff, gloves and wind jacket. Be prepared for changing conditions.
Understanding your body and performance. Bodies require more oxygen in colder conditions, but it’s also important to “read” your body and know how your lungs and muscles react to the colder conditions.
So, what makes running in winter special? Without a doubt the snow. There’s something magical about embracing a run in the cold and on snow.
Also having fresh snowflakes fall on your face is worth all the effort to get out and go for a run.
Running in winter tests your will power. Without a doubt it takes plenty willpower to get out but once you on the road, it all systems go.
However, you cannot let the weather get to you, otherwise it can easily turn in a 3-4 month break.
What do we miss? Without the Stella and KZN runners. It’s not the same without the friendships and banter on the road. Generally, people don’t run in big groups. So its plenty solo running here.
What the 2021 plan? Hopefully races will happen this year. Plan to run Zurich marathon in April and then our local race, the Jungfrau marathon in September. For this one, it requires a lot hill training. The second half has crazy elevation changes. Total elevation gain is around 1’800m.
Last words? We live in challenging times. No matter where we are in the world, plenty uncertainty remains. Mental health is critical. So, let’s support and encourage each other. Whether your run or walk, get on the road and release those endorphins. Let’s come out of this pandemic stronger!
So, with great dreams and hopes, 2020 was going to be a year to be remembered with all the goals I wanted to achieve. Trying to top 2019 was going to be a tough ask, but hey, if your dreams don’t scare you, you’re not living…
2020 will always be known for Covid19 and the year the world nearly shut down. To Runners it will always be remembered as the year Garmin was down for 3 days 😊
So, my first challenge for the year was to do a Triathlon, and going to visit my wife in Qatar seemed like the perfect place to do one, nobody to see me thrash, splash and panic swim my way in the ocean, then get onto a bike “Gasp” runners don’t free wheel… and then run how hard could it be. Well, don’t believe anybody when they say the desert does not get cold, I happened to visit during the coldest winter in 20 years. I should have realised there was an omen on the brew…
Race day arrives, I’m ready to race and my hire bike is nowhere to be found. Panic! 20 minutes before the start it arrives with a flat tyre. More Panic! No problem for another bike hire company, they see this and take the wheel of my hire bike and replace it with one of theirs, such awesome customer service. I now go off to the pens and am stressing only for this awesome lady to come to me and says, “Ahh Stella, are you from Durban?” I was wearing my new Stella Club T-Shirt. Relief knows no bounds, she said she’s from Toti but lives in Doha now and will sort my stuff out and took my bike my kit bag and chased me off to start the swim. (2 minutes before the start)
In brief, I get to the doc, and jump into the water, and just about died, 17c. I should have worn the wetsuit. Anyways 850m later, on the 750m swim I get the end and drag my sorry frozen self out of the water. The life savers seemed relieved as I thought they were going to jump in after me a few times… My angel from Toti is waiting for me, to direct me to my bike. I dry off get changed and remembered to put the helmet on, NB don’t forget the helmet, or your race is done. With Meganne cheering on from the side line it was on your bike for 20km.
So, I go as fast as I can, when I say Doha is flat, there is literally no hills, unless it is manmade. I’m in top gear and passing cyclists even some of those on TT Bikes and thinking this is easy. The bike section is done in no time and I think imagine if I could run this fast… I rack the bike, take off the helmet and I hit the road, 5km in the bag! Well, let me tell you a little story, that none of the Triathletes I spoke to for advice told me about. You need to rest your legs before the end of the bike, or they turn to jelly. For the first 3km, someone else’s legs were running for me, don’t know who, but thank you anyway. I was so fast, in those other persons legs, Meganne did not even see me finish.
After the adventure in Qatar, it was back home, to run Loskop and Tour D’ Durban a week later, all carefully coordinated by Craig George, ensuring I’m resting, training following the coach’s orders. Then we heard those dreaded words, “My Fellow South Africans”
Level 5 and the start of garden running, well thank the Lord for Trail Running as this is exactly what it was, round and around and around you would go. 5km is 45 minutes, like what on earth. Anyway this continues, Loskop is cancelled, then Oceans and we stay locked up. So, Debbie Wessels gets a bright idea and challenges me to run 42,2km around my house for her Cape Town Spending money, to donate to a charity of my choice. Mmmm, Ok, let raise some funds for those that are really struggling through these extraordinary times. The big day arrives and I start out and I run, and run, change direction and run, my dog Captain starts running with me but decides after about 5 minutes, this is crazy. I messaged Debbie about three hours into the run just on 20km to say this is madness and she calmly replies, you got this! Seven hours and fifty odd minutes later 479 laps around the house I finish with a swan dive into the pool. Note for future races in 2025, a pool to finish in is a great idea. Total raised for charity R10k!
Eventually Level 4 and Level 3 came to be, and we could venture out the yards and into the streets. Well who know there were so many dog walkers and runners in Glenwood. It was fantastic to see people and the some of those new faces are still at it.
Comrades was still up in the air and then boom cancelled and many a roadie’s heart was broken. That Comrades Dream, gone! Fear not along came Virtual Races and Comrades had a great idea, run, just not the race and run it from anywhere, just stay safe. I must admit, that although it will never compete with the vibe of Comrades, the trot up Botha’s Hill to The Wall and back with all the other runners on the road, was special. 21.1km Comrades, might be a great idea for the future.
I decided it was time to run an international event and what a better race than that of The Hawaii Marathon. So training started in earnest, with the help of the Stella Morning Group, known as the “Early Birds” keeping Stella out of any liabilities with the you know who. Nobody else was going to run, so I mapped out a route, Surf Riders to Umhlanga and back would be along the coast and give a semi feel of the tropical island of Hawaii. Then Alistair Green offered to come and run with Petra as our support on 27km. This was going to be a race with no water tables, time starts and only stops at the end. The day started off overcast and things were looking up, first 10km in an hour, and we work our way to The Pier, a quick photo shot as one does and we turn for home.
By this time Durban decides to show off and the sun comes out blazing. Alistair kept say, on the way back, Petra will be at Caltex in Forest Drive with refreshments, and we could not wait to get there fast enough. A well-deserved 10-minute break change of shirt, food and cold drinks, and it was 15km to go, home stretch. As we all know too well that promenade can be brutal, the last 8km was no hell, but know there was a huge Chocolate Milkshake at the end was the reward. Hawaii Completed 4:42 and change, two very happy Stella runners.
Running it a great fun and running with friends makes it so much more fun. Always find a friend that will be willing to deal with your whinging, has a sense of humour and will encourage you to keeping going.
Then a friend of mine in Pretoria messaged me to say why don’t we do a trail run in the mountains, seeing that these races are open. We looked and found one in December enough time to trail, only 40km and 1600m of elevation. Pat Freeman told me about Norther Drakensberg Trail last year, that she ran and loved it. #DNT2020 it was going to be.
On Saturday the 5th of December my good friend Jenny Cairns from Irene Running Club started the daunting task of #DNT2020. Knowing that this was an Andrew Booth race, KZN Trail Running, it would be spectacular but tough. Stella was well represented with Shantelle and Brett Walters, Pat Freeman and Margie all taking on the 20km event as well.
The day started off cold, wet and misty, a blessing is disguise as we never really saw what lay ahead of us. Sometimes the mist was so thick, we had to search for the markers to proceed forward. Jenny and I started off nicely, evenly paced, and we banked on 8kph, we should have more than enough in the bag for the 11H30 (6 Hour Cut Off on 25km) Boy were we wrong! We climbed, climbed some more and then climbed again, trying not to walk off the ridge to certain pain and death! Roadies, I’m being dramatic, trail running is the best running to improve your road running, I promise, take it from a runner that could barely break 7 minute a kilometre two years back.
We got to the 25km mark with 30 minutes to spare, time for a break, food at the aid station before taking on Vultures Pass. (460m long, 179m high and 24 minutes of climbing at 38% gradient)
By this time, it was bucketing down with rain but eventually we get to the top and start working our way back to the start. The mist slowly started to lift and the sun game out to reveal the Sterkfontein Dam in all its glory on our left and The Royal Natal Park on our right. The beauty can’t be described in words, not by me anyway.
We found a straggler from Durban Old Boys, and he tagged along for the last 14km that felt like an eternity, we were convinced that we would be stone last, but it was not about where you finished, but finishing the challenge that counts. When the results came out, we were only 5th from last, to a good result none the less 😊 Race Result: 40,5km in a time of 09:36:12 and 1970m of Elevation!
As the year draws to an end, and the uncertainty that the future holds with regards to races next year, I would like to thank all my running friends and supporters for being there for me this year. To all my fellow Stella friends and running friends from elsewhere, my advice is pick something that scares you, set the goal, enter, train and always wear sun screen!
To say we will never forget 2020 is an understatement! Who would have thought that when the clock struck 00:00 2020, that we would have experienced such a dramatic, upside down passage of time. I do not think anyone can say they were unaffected by “Rona”! To see the whole world literally come to a standstill was eerie and totally surreal.
There were many negative aspects, illness, loss of life, loss of income, morale, and depression to name the obvious. But I think there were a few positives to be taken from it. We all had to dig deep and re-evaluate what our priorities were. To really see that things are not as important as relationships and where our time is spent is important. As a community we had to reach out and help where possible, which is humbling.
Running was altered to the backyard and athletes had to learn to be creative with the minimal space they had. I am not a short distance runner, but suddenly clocking up 5k’s a day was like running a marathon, just to stay sane! The day we were allowed “out of camp” to run between 06.00 and 09.00 was such a social occasion. To see our running mates again was a stop every few hundred metres just to catch up, recognising everyone under the disguise of a buff/mask and realising how important friendships are.
Some of the accomplishments people achieved in the virtual world was amazing. Treadmills were abused, and paths created from repetitive laps to achieve half marathons, marathons, Two Oceans and Comrades distances was mind boggling.
Many more folk donned on running kit that perhaps would never have started exercising but because it was now limited, it ignited a spark to keep fit and healthy. Virtual runs allowed us to compete in races that we would never be able to participate in.
We were finally able to open the club in the latter part of the year, and to see the response of dedicated athletes was amazing. Our first time trial and braai was really special. We have seen many folk coming back to the club. Not to be put off by the faster runners, a new group sprung up with the “easy paced” run/walk group starting 15 minutes earlier, following the same planned route in order to not be left behind, has been extremely successful. And to see the progress of many athlete is encouraging.
So a year that stopped in March and started again in October is almost up.
The lockdown due to the epidemic has caused worldwide havoc triggering everything to come to a grinding halt. Who would have thought a few month’s ago that there would be silence – no working, no socialising, and no sport. Almost like a sci-fi movie, which is quite scary. For sports lovers it was crazy not to watch any live coverage or participate in sport, as event after event was cancelled. Comrades was no exception, and it was heart breaking especially for novices who would have experienced the “Ultimate Human Race” for the first time on the 14th June. Having the virtual Comrades was a good initiative allowing thousands to experience the sensation of being a part of the brand. The shorter options were popular, especially having limited training. But there were those that went the full hog, even though it will not be officially recognised, but “in for a penny, in for a pound”. One such Stella athlete who would have lined up as a novice, did the 90k journey and deserves kudos for a brilliant effort.
Greg Conti, along with his mate Richard Jenkin ran from Glenwood through Berea, Morningside down to the beachfront, and along the promenade and back again, four times over! The journey was completed in under eleven hours to family and friends cheering them home. To do this on your own in a sense, with not experiencing the vibe of spectators lining the route throughout, no Big Five but the same training route four times is quite impressive.
Hats off Greg, this is an amazing achievement and gutsy, you “Dared to Dream” and you did it! Next year you will fly down to Durban and into the stadium with thousands welcoming you home! We salute you.
The start of every new year gives a chance at a new beginning and even a ‘restart’. As runners the new year allows us to set new running goals, whether its new races, longer distances, going for PB’s or refocusing after an injury.
An important part of being able to reach your goal is to take the time out now to plan your training. Divide the months and weeks leading up to your event into phases. With each phase focusing on different parts of your conditioning to get you to race day in peak condition. This will help prevent overtraining. The symptoms of overtraining may include tired and heavy legs, slower running times or even injuries start creeping in.
Here is a basic guideline to help focus your training, so that you can avoid overtraining with the unwanted fatigue and injuries.
Phase one: Preparation Phase
This phase is aimed at easing back into training for 4-12 weeks, this should include easy aerobic conditioning and even a bit of cross training.
Goal of the phase:
To slowly improve your general fitness and being able to run at your comfortable pace.
What can be included:
Easy club runs should be the focus during this period.
Cross training may include cycling or swimming
Phase two: Base Training Phase
This phase is aimed at building a solid fitness base over 8 to 12 weeks. The focus is on slowly increasing your training intensity to develop a decent fitness level and to avoid injuries.
Goal of the phase:
To increase the endurance capacity of your fitness. Meaning that by the end of this phase you should be able to run longer distances at your comfortable pace.
What can be included:
Increase the duration of your runs from your preparation phase, these should still be at a comfortable pace (60 -75% effort)
Consider adding in one additional run per week into your schedule
Occasional hill running, however this should be done at a lower effort to avoid injuries
If you have any technique issues (running up/down hill; stride etc) this is the time to address them
Phase three: Building Phase
For the next 4-8 weeks the focus is on building on your base by increasing intensity and race specific training
Goal of the phase:
To increase your fitness and conditioning to be able to run at your desired race pace, but without the risk of constantly running at your highest levels.
At the peak of this phase you should be at your physiological peak. This is when you will be at maximum intensity of training. Shorter distance runners may be able to hold this peak for longer, however longer distance runners will not be able to. The peak of maximum intensity training should last 2 weeks.
What can be included:
Add some tempo runs, runs which are at a slightly faster pace than your comfortable pace
Fartleks and longer interval runs
Runs on terrain like what you will be racing on
Run that is close to or over your race distance, but at a lower intensity (slower than your race pace)
Phase four: Taper
The aim of the next 1-2 weeks is to allow the body to recover after the intense training whilst still maintaining fitness levels.
Goal of the phase:
To allow the body to recover after training so that you are in optimal condition on race day
What can be included:
Rest! This is a difficult phase as you feel strong and want to run, however you need to fight urges of wanting to train or doubts of feeling undertrained, trust your plan!
Shorter runs at a VERY comfortable pace are important.
Phase Five: Race
Phase Six: Recover
Remember to allow sufficient time to recover after your race. Runners are often back on the road way to soon after a race. Take time off and recover properly.
Other tips to avoid burnout when training:
1. Choose one race and make that race your priority
Choose ONE race as your goal and design your training schedule to that race. It is difficult to race many races without facing burnout and fatigue. When training for long distance and Ultra races it is hard to maintain your physiological peak for long periods of time due to the strain training places on your body. Choose one race that is your goal race, and make sure your training ‘peaks’ for that race.
2. Know your paces:
This might sound a bit obvious but is so often over-looked by runners. Know your comfortable pace, your tempo pace (Slightly faster) and your race pace (faster).
Likewise, realistically the pace of your club run, 10km, 21km and 42km pace can’t all be the same. Get to know what your comfortable pace is for each distance. When training allocate paces to your runs, irrespective of the distance you are running.
Race paces should be done very infrequently (Time trials etc). Tempo paces can be done more frequently. Allocate comfortable pace runs often, to allow your legs to recover especially a run after a hard run or hill session.
If you run every run at your fastest pace you will pick up injuries, varying your pace (to slower paces) allows your body to recover whilst still running!
3. Training runs are training runs:
Take training runs easy. Stop for water, chat, regroup. Its about time on your legs. Often runners use road races as training runs, which they plan to run slower. This is difficult as it is easy to get caught up in the atmosphere of the race. The other runners next to you pull you along often faster than you intended. The water table stop you from stopping for water. The crowd support on the side of the road can make you run a bit faster.
This often causes runners to run their ‘race’ on a ‘training’ run, because the legs have not recovered from the training run which was faster than planned.
4. Listen to your body
During training the body will get tired and feel heavy. There will be days when you will not want to get out of bed. That is normal during the Base training and Building phase of training. With the correct Taper phase, the body will recover. However, if your body is in pain and you have injuries or persistent niggles that are getting worse, you need to listen to your body. That is often a sign of over-training and fatigue. Often backing off on the intensity, modifying your training or a couple of rest days will do the trick in getting you back on track. Not listening to your body, however, might cause you to stop completely!
It had to happen! The barrier that had been on my mind since the beginning of 2020, I had no choice but to run a Sub 3 marathon. Runners might find it arrogant, but my mind was made up, I was going to go to Richards Bay on the 22nd of February 2020 and run a marathon in under 3 hours, so please allow me to share the best 2 hours and 55 minutes of my running life.
In August 2019 after the Mandela marathon, Gcina and I decided to go run Hippo Marathon in Richards Bay the following year because we had great reviews about the course, flat they said, they lied to us! There is no such thing as a flat marathon especially after 38km where a speed hump feels like a hill.
We left Durban on Friday at 12:04 and were at our destination in no time, collected and whined about not having plastic sachets on route, especially with 34° expected on race day. Oscar was kind enough to show us the route so we could strategize. I find it easier to run when I know what’s coming. At 6:20pm on Friday we did a 4km jog at 4:22/km to stretch our legs and get a feel of the roads and the air in Richards Bay, found the humidity not to be as bad as Durban, and that made me happy. We got back to the hotel and prepared our drinks, but we had a challenge as no one was there to second us. Oscar was kind enough to find someone to do that job, but that was a disaster as we only met the guy 15 minutes before the start. He could not process the information fast enough to do an efficient job (we only met him at 27km for the first time), he popped up at 38km when I was expecting him at 32km, was already running on grit at that time but that caffeine GU gel was heavenly when I got it at 38km. Now this is how the whole race went.
The gun went and I said “Valar Morghulis”, Game of Thrones fans will know these words very well, but at that moment I was prepared for a battle, the battle of dipping under Sub 3. In racing terms, you only have to maintain 4:15/km for 42.195km to finish in 2:59:59, I had bigger plans than that. I had told myself that every part of the race must be like a training session, and had planned to replicate all my sessions in one race. As soon as the race starts you climb a monster 350m hill, my mind went into Hill repeat mode and I was done with it without any trouble, I knew that the next 13km was flat and undulating with gentle climbs popping up now and again, these gentle climbs became monsters in the second lap. The first half went well, I could stay at 3:55 without breaking a sweat and put the hammer down to 3:45 on gentle downhills. I had expected our guy to be waiting for us with the magic stuff at 12km, but “dololo” he was nowhere to be found, bought time and only took the GU gel I had with me after 15km, felt the magic as I crossed the halfway point at 1:22:50, climbed the 350m hill at 4:05/km and went on cruise mode trying to stay at 4:00/km.
My face lit up when I met our drinks man at 27km, took my second gel and decided to push a bit because I had expected to see him in the next 5km’s, but that was not the case. Went through the 30km mark in 1:59:35, that is when I knew that Sub 3hrs was in the bag, now it was a matter of how low can I dip under the magic figure, Sub 2:50 started to pop in my head but that all vanished when I got to 32km and did not get the most important gel in my race plan, I needed that high caffeine gel to turn me in to running lunatic. I did not know what to do, the temperature was rising with each stride, so I could overheat at any time and stop on the side of the road like an old Toyota (I drive one too). Decided to drop the pace to 4:30-4:35/km as I knew this would get me a 2:55 without much trouble.
Gcina came into this race carrying an injury, and when I started seeing him on the road, I knew he was in trouble, I ran with him for about 150m but he could not keep up, so seeing my running mate battle at a race messed up my head for a while but he told me to go, and that made me feel at ease with the decision of living him behind.
I got to 38km and I started to feel my legs getting heavier with each stride, it was getting hot, above 30° I reckon. I was in the dark hours, now the last 4km were a challenge but I started to think of the people who would be disappointed more than me if I did not get the Sub 3. I thought of my wife to be, my club Stella who have been supporting with kudos on Strava and just general encouragment, my head went back to a track session I did with a mad Surgeon Henry Van Niekerk, surely this last 4km is a breeze compared to that madness we did two weeks before Hippo. I do not remember the last 4km except asking people to move and leave the yellow line to me, I do not know what was that all about, but I just wanted to run in the yellow lane until I finished, and when I entered the finish point I said “Valar Dohaeris,” meaning “all men must serve.” I had served a 2:55:17 (2:54:43 official time) on a steaming hot day in Richards Bay, now let the “Chasing Silver” slogan take over in preparation for Comrades. I have dare to dream “Iphupho lam” and hope to achieve it.