Mind and Body

What a year 2020!

By Ian Tait

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!

Here’s to 2021.

Road Captain Rants

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.

From Walker to Runner: A Tribute to Dave Beatie

By: Ronnie Groenewald

2 years ago I phoned Stella and asked if I could join in some sessions as I tried running in the park but ended up with more injuries than gains. Pat Freeman suggested that I start with the walkers. I met Dave there as he had been walking instead of running due to an injury. I told him one day I would really would like to run.

After some basic training sessions Dave suggested I do a club time trial. I came stone dead last with a time close to 50 minutes in pouring rain but he told me these words which probably changed my life: “We going to make an athlete out of You”. Why these words meant so much to me at the time was because I’m 1,89 meters tall and at that time weighed over 125 kg. I was built more like a tractor than a athlete.

This started my running and weight loss journey from 125 kg+ all the way down to 105 kg doing Durban Runner 21 km. All these milestone but I still didn’t complete my biggest: I wanted to run. All the races we did we always walk/run and Dave never cared once about his own time but rather encouraged and helped and almost dragging me over the finish line when I wanted to give up, he never gave up and always pushed me. We did a Saturday Stella Gillies once and we walked from the club all the way to the top at Maris Stella and told me: “one day You will run up this hill” I thought he was full of nonsense as I was out of breath just walking it.

When we were in Level 5 Lockdown I was fortunate to have a treadmill and didn’t have to run around my garden. I decided I am going to a do a couch to 5 km program so that I can run for  5 km. I finally accomplished this goal in June 2020 on the road. It was a small personal accomplishment but I was over the moon. I decided to step it up and start another 17 week beginners program.

Today, 15 August 2020 I went out to do a 13 km (as per my program). I ran past Musgrave Centre and usually I need to start walking there but I felt good so just kept on plodding along (remember tractor size not Superbike). Before I knew it I was right next to entrance of Maris Stella and realised I just conquered a hill Dave told me one day I will be able to run. I realised all I achieved in these last 2 years thanks to his encouraging words and support and guidance. I ended up running through hilly Morningside all the way home, 13.5 km without a walk conquering every hill and every step.

Thank you Dave Beattiie for being there for the beginner runners. Today I honestly felt like I achieved that athlete status you spoke about 2 years ago.

Making it happen!

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.

Hillcrest Marathon 2020

By Kathryn Watt

Kathryn - photo

 

Sometimes it feels like joining a running club is not so dissimilar to joining a cult. And no time does this seem truer than when waking up long before dawn, squeezing into spandex and heading out into the dark to run an unreasonable distance, at an unreasonable hour, with excited hordes of other equally-brainwashed- spandex-clad folk.

The start

Standing amidst the throng of excited runners at the start of the Hillcrest Marathon,
alongside the formidable figures of Brad, Coenie, Matt, and Sean, I wondered if I was going to make it to the end of the 42.2kms that lay ahead. In the weeks preceding the marathon,  I had continuously considered downscaling my entry to the half marathon. My training had not been as rigorous or focused as it had been for my first marathon the year before, and I didn’t feel as well prepared. But the time for hesitancy had passed and, 15 minutes later than expected, the start whistle blew and the crowd jostled forward, tightly packed and wafting the scent of deep heat and sunscreen. In a few minutes we had crossed the start line and Sean and my race began.

Lap 1

At only 3 kms in I already needed an inconvenient toilet break, I was not the only one and the wait for the portaloo was excruciating as valuable minutes ticked by. The woman in front of me eventually rapped curtly on the portaloo door – I admired her bravado – and finally it was my turn. I felt a relief only runners know and eagerly headed back onto the road.

“Roll it, don’t push it” chanted the 2:30 pacesetter as he led his bus cruising downhill. “Roll it, don’t push it” I responded as I hopped aboard for a kilometre or so, the vibe of the bus pulling me along.

Sean and I ran sometimes a few metres ahead of, and sometimes a few metres behind the indomitable Sandy and Kirsty, both of whom were enroute to 21.1km. Sandy suggested that to save our energy for the second lap we try keep behind her. Dutifully I lessened my pace, and from that moment was sure never to pass Sandy. When Sandy slowed, I slowed and when she and Kirsty sped off into the distance I did not try to keep up. Sandy’s sage advice gave me permission to walk before I was forced by tiredness to do so, and I am certain this was the reason I took so much pleasure in the race and did not succumb to undue suffering on Lap 2.

We passed beneath the green canopy of a glorious avenue of trees, admired the manicured lawns and sweeping views of the Hillcrest mansions, shared smiles and words of encouragement with marshals, slurped coke mixed with water, and bit by bit watched the kilometres melt away.

I knew we were nearing the end of our first lap when we saw some of our favourite runners bounding down the hill we were battling up – they were already on their second lap and making great time. Ahead of the race, I had wondered if I would be tempted to turn off at the 21.1km mark, but on the day I cruised past the turnoff with no inclination to end my race.

Lap 2

As we began our second lap we were joined by a fantastic Save Orion runner who was
hoping to qualify for Comrades, we formed a mini-bus of our own and encouraged each
other onwards. This interaction led me to quietly hope that Sean and I too could complete our race in under 4hrs50mins.

It was starting to heat up, sweat ran down the back of my neck, and my hamstrings stung. Tired and shuffling slowly up yet another hill, a festive table of Chillie runners encouraged me to keep pushing and laughingly teased that “Stella got her groove back!”
I was surprised how little I minded running the same route twice as the second lap presented new sights, sounds and sensations (including a rather unpleasant pain in my hip).

In the final few kilometres as we walked what felt like the millionth hill, Sean and I came
across Tim – who is always such a friendly fellow to meet on the road. A persistent whistle blew from a pack of determined Hollywood Bets runners, and the 4.50
bus nipped closely at our heels. Now that I really believed we could finish under 4hr50mins I was fuelled by a jangle of nerves and unexpected determination. “All you need to do is stay ahead of that one bus” I thought.

The finish

We crested the final hill, pushed along the straight and then at last we were flying down the grassy slope towards the finish. I heard my name called out and looked up to find a row of green and gold figures cheering Sean and I on towards the end and before I had time to think we had crossed the finish line and our race was over.

My experience at Hillcrest Marathon left me filled with gratitude. Gratitude for fellow club members who celebrate each fellow runner’s achievements, no matter how small. Gratitude for all of the jovial marshals and the running community who make race day fun rather than daunting. Gratitude to Sandy and the other Stella veterans who offer expert running insight to us rookie runners. And gratitude to Sean for sharing the long run with me.