Road to Comrades 2018

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

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.

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.

Hillcrest Marathon 2018

By: Travis Graham

I woke to the sound of drizzle at a quarter past TOO EARLY on the morning of Sunday the 11th February. Like many of my fellow participants, it was at that vulnerable moment that I was forced to wage an inner war against my shameful desire to slam the snooze button. Luckily on that day, the little common sense I have did prevail.  After first wolfing down a bowl of Jungle Oats, and then lubing, tubing, picking and sticking a variety of odd body parts, I was off into the progressively worsening rain in the direction of, the then still dark, Hillcrest.

At the intersection of Old Main and Inanda Roads, I was pleased to find that the rain hadn’t deterred many, or even dampened the usual lively spirit. A many hundred, if not thousand, strong field waited in anticipation. The Hillcrest Marathon, is a well-established local event that attracts many due to its key timing in the annual race calendar – it serves as an official qualifier for both the Comrades Marathon and the Two Oceans Marathon.

The double-lapper marathon route can, in essence, be divided into distinct quarters. Quarters 1 and 3, predominantly downhill through leafy Winston Park, and quarters 2 and 4, predominantly uphill on the way back to Hillcrest town center. The start of the run, although congested, went off without a glitch. The large field had plenty of space to regain order on its way down Old Main Road past the old Heritage Market. As we entered Winston Park, passing family supporters and local residents who had set up temporary camp outside their houses, I was filled with short-lived elation – “could running getting any better than this?”

Surprisingly for me, this happiness lasted throughout quarter 2, in spite of some sharp uphills (many of you will know the exact NASTIES I am referring to). I passed my own posse of family supporters at the Engen garage on Old Main Road, remembering to don the poses of some Kenyan or Ethopian marathon great, just in case they had their Instagrams on warm-up. A warm hug but no photography ensued. After munching on a fruit bar whilst nearing the halfway point, I rounded the Hillcrest corner at 21km for the start of the second trot down toward Winston Park.

Luckily, quarter 3’s downhills were sympathetic to my tiring sticks. I was able to bank some time with a quicker-than-planned quarter. This margin gain would soon prove critical as my legs, very quickly, began to shout like the EFF used to in parliament – pre Cyril.  No ‘honourable members’ these! At the end of the first quarter, I rounded the beaconed hairpin bend like a light-footed gazelle. This time around I was more like a Maersk oil tanker – I even saw the Marshall take a step back as I approached as she clearly feared being taken out.

The marathon’s new catchphrase, #Whatthehill, took on new gravitas as I dragged my legs (read: concrete) up the last hilly 11km stretch. I had to dig deep, like past the remaining oats deep! I eventually made it back up onto Old Main road. I passed my posse looking like Timothy Traddle – somehow this time, amazingly, they all had their Instagram’s in full force as I waddled by! I continued, gritted teeth, for the last 2km to the finish.

I crossed the finish line utterly exhausted and ravenous, but ecstatic to have my Ultra qualifiers under my belt, to be greeted by a warm Stella welcome and at the smell of some wicked brekkie buns!

Was it all worth it? …..HILL yeah!

On Running and Illness

By: Dr Anver Goga

We runners believe we are an invincible lot, immune from ills due to our fitness levels. Unfortunately we are just as prone to illness as everyone else, at times more so.

I am often asked, Doc, I have the `flu`; can I run? Can I sweat it out?

It is important to distinguish whether you actually have a simple cold or the dreaded influenza, which are quite different and caused by different viruses.

The common cold virus, most commonly caused by a group of viruses called Rhinovirus, affects us 3 – 4 times a year, causing an itchy nose, scratchy throat, itchy eyes and the sniffles. If these symptoms are mild and stay above the neck, don’t cause a fever then it is safe to run. You don’t need an antibiotic. Remember the common cold can become complicated with bacterial infections giving rise to sinusitis, ear infections and migrating down to your chest. Headaches, earaches, cough and yellow nasal discharge suggest this necessitating antibiotics and a longer duration of illness – running not allowed.

A completely different kettle of fish is when you have the actual flu virus, influenza virus. This usually comes around once a year, usually in April / May before the Comrades Marathon. The influenza virus affects the entire body; Fever, malaise, and especially for the runners, muscle soreness. The virus affects all muscles and can also affect the heart muscle leading to heart failure. Symptoms are above and below the neck. It is especially dangerous to run with the flu virus as running can further depress your immunity and raise the core temperature of the body facilitating spread of the virus. Running not advised.

So, how do we get these viruses?

We all know that when a symptomatic person sneezes and you are in close proximity, you are likely to inhale the virus. The virus is also spread by touch. An infected person who may be asymptomatic for up to 24hours after catching the virus spreads the virus by touching door knobs, gym equipment, escalator rails at shopping malls, eating utensils and fridge handles. By touching the infected apparatus ourselves we infect ourselves by touching our nose/ eyes.

How do we avoid getting colds and flu?

By frequent hand washing, especially after touching objects; avoiding people with the flu (easier said than done); by keeping your immunity high; avoiding work and domestic stress (again easier said than done), avoid overtraining, changing into dry clothes as soon as possible after a run and avoiding sudden changes in temperature. High dose Vit C, multivitamin supplements, zinc, ecchinacia; have not been shown to reduce the incidence of getting the flu / colds. Taking the flu vaccine at the end of February prevents getting the flu 70% of the time; Advisable to take it. The  vaccine has dead virus particles in it so you cannot get the flu by taking it.

What to take if you have the flu / cold?

Panado; nasal decongestants, together with lots of fluid and rest. Antibiotics are only needed if you develop bacterial infection. Avoid all anti inflammatory medication like Advil; Celebrex; Coxflam; Arcoxia; Aspirin; Mypaid; Voltaren and Myprodol, These decrease the blood supply to the kidneys and affect your stomach lining giving rise to ulcers. Especially avoid all forms of anti inflammatory medication when running races; disastrous complications can occur; especially renal failure.

Recommended time after having the flu to get back into running – at least 2-4 weeks.

Bluff Marathon 2017

By: Mark Rai

Mark Bluff Marathon

No sooner after crossing the finish line of Goss & Balfe South Coast marathon, my running mate Engelbert and I decided to run Bluff Marathon to hopefully better our time. What could be more difficult than the marathon we just ran? We were still marathon fit with Bluffs being two weeks away, there was sufficient time to rest and recover. Having never done this race before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I remembered looking at the route profile the night before and noticed the elevation. I knew it would be a difficult, hilly double-lapper. Sometimes ignorance is bliss!

Representing Stella, there was a few walkers, half-marathon runners and handful of marathon runners. The weather conditions were not ideal with a strong north-easterly wind blowing. We can’t control weather conditions on race day, so it’s best to try and train in all types of conditions. The 3H’s (howling wind, heat and hills) would definitely be a factor in the race. Bertie and I had an agreement at the start of the race that whoever was feeling stronger between the two of us would keep going. The race started at 5:30 at Fynnland sports grounds. Before I knew it we were off, and running straight into a strong headwind along a flat Lighthouse rd for a km or so before turning into Marine Drive to begin an uphill climb of 1½ kms to the military base. ‘We barely started running and the hills are already coming to us,’ I silently moaned. Marine Drive is ±9kms long with undulating hills and stunning sea views. From here on we were fortunate enough to have a tailwind and we settled into our rhythm. The refreshment tables were great with coke, water, oranges, litchi juice sachets, biscuits and sweets on offer. We took in fluids early as it was already getting hot. From 10-12km’s was easy downhill running along Engen Refinery. Running into a strong headwind along a flat Tara Rd for 4kms before passing Bluff Nature Reserve, we were still feeling great.

The 16-20km mark is a tough part of the course with mostly uphill running to the top of Bluff Rd. We ran up all the way to the bluff tower on the right with ease, before breezing through halfway in a time of 1hr52mins. We even joked that we could end up finishing 1st & 2nd for the very first time for Stella! (due to the fact that so few runners from Stella were doing the marathon). We were on track for our goal of a sub 4 finish. Things can change so quickly when you running. Not long after passing halfway and running up to the military base for the second time, I knew that I was in for a tough second half. Running along the slow poison hills of Marine drive at the 25km mark, I started to feel tired and subsequently dropped my pace. I knew I ran the first half slightly faster than I had planned and was paying the price .Bertie looked strong and kept going. I stopped at a water table to re-fuel and took two Rehidrat’s hoping it would give me a much needed boost. The short hills along Marine Drive seem never ending and are energy sapping. Recovery is quick but before you know it there’s another hill waiting. I passed 30km’s in a time of 2hrs46mins. It was a welcome relief running down Marine Drive for a final time and then along Tara rd. I just put my head down and focused on my running strides as the wind was slowing me down. At 32km’s I glanced at my watch, 2hrs59mins of running. I just had over an hour to run 10kms for sub 4 finish, that meant no walking and I still had to run up Bluff Rd! I was still in with a chance, a very tough one albeit!

At 36km mark I caught up to Bertie at Bluff Nature Reserve. I was a little sore and dehydrated with the conditions definitely getting the better of us on the day! 40kms down with a time of 3hrs 54mins, a sub 4 finish seemed so distant. Chasing down a time now was always going to be a difficult task especially when you don’t have much left in the tank. We walked for the most part all the way up to Bluff Rd, trying to encourage each other. When we crested the top of Bluff Rd by Spar, I grabbed a welcoming drink at a table before heading off for the final straight. From here to the finish was easy downhill running. Entering the field, we were cheered on by Sandy and Michael, finishing in a time of 4hrs09mins. I wasn’t too concerned about not achieving my target time, just a sense of relief that we finished. There are no easy marathons. Thanks again to Sandy for saving us at the end by getting us cold coke and a cream soda.  Bluff Marathon was a tough, challenging course but a well organised race. No more running marathons for me this year. I’ll definitely take a much needed break and probably focus on shorter runs.

South Coast Marathon – Lessons from a fellow mortal

By: Tawanda Vakisai

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Build your base

The South Coast Marathon has always had a special place in my heart. This is where I achieved my first sub-2 half marathon and my first sub-4 marathon. I set my sights on running another sub-4 marathon this year. Although I have had good luck on the two occasions I ran the South Coast, I knew this alone was not going to be enough to have a comfortable run or get the result I was after.  One of the tips I was given in my early running days was to ensure my total mileage for the week is at least equivalent to the race distance I will be training for. I was also warned the mileage goals increase as the performance goals increase. We are fortunate at Stella to have organised runs during the week and a longer run on the Saturday. These were enough to get the minimum mileage required. I have recently also started joining Sandy on her hill training sessions on Wednesdays. These have really boosted my fatigue resistance and I encourage everyone to join.

He who finds a wife finds a good thing 

I normally treat myself to a massage after some hard work before the race. Unfortunately for me, I could not get an appointment on the days I wanted to go. When I shared this with my wife, she reminded me I had invested in a foam roller as a more cost-effective alternative to sports massages. I tried to get on to the foam roller but just could not bear the pain when I tried to foam roll my ITB.  After having a few laughs at how much I was struggling, my wife offered to massage me. I have previously shared with her YoutTube videos on massage techniques and “volunteered” to be her model so I knew I was in good hands. A few days of this put me in good stead to achieve my goal.

Tapering

My strategy for the week of the marathon has always been to have one slow run on Tuesday (Wednesday latest) and to maintain a good eating plan. I always struggle with the latter as I am blessed with a very healthy appetite. This saw me having a chip and cheese mutton roti for Friday lunch. I was regretting this decision on Friday evening. Luckily, I had some Rennies at hand to neutralise the situation.

Do not try new things

On Saturday evening, as I prepared for race-day, I was contemplating whether I should use the hydro-pack I had recently purchased for the marathon. Being able to carry my own fuel for the race was such a compelling idea. I had missed my opportunity to try it out during training. It was decided, I would take it with me. What could go wrong? I lay out my kit and everything I needed for the morning, planned my breakfast and was in bed nice and early.

Enjoy it!

We got to the start of the race 1 hour before the scheduled start and after taking a moment to enjoy the beautiful sunrise on the South Coast, we began to get ready. My hydro-pack was suddenly feeling heavier and not as minimalistic as I had imagined. My running mates gave me a look of disapproval as I tried to adjust it to fit more comfortably. I heeded their dirty looks and left it in the car. I was not going to let this get in the way. We made our way to the starting line and met other fellow Stella Runners there. We all shared our goals for the day as we waited for the gun. The sun was already out and we could see it was going to get warm. There was also promise of headwinds so it looked like we had a real challenge ahead of us.

With the bang of the gun, the runners burst into full flight. My immediate mission was to get over the first 10 in under 1 hour. I still remembered how tough the race was at the end so I planned early on not to do too much in the beginning. Holding back was going to be key. I made it comfortably over the 10km mark in just over 55 minutes.  The next mission was to get over the 21km mark at about 1:55. The route was so beautiful at this point it took your mind off the running with the gentle breeze helping to keep us cool. This however took a turn just after the 20km mark as we were now facing the head wind earlier promised. The hill sessions immediately came to mind.  If I had conquered the hills of Howard Road, the wind was going to come out second best. I self-talked myself through the wind and got over 21km one minute faster than planned. At this point, we were now more exposed to the scorching heat. My left calf was starting to feel a bit tight. One of the most useful tips I have adopted is from an article Dr Grant Matkovitch wrote earlier this year. He advised that “if a muscle is causing pain and tightness whilst you are running, consider taking 3 minutes out of your run/race to stretch the muscle on the side of the road”. I decided I would take some time off on the next water stop to stretch and recover.

While I was down stretching the sub-4hr bus passed. I looked at the time and still backed myself to stick to the plan. Once the stretching and re-hydration was done, I was back on the road with a new lease on life. I caught up to the sub-4 bus at the 27km mark. I was feeling very strong at this point and thought I should pass the bus as they would probably slow me down. I looked at the clock and we were still ahead of time. A little voice told me to hold back. I stuck with the bus up until 32km. I knew at this point that there will probably be less running after 35km so decided to leave the bus and increase the pace a little. I got to 35km and I was still feeling strong. I was happy going up the hills and felt all the training had paid off both mentally and physically. The moment I got on to the grass, I knew the mission had been accomplished. I burst towards the finish line, to the cheers of my second family, Stella Athletic Club. Although challenging, this was one of the most enjoyable marathons I have ever run and will definitely go back for more.

 

Sanlam Cape Town City Marathon 2017

By: Pat Freeman

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I was thrilled to have an opportunity to run a “big City marathon” again, even though this one has been around for 10 years in various forms and ever growing, I had never run it! This year the Event was upgraded to an IAAF Gold Label Status, the only marathon to have this status in Africa!

What this really means is that the organisers have met certain criteria to host a world class event where athletes from all over the world are invited to compete against each other, and to encourage our own SA athletes to improve their marathon times accordingly. The weekend comprised of a number of events other than the marathon and a host of celebrities were also encouraged to take part.

The date chosen for this marathon is always “September” and as near as possible to heritage day to encompass the “heritage” theme by taking the runners around the history and beauty of Cape Town on foot – a pleasantly “flatish” course!

On my arrival in Cape Town on Saturday, I was met by the Cape Doctor! Shoo! the wind was pumping – I heard that the Expo/Registration had closed early the night before due to concerns of the huge tents taking flight! However, I successfully registered, received a beautiful tshirt & wondered around a mini expo that was situated on Granger Bay between the waterfront and the Greenpoint stadium.

Roll on race day! As part of the race perks, Uber trips to and from the start of the Marathon were free! So I arrived to my Gold Label race in a taxi! What a perfect day was ordered for the race! Too beautiful, which made the race seem easier! (it was a trick!) The streets were clean and scenery breathtaking – despite the water shortage in the Cape, the seconding provided was very good.

We ran out towards Sea Point, back towards the City Bowl and up Long Street right to the Mt Nelson Hotel, which looked spectacular against the mountain (If I could have breathed I would have taken some pictures). Back down into town and then out towards the southern suburbs of Rosebank, Mowbray and eventually turned at Newlands and did a lap around Rondebosch Common at the halfway mark.

From there we did a bit of a tour of Paarden Island and ran along the Rapid Transport Lane (dedicated bus lane – quite cool), it was so interesting that I forgot I was shattered! Back up into the city again – over a bridge that had been boarded into a ramp for easy running – really lovely, then along a flat area to the finish. I must just mention that it must be noted that I finished ahead of Mr Rugby Captain Francois Pienaar and Mr Cricket Captain Graeme Smith who were at least five minutes behind me!

Pat Freeman
IAAF GOLD LABEL STATUS MARATHON competitor