When you love running as much as I do, it is very difficult to rein yourself in when you need to!
2019 was where it all came together. I had completed the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon as well as the Cape Town Marathon, which was a highlight in my running career. I had achieved two massive goals and nothing could go wrong….or so I thought!!! At the end of that 2019 year I was enjoying a training run, a week prior to the DHS 10km. After the run I could feel a niggle in my right knee but didn’t want to overthink it although it didn’t seem to want to go away.
The day of the DHS 10km arrived, I was still sore. My wife said rest, 10km is not worth an injury, BUT I had to run. So off I went and unfortunately near the end as I entered the Crusaders ground my knee locked and it was over. After lots of rest the swelling subsided but I still couldn’t run. I went to my specialist and had an MRI scan which confirmed I needed an op.
It was a slow, long haul that for me felt like forever. All I wanted to do was hit the road but even a walk was too much. After many motivational talks on my wife’s part, I listened and rested, took it slow and thankfully Stella began a beginners group which I started running with. It was the best thing I could have done. It kept me in check and helped regain the strength I needed to finally get back to where I needed to be, to run again without pain.
The moral of my long story is like running a marathon you need a plan, strength and endurance and this will help you get to the finish line, but life seems to throw curve balls all the time and you need a plan, strength and endurance to get through it as I had to do to get over my injury. Always listen to your body, respect it and rest it when need be, for the love of running!
For the love of running I agreed to write something in the hope that my story will inspire some of you who might be struggling physically or mentally and also just to give a glimpse of what it´s like running in different conditions.
Now an Expat living in Switzerland, I maintain my Proudly South African status with pride. I must say, as much as it is a privilege to experience different countries and cultures, and it being a crucial factor to opening ones eyes and seeing the world from a different perspective, “you will never really truly have a sense of home until you leave home” – Unknown. I have no greater pride than when I tell the Swiss about my country and our people. Having said that, the process of leaving my country was gut wrenching and although it gets a little easier every day, there are still days filled with emptiness and no sense of belonging and this is where my running gets me through every time!
Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.
I wanted to put this verse in because I think about it every time I feel that my insignificant 2k walk or seriously slow 10k run just to keep going is not going to amount to anything, I remind myself that it all ads up and as long as I keep going, then I am doing better than nothing.
So far my greatest achievement is that I have kept going.
Honestly, I have not done a lot of running since I arrived in Switzerland but enough to be able to share with you about some of my challenges, adjustments, and experiences.
Since I arrived in Switzerland in Summer, the temperatures were not a problem, but the change in altitude humbled me in the beginning to say the least. I knew there would be challenges adjusting to the higher altitude, but I did not know what to expect physically.
Interlaken is located some 566m above sea level compared to Durban´s 8m. That is a significant difference in altitude to adjust to. My first couple of runs was uncomfortable. I experienced altitude sickness for the first time, with symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, and headaches. Needless-to-say, I had to ease into it. It didn´t take long, but I just started with brisk walking and shorter, slower runs to strengthen my lungs and re-regulate my breathing. Once I adjusted to these conditions, running became a pleasure again.
Then came my first Winter…I had been dreading it to be honest, not knowing what to expect physically and I worried about loosing fitness, thinking I would probably not run as regularly as what I am used to. And I didn´t, but again I eased into it slowly.
I clearly did not have suitable gear for below zero temperatures. Until I could figure out what fabrics they use to combat the Winter bite, this is what I wore:
Long tights and sweatpants over that, a vest, long sleeve running shirt, a sweater, and a jacket, 3 pairs of socks (rather toit), gloves, a beanie, and a neck buff. My eyes watered from the sting of the cold air, although it is possible that I was crying, and my nose ran faster than me. I still have no idea how I actually managed to run with all that clothing on. Also, running on snow and ice has been both scary and funny when you don´t have the correct footwear. Finding shoes and grips suitable for icy conditions are crucial to prevent injury. I have since adjusted quite well to the weather conditions and acquired suitable running gear which makes a big difference. Now I love running in Winter.
I never minded running on my own but when I became part of the Stella family, I grew quite fond of training with my comrades and when I got to Switzerland I had to run alone and I still do for now. No, I can´t run with my Husband because I can´t keep up Being part of Stella made a big difference in my life and to my running. There are running clubs in the bigger towns and cities, but where we are, most people are pretty much each to their own. Perhaps I will start a little group when Aunty Rona gives us the thumbs up.
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!
I ran with Stella for 9 years before moving to Brisbane, Australia in 2019. My running career with Stella included 6 Comrades medals ( 2 Bill Rowans ), 2 Ultra marathons, 22 Marathons.
Starting running in a new country without a running club has been challenging. Being involved in a club gives you the support and the momentum to keep pushing your self and staying committed. This is where the challenge has come in as I struggled to keep my momentum going without anyone to keep me accountable. Needless to say I miss everyone at Stella.
I did give a running club a try here but the way the club works and the club culture was not the same. I am still open to trying other clubs here and always keep an eye open for others. However in the recent year I found a running in partner and used the time during Covid to work on our running as all gyms were closed. This was the boost and time I needed to build my motivation and my running fitness.
I’ve managed to improve my speed, fitness and found a routine that works for me. On a weekly basis I run 3-4 times a week and aim to reach 40kms a week. Thank you to my stella friends who have encouraged and supported me from a far.
Road running is great fun, and especially when we run as a club, at training runs, races or even alone, there is a running law to adhere to for one’s safety. There have been too many incidences of late, and for new runners as well as experienced runners, it’s good to be reminded of running etiquette.
Always run into oncoming traffic, so that you and drivers are aware of each other. The only time it is advisable to run with the traffic is if there is a foot path on that side only. We don’t need to play dodgem cars and chicken!
You need to be able to hear what is going on around you. Avoid running with earpieces in your ears and music blaring in your brains. If you really have to, turn it down and only wear one ear piece, so that you can be aware of your surroundings. Most races do not allow it.
“Light and bright at night”! Especially during winter, you need to be visible! MIB’s (Men in Black) might be cool, but you are not visible! These days you get really great running tops that are reflective, and just plain white T’s is also advisable.
If you intend changing direction, cross a road, or come to an intersection make sure you signal clearly where you intend going. Often drivers are looking right to cross into a road you are in, they do not see you coming and many a runner has met a car by accident. Rather run around vehicles than presume that you have been seen.
Early birds and late runners need to be very aware of drivers who could be fatigued or under the influence. Some drivers have no respect for runners, and they own the road rather than share it. We too need to realise that we don’t have exclusive rights to the road either and have to either run in the verge or preferably on the pavement. Rather assume that all drivers are bad and have not seen you. Be safe not sorry!
Be courteous and acknowledge drivers who have made an effort to give way to your athletic efforts. Swearing and cursing drivers is a no no! We also have to honour our club – we want to draw people not chase them away!
If you are not well or intend to cut short, please let someone know so that runners don’t wait for a no show. We have had an incident where a new runner collapsed and it could have been serious if it were not for a guardian angel who came to her rescue. Run responsibly!
Sadly, these days, running alone is not always an option. There have been numerous accounts of runners being accosted, and some not so nice experiences. If you have no alternative, make sure you run in daylight and on roads that are popular to avoid unwanted company. Ideally join us at Stella or run with a mate, and make sure your route is known to the special people in your life.
With the challenges of Covid, be responsible and look after yourself and your running mates. Its not compulsory to wear a mask while training, but afterwards – be safe, not sorry!
These few simple points can make your running experience a lot more pleasurable. Let’s arrive alive and in one piece, and come back for more tar therapy because we can!!
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!
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.
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.
There is nothing quite like the homosapien species called the “athlete”! There are sub species in this category who hit the pavements, roads, and earthy terrain to “move it, move it”, namely the walker, runner and cyclist. They will get up at a ridiculous time – before the birds have decided to open their beaks, and lace up, leave the comfort of Duvet Street and move at a considerable pace along the streets and byways for a few hours, clicking up the kilometres (which is then beeped on the watch to the computer and downloaded torecord the mileage and rake up points!).
The beauty about the athlete is that it knows no boundaries. The love of the sport unites young and old, the doctor, the baker, the candlestick maker, and total strangers greet each other in passing, because they recognise the dedication and the unvoiced respect for what they are achieving. I remember running on the beachfront one morning with one of my race T-shirts on. A guy running in the opposite direction in a similar shirt smiled at me and the telepathy was – “I know what you went through to earn that T!”
The bonds that are built along the road is strong. You might not know each other from a bar of soap, yet you can talk the same language. You share the pain, the anguish of injury or sickness, but delight in the achievements and goals reached, however great or small. Its not generally a selfish sport. What one gleans from one, is passed on to another to encourage and build and to see personal bests achieved. Its thanks to the selfless input of those in the know that has got me to places I would never have dreamt possible.
It is not necessarily a glamorous pastime. One sees each other at the worst, still with sleep in one’s eyes, hair amok, moods subdued or grumpy.Not everyone looks like a super model in running gear. And when the need to go to the loo arises on the road… well put it this way, we would never dream that the bush could be such heaven! Its funny when you see runners in the mall all dressed for the day, how you almost don’t recognise them!
Seconders rate extremely high on my respect list. They get up with us to cart us around, provide for our needs on the way, and give us the rebuke or encouragement we need to get us going again. And don’t forget all the photos they take of us to record our amazing feats! Many have pulled me through some of the toughest challenges in my running career. Again total strangers come to the rescue. Comrades 2016, I was coming down Fields Hill having lost my electrolyte potions along the way, and the inevitable cramps kicked in – both calves. I looked like a ballerina on points – gone wrong! Two lovely spectators came running up and asked how they could help. I leant on one while the other helped undo the spasms. I really thought my race was over. Thanks to them I hobbled down towards Pinetown. Just then another runner doing his 9th came along side me and gave me a packet of the same electrolytes I had been taking. He told me to take two every half hour and then carried on his way to his green number. I tried to remember his name on his vest but to this day, I will never know who he is, but he saved my race and I was able to complete the challenge. Comradeship at its best. It is humbling.
So to all these crazy characters who make this world an interesting, better place – I salute you! Keep moving forward and run the race that is set before us – this is a paradigm of life!