It is true that sometimes in life it’s the unexpected that will bring you true joy. Here is my story of how I got to run the Pinetown & District Athletics Club’s 25km race.
Friday 16 April 2021
It was a normal Friday afternoon at the office where I was wrapping up my work and looking forward to the usual 21km weekend long run the next day. Little did I know that I was in for a wonderful surprise. Gerald, a fellow Stella Star had unfortunately encountered an injury and offered me his entry to run the PDAC 25 which was taking place on Sunday 18th April 2021. I accepted with extreme excitement. We contacted the race organisers and the Event Timing staff to arrange for the change of details. I must say that I was very impressed with how efficient, polite and helpful they were. By the time I left the office, I had received all the emails and an sms confirming my participation at the race.
Saturday 17 April 2021
Saturday morning I woke up and drove up to Lahee Park in Pinetown to collect the race pack and goodie bag. Lahee Park is where we were to find the finish line of the race the next morning. I had never taken part in this race before, and up until Saturday morning I had never set foot at Lahee Park before either. This for me was unknown territory. I had hoped to have time to drive along the route on Saturday, but I struggled to find someone to accompany me who knew the race route at such short notice.
It was now Saturday afternoon, and to sum it all up to this point, 24 Hours ago I did not even know that I’d be running this race, and 24 Hours from now I’ll be running the race without knowing the route. It was at this point that the good old race jitters set in. It has been over a year since one had to carry out the “Night before race prep”. One by one I ticked the items off the preparation list, starting with the kit, nutrition, transport, alarm clock and all the way down to the last but very important cup of coffee before the race. I was also fortunate to have a last minute chat with a few Stella Stars about the race, race profile and their previous experience. This proved to be very valuable for me on race day.
Race Day: Sunday 18 April 2021
My alarm clock worked as advertised and I got up in time, had my cup of coffee and started my 30 minute drive to Watercrest Mall. The song on repeat for this drive was Adele – When we were young. Now I know what you’re thinking, but let me just say that the song gets me going, ok. J
The atmosphere at the start line and waiting area was nothing short of electrifying. As we drove into the mall, one could see the road closure signs, cones and the red and white tape. After such a long, difficult year of the pandemic it suddenly dawned on me that this race is actually happening. This was exciting. Apart from a handful of runners who were doing their warm up drills outside, the rest used the isles inside the mall as a waiting area as the temperature outside was reported to be around 12 degrees Celsius.
Everyone was so happy, friendly and greeting with big smiles. I was excited to be part of this race, not only because it was a first of many post the pandemic, but also because this was my first official race as a Stella Athletics Club member. It felt good to see other Stella Stars in their kit and to wish each other well for the race.
At exactly 05:30 the air horn went off and the race began. The early start was definitely advantageous as this allowed us all more time to cover some ground before sunrise. The advice I had received from my fellow club mates came in handy right at this point. As advised, I ran the first 5 km gently as it was gradually climbing from the start line towards Hillcrest, and I held back on the pace once I was on the downhills. I believe that this approach definitely spared me from possible injury and allowed me to enjoy the race in its entirety.
I had also been made aware of the two (2) hills that I was to face approximately 3 km from the finish line. Armed with this knowledge, I reserved 10 to 20% of my effort throughout the race so that I would have enough energy to summit these hills. I was happy to find that the strategy worked out as planned. When I approached the hills, I gave it my all and manage to climb both hills without walking. In fact, I ran the whole race without stopping once for a walk to recover. After the climb, only 2km remained. Running into the stadium and seeing the finish line always gives one that extra push and a burst of energy. And just like that, the race was done.
One thing that was unusual and clearly notable was the absence of crowds of spectators and other athletes post-race.
Runners were instructed to wear their masks after crossing the finish line and also were encouraged not to hang around at the stadium so as to observe the Covid-19 regulations.
I am glad that many did observe these regulations, and do truly hope and believe that this race and the way it was organised will open doors for many more sporting events to come. I finished the race at a time of 02:14:59. I have set a sub 2 goal for this race for next year and would definitely recommend it to any runner to come and experience it for themselves.