Ultra marathon

Comrades Stars!

By Sandy Mullins

62164650_10156381464070677_5865265055188123648_o.jpgSo many athletes did well at Comrades this year. Everyone who received a medal can pat themselves on the back. But just to highlight a few runners who need a mention.

Edmond Mngadi, Shane Hinchliffe and Pat Freeman all obtained their treble green numbers.  That is an amazing accomplishment. Thirty times going up and down equates to about 2 600 km’s and not to mention the years of training! Following close behind is Garry Mann on 29, Helen Mann on 27 and Gina Hinchliffe on 26. Vino Pillay and Annie Harmsworth have 25 each. Only two other current Stella members have done more than 30, Pat Fisher who finished her 31st this year and Phillip van Niekerk who has finished 32. Kudos also goes to Ivan Charles who obtained his 20th and Moses Ngcobo who received his green number. 

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Our golden girl – Jadi Clark ran a remarkable 07:37 earning herself the new Isavel Roche-Kelly medal. All the training and hours of hard work paid off! 

An amazing accomplishment by one of our novices comes in the form of Gcina Msibi, who cracked a 7:02 for his first effort and a piece of silver! 

And not to mention a man who does Iron Man the week before Comrades in a time of 5:17 and then finishes a week later with a Bill Rowan medal in a time of 8:34 – maybe you’re not a blonde after all! 

Well done Stella for lifting the flag high! 

The Flip side of Comrades

By: Sandy Mullins

9 June has come and gone, and many participants have positive experiences to share of their Comrades journey. Being at the Aches and Pains Braai afterwards was a testimony to the fact as runners hobbled around in their Comrades shirts, proudly displaying their hard-earned medals and sharing all their experiences. Each one deserving the limelight and soaking it up.

I hid behind my phone taking photos, so happy for our Stella Stars but wishing I was also experiencing the euphoria of the weekend. But in truth, all I wanted to do was flee to my bed and sob my heart out. For me, it was the utter disappointment of another DNF. Life is quite seriously unfair. 

I was so ready for this day. I could tick off all the necessary requirements of a safe finish. I’d trained with discipline and didn’t hesitate to run and clock up 1300k’s of mileage. I was injury free; head was in the right space and I was eager to show the up run I was able to respectfully conquer. I took all the necessary precautions of not getting sick (Bactroban up the nose, throat spray, hand sanitizer and a dozen vitamins). It was a green light all the way until the Monday before Comrades! I picked up a gastro virus and puked my lungs out. I went to the doctor hoping to sort it out immediately. He gave me a jab for fever and nausea and tabs to take which would, with any luck sort me out in time. 

When I lined up at the Durban City Hall, I was feeling great. I had slept surprisingly well and was as calm and relaxed as could be. We set off and at first; I thought it was unusually warm. But by the time we were heading up Cowies, I said to my running mates, that I felt like I was overheating – the steam was coming from my head. Anyway, upwards we went, and I enjoyed the atmosphere in territory where you are guaranteed of seeing someone you know on the side of the road. It buoys you, and that friendly word of encouragement just spurs you on. I was still on track and despite feeling a bit bilious, I was okay. The Stella tables along the way were great and I got my replenishing Gu’s and Rehydrats to continue. At Inchanga I picked up my Crampnot, took it and left the table thinking, right this is progress – I have passed the spot I had to pull off two years ago. I had hardly started moving when the first cramps hit me like a bolt of lightning. No, this couldn’t be happening, not now in no man’s land! Harrison Flats is a desolate stretch at the best of times, but to have a problem was not ideal. My cramps came regularly in each calf and the left leg right up the inner thigh. It was excruciating. I felt like I was a Jewish slave in the Biblical times of the Pharaohs and a slave driver was whipping my legs shouting SUFFER! No God, this wasn’t meant to happen this way, we were doing this together! The more I tried to move, the more severe the cramps came. One young man from Tzaneen tried to assist by releasing the tension in my legs and would walk with me and help again. Eventually I told him to go as he was looking for his wife so he could pull out. As I hobbled along I realised I was in trouble, with another 30k’s to go and the Crampnot was not working, I didn’t see much option. Unfortunately, I hopped on to a baler bus – my race was over. Could I have gone further? Should I have waited? Why didn’t I try harder? Why was I the one plagued with a virus which had obviously not taken its tentacles off me? I had done a long training run of the same distance and not cramped once, so I knew it wasn’t anything but this bug. 

At the time I was okay with my decision and went to wait for Sean, David, Thanesh and John at Lion Park, with our Stella table – the selfless Sue Bezuidenhout and Vanessa Botha. I had made a friend on the bus and she also hopped out there to wait for her friends to collect her. We could not have stopped at a better spot, an oasis in the desert. We were given warm jackets, drink upon drink to try and quench an unquenchable thirst. They fussed over us and the other runners coming past. It was good for me to see my running mates and encourage them on, though they were all heartbroken to see me at the side of the road. 

A week later, having rehashed THAT day over and over again, I am coming to terms with it. I have been humbled, but I am not out. Is it such a big deal? Actually, YES – when you have invested half a year of sacrifice, and not only your time and all that goes with it, but my dear husband’s as well. Sean had backed me to the hilt, and it was just as much a team effort as it was my run! 

I know I am not alone in this experience and many can relate in one way or another. It is character building (I think I have enough character now!!) and we can only hope to inspire each one to achieve the goals they have set – whether it be a Park Run or Comrades, it’s to remain focused and all being well, we learn and grow. I will pick myself up out of the dust and I will return to run and complete the race, to attain the goal I have set for myself.

Two Oceans Race Report

By: Spencer-Rae Kerr

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It’s a chilly morning and still dark. Somehow, by fluke, we got a last minute Air BnB booking for a flat right by the start, so I do not have to cater for any travel time. I listen from my bed as the commentator reprimands the 21k runners for dawdling. “Come on 21’s; you are losing time!”, he repeats desperately. Either everyone is on a go-slow, or the traffic was terrible this morning. The 21k runners are let off in their seeding batches at 10-minute intervals.

The Ultra starts at 6:40. I walk out of the building at 6:35 and along the pedestrian walkway. Metal barricades separate me from a densely packed group of runners who are brimming with nervous energy. I’m in E batch, and I’m in no rush because all I need to do is to get to the end of the barricade and onto the road behind the other runners. I’m imagining the commentator reprimanding me, “come on 56’s, you are losing time!” but he doesn’t, and I am not, because the 56km runners all start at the same time and I know it’s going to take a while to get going. I get to where I need to be and think over my strategy. I remind myself not to go out too fast – 56km is a long way!

The gun goes off, and we begin. Those nearer to the front, anyway. After a short while, there are hints of movement, but I am right at the back so mostly I just wait. Suddenly we are in herd mode – shuffling, bumping, pushing, falling. Slowly at first, then faster.

Strikes on Chapman’s peak mean the route is different this year and that we will run over Ou Kaapse Weg instead of Chappies. I’m sad because it’s my first Two Oceans, and I am missing one of the most iconic features of the race. It’s more ‘One Ocean One Mountain’ this year. But I’m grateful to be running regardless, and the reserve is beautiful.

We are picking up momentum now as we run down Main Road.  There is a slight drizzle, and it’s quite refreshing. It’s perfect weather for a PB, but today won’t be one of mine. We cruise through Wynberg and Plumstead, and I have to keep reminding myself not to go too fast. The road is straight for a long time, and we run past clusters of locals who cheer us on from the roadside. Some volunteers hand us sachets of water and Powerade. There are a few older folk on their stoeps, with Afrikaans pop music blaring in the background. It’s pretty early to be drinking, but that doesn’t seem to bother them, and they raise their glasses to us as we run past.

After about 17km, we wind around the corner onto a coastal section of road, and Muizenburg beach comes into sight. The rain has cleared a bit, and it’s a beautiful day. Longboarders hustle in the crowded surf as I bump into runners on the narrow street. I’m daydreaming now about surfing back at home, where the water is not so cold.

We hug the coastline and enjoy the ocean breeze as we wind around Trappies Kop and through Kalk Bay. Some musicians serenade us from their garage as we run past. They are carelessly playing their guitars and singing, and it’s a great distraction. A little further along I become aware of the houses built up against the hillside. A lady is dancing on the second floor of her home. Two Oceans spectators sit with drinks in hand on chairs on the balcony’s of neighbouring houses. Everyone is in a great mood! I can’t help but smile. This is South Africa at its best!

We run past some sea-facing shops at Fishhoek. Someone is playing a Beatenberg song from a PA system that has been set up on the roadside. At about 22km, we turn inland onto the M65. We wind through Sun Valley and prepare to face our demons. Ou Kaapse Weg is just ahead!

Up we go, first fast, then slow. The chatter dies down. It’s time to ‘dig deep’. Some runners have backpacks with Bluetooth speakers and shamelessly blast their favourite tracks to themselves and anyone else who will listen. The buses clog the road, and I get reprimanded by officials when I move outside of the beacons to try and overtake them. The camber only gets worse the higher up we go, and my legs burn.

We are in the nature reserve now, and there are no more water sachets. We get cups here instead, and there are large troughs to throw them into after we have used them. Suddenly everyone is a conservationist!  Amazingly, almost every single person complies, and I wonder why we can’t adopt the same attitude for the entire race, or any other road race.

Near the top of Ou Kaapse Weg, a lady shouts, “it’s just around the corner”, I reply that “it’s a very long corner” because it doesn’t look like we are going to be around anything any time soon. Eventually, we do crest the hill, and I take a few moments to take in the view and check in with myself before meandering down the other side.

We run past Pollsmoor Prison and a few water tables. At 40km we are in Tokai Forest. They’ve made some cool temporary water pipe contraptions to fill cups from, and I am enjoying the shade from all the trees. It’s a gradual, pleasant climb and then a steady flattish section through Fir Grove and Sillery.

At 46 km, just 10km before the end, we are reminded of the torment of Ou Kaapse Weg. We begin climbing up Southern Cross Drive towards Rhodes drive, and my legs are burning again. Most people are walking now and I turn away as a lady to my left bends over to be ill. I’m telling myself it’s “just two park runs to go”, and I keep running. That is if you could call it running. In reality, I am just ‘Madiba-shuffling’ up a hill at a rate slightly faster than the walkers. Exhausted, we reach Rhodes Drive and are presented with a short descent to recover on. People are holding signs that say things like, ‘you are running better than the government’. I enjoy this, because I know that I am not running well, and still that sign is true.

A few more ups and downs and we descend onto the UCT field. I use the last bit of my energy to speed up. I want to finish strong. I’ve had fun, but I am ready to sink a couple of cokes and pass out on a patch of grass somewhere. I am tired, and my body hurts, but I am in high spirits! Two Oceans did not disappoint. I will be back for you Chappies.

Cut at the Knees

By: Nokuthula Dubazane

A colleague asked me about my experience of running Comrades. I responded and said it is like going into war and seeing your fellow soldiers fall without knowing how to help, it’s the most painful experience I have ever felt but yet the most fulfilling thing I have ever done. One thing I know for sure is that Comrades challenges everything you think you know about yourself.

Pietermaritzburg 04:00 – 05:30

The morning felt like first day of school, I had never been so nervous and emotional in my life. Standing in that seeding pen, alone, I immediately noticed a lady who like me was standing on her own, she had tears in her eyes, and I gave her a hug and assured her that we ‘team novice’ would be fine. She responded and said “I just want it to be over”, that was an emotional moment which brought tears to my face as I could relate.

Lion Park 07:24:41 – Drummond 10:58:59

I got to 20km with the most excruciating pain in my calves, luckily I saw friends, got teary, sprayed my calves. I pushed for 10km to another friend who massaged which relieved the pain for a bit. When I got near halfway I just cried, I wanted to quit I was not sure I could do it. I pushed through and just after 50km had the physiotherapist strap my one leg, a relief to push for about 10km until the pain came back so did the tears.

Pinetown 14:22:50

With 20km to go I resisted getting another massage and I told myself, I had to get over it and push through. I knew I had lost time and had already been passed by the first 12 hour bus. At that point I was depleted, going up Cowies Hill I pulled my buff over my face and cried as I saw my Comrades dreams perish. Until a little voice within me said “You have been strapped, sprayed and massaged, get over it and push through.” I did just that, the vision was clear, first go past 12 hour bus then get to Moses Mabhida. After that, I pushed through and finished strong.

Durban 17:04:04

I finished Comrades with tears in my eyes, it was surreal. I closed my eyes briefly took it in and thanked God for carrying me through. I felt so much pain on that day, my mind bailed and can never thank my friends and the club enough for the support, hugs and food along the way. The highlight of all this madness, has been my lovely mother who said while she doesn’t understand the things I do ‘uyaziqhenya ngami’.

Rejoicing in the exhilaration of climbing up two summits in 46 days

By: David Mohale

Few weeks ago, I wrote a long post on Facebook about the parallels between a PhD journey and running the Comrades Marathon. For me personally, there are so many parallels. Notably, I did not register for the two voluntarily. My former supervisor at Wits University submitted my Masters’ dissertation at Unisa. The rest is history. I joined Stella AC either in late August or early September. Our own legendary Pat Freeman coaxed me to register for Comrades Marathon as a precaution. By that time, numbers were fast approaching 20000. At the time we had this conversation, I had not even run my first marathon. Again, the rest is history.

I will not get into the details of my post. However, it is important to try to bring the reader into my shoes. Motivation is not always innate. My greatest challenge was, therefore, to overcome the mind lethargy that resulted from my involuntary registration of these two envious summits. And this was not a stroll in the park, especially as the experienced in these two fronts tend to be boastful. I do not think they are aware so they could be forgiven.

I ran my first marathon in Vaal on the second weekend of September. Luckily, Pat Freeman had cautioned me about the effects of altitude. Had she not, I could have easily considered quitting. Be that as it may, completing the first marathon in 4:05 is apparently not bad. Soon after that I joined Stella’s Saturday long runs. I still remember that my first was 24km run to Westville. I ran with Kevin and Tawanda that day, keeping quiet while listening to their conversation, with topics ranging from their past runs, the economy and politics. I had to pretend that I was enjoying the run although it was tough for me. The second long run was 32km run up to Cowies Hill. I ran with Justin and Mark on the day and they also shared their Comrades Marathon experiences. Listening to them, I was convinced that I would not achieve the feat of completing Comrades Marathon in a lifetime.

Organisational studies emphasise the importance between organisational culture and individual behaviour. In this respect, individual attitudes and capabilities are not enough; they are a subject of the dominant climate created through formal rules and informal behaviour of its members. I am proud to say that Stella’s organisational culture is so positive that many of us, as novices, never experienced the kind of negative welcome that some novice runners would speak of elsewhere. I suppose this explains why the membership of the club seems to be on exponential growth. With the warm welcome of almost everyone at the club, the mind started to believe in the reasonable prospect of completing this ultimate human race.

From the bottom part of my heart, I wish to thank everyone at the Club for making me believe in my running capability. As I said before, running is more than just that; it somewhat epitomises what humanity should be about. This became evident on the day of the race when I woke up with an unbearable pain on my left knee. Alex Haddad helped me to forget about the pain until 25km. Later on, I caught up with Darren Smith, and they clearly looked bushed. Darren had the best words ever: “This is my 5th Comrades; it’s your first. You deserve a good time. Go and have fun”. In one of the many last short runs we did as the Club, Darren also shared tips on eating times on the day of the race. For the first time I accepted advice without a modicum of doubt and his advice worked perfectly for me. The support and words of encouragement from Stella Stars at our tables and along the road made the weight of running lighter.

In closing, the medal may be recorded in my name but I wish to dedicate it to Stella AC for being so professionally organised and for being a home for me, personally. I will forever be eternally indebted to the Club for making this personal historic feat possible. 2018 has, without a shadow of doubt, been my best year, with my graduation in Phd on 25 April and another PhD in running on 10 June 2018. It was not easy but it was done.

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.

Karkloof 100 Miler Trail Run

By: Alisdair Leslie

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Stella Star Alisdair Leslie came 8th in the Karkloof100 (Image Source: KZN Trail Running)

It was Friday night and tension mounted as the clock approached 10pm. There were smiles, fists were bumped, and good luck wished, but you could tell everyone was a bit nervous. And you can understand why when you realise they are about to set off on the inaugural Karkloof 100 miler – and it is raining. The rain did not stop, but as soon as the gun went the worrying did, and the task became beautifully simple: head torches on, look for the little yellow markers and just keep going until you hit Benvie gardens in 50 miles time. Then grab a quick marie biscuit or two, turn around and head back to Howick.

The old hands hung back, knowing full well that 100 miles is actually quite a long way, while the 100 mile virgins, such as myself, had their toes on the start line to lead the charge. We knew that six-minute kms is basically walking and that it would all be over before tea-time.

Needless to say, such naivety and arrogance was rewarded in time! I set out with my good mate Andrew Erasmus, who runs for Salomon and Dolphin striders, when he can be persuaded to hit the road, with just that plan: six-minute kms until half way, then see what you can do after that and hope for the best.

Not really knowing where we going through the rain-soaked blackness, we followed an endless snake of fluorescent tags marking the trail. First through the Umgeni nature reserve (where we were lucky enough to startle and then chase a porcupine), then into the Sappi forests above Howick, through the pastures beyond and into the Karkloof itself.

Check points came every 17 kms or so, well stocked with goodies and well wishers. As dawn cracked, albeit damply, we found ourselves running the smooth grassy trails of the Mbona nature reserve on the way to the turn around point at Benvie gardens. Damp, a bit cold and a bit tired after 80kms on the trail, Andrew and I turned just after 7am in about 5th and 6th place. Pacers were allowed after half way, and so we were joined by his brother Stephen, for the second leg.

It was quickly apparent that, as much as Andrew’s pacing strategy and training were paying off, my unfounded belief that I would be okay on bog standard post Comrades work was not. So two kms later I wished the boys well, plugged in the ipod and prepared for a long painful and lonely trudge back home, dreaming of the breakneck speed that 6-minute kms now seemed.

However, all was not lost as, at check point 7, who should rock up but the White Buffalo himself, our very own Craig Georgie. “Man up Leslie”, he cheerfully announced, “I am getting you to the finish even if I have to carry you”. And that was that, the relentless motivator that he is, supported, joked, cajoled, persuaded, teased and bullied me over the next 50kms.

Through relentless rain, moments of self-doubt, a prolonged bout of vomiting, a face plant on a broken bridge and one incident when he (accidently) nearly separated me from my generative organ with a stick (you’ll have to ask him about that one), that splendid bugger did indeed carry me to the finish line, a good 20 hours and some minutes since the start.

A welcome beer was thrust into our hands. I had a little cry, kissed my kids and better half who had heroically waited in the rain to greet us, and we were all done! Andrew did indeed have the spectacular second half he wanted and nearly chased down the leader, finishing second to him by minutes in an impressive 18 hours 19ish.

For me though, such dreams of conquest didn’t seem to matter so much really. The journey turned out to be a lot tougher than I had expected, but, with the help of my friend, it hadn’t beaten me, and that was enough to be going on with. Re-reading this, I am not sure if it sounds like a recommendation or not. All I can say is, I am signing up for next year tomorrow!

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Alisdair and Craig at the end of the race (Image Source: KZN Trail Running)