By: Spencer-Rae Kerr
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.