At 5.30am I stood in the relative dark on Main Road along with another couple of thousand runners – about 27000 apparently. I’d been up at 4.15am, had a cup of coffee and a banana and debated with myself about which top to wear over my vest and pinned race number. What to do with the fleece when I got warm? Would I see my hubby and kids somewhere to throw to them and if not, would it annoy me around my waist for the 2 or 3 hours I planned to be on the road?
Then, yellow street lights and a happy announcer buoyed the runners, the smell of Arnica Gel and a sweetish deodorant wafted around and the wind nipped unsuccessfully at my fleece. I expected to be more nervous but somehow wasn’t. I smiled at the odd person next to me if I happened to catch their eye and did a few stationary steps on the spot but no real warm up if I think back on it now. At home on the stairs from my bedroom I had stretched my calves a little as imagined that if anything was going to give, it was likely to be these-they had been tight on occasion.
Figuring I was in a good spot more or less at the front of E Group so I wouldn’t have too far to shuffle to the Start once the 6.20am gun sounded, I kind of stood there, amazed that it was finally me who was part of the expectant throng. Me ! Well we all have our things we want to do don’t we? Like climb Mt Kilimanjaro or fall out the sky with a parachute or something. Personally, I prefer hearing Johnny Clegg’s ‘I’m on the top of Kilimanjaro’- it makes my heart feel profoundly proud of being African in a way I cannot explain – but running this Two Oceans Half Marathon was officially on my bucket list. For years. I had just not committed to it properly in my head but then writing it and sharing it out in the public domain last year when I was about to turn 50 made it a kind of thing, you know?
Then of course came the Rhino bit which in all honesty, was a beautiful bonus. Having decided only a month before that I couldn’t wait another year, the only way I was going to get an entry was through a charity and luckily, Saving Private Rhino, an initiative organized by the Aquila Game Reserve was something close to my heart. I was in. Then to solicit some pledges (I’m flippin’ hopeless at asking for money but family filled in furiously as usual and a few friends- THANK YOU ALL) and it was done.
So there I stood. My first attempt to run 21kms. All in one go! My furthest to date had been 18kms- and that was in 2002, unknowingly pregnant with my third baba. On Doctor’s orders I had been told not to run anymore, having miscarried the month prior and then suddenly it wasn’t such a thing anymore.
Now. I had been told by those in the know that one or two longish runs were enough and that I had done. One 14km and one 15km and the last 4 weeks of deliberate ‘training’ runs, twice a week, about an hour or so of running each time, nothing more than 8 or 10km at a stretch, usually a little less.
Only one wish: not to be hauled off the road at the cut –off and told that my efforts were in vain.
And that’s that.
About 10 mins to go the gun.
The young woman next to me asked me to fasten the holder thingy on her arm which housed her keys and phone. But there was little chatting beyond ‘where are you from ?’ and ‘how are you feeling? ’ I looked around and saw a banana on the floor. I stretched my foot and tried, surreptitiously to prod it, wondering if I had underestimated my breakfast requirements but it was too late now. And how embarrassing anyway to pick up someone else’s food off the pavement!
I wiggled my shoulders to Coldplay’s Viva la Vide playing loudly over the speakers and then it was the countdown and the sound and smoke of the gun.
Shuffling up the road, turning the corner, listening to the chirps and encouragement of fellow runners on the ups, feeling the breeze on the downhills, overtaking the Sub 2.30 bus at the 7km mark, it all seemed kind of surreal. By 7.50am I was at the top of Southern Cross Drive and felt that this was a thing I could do. For heaven’s sake, I had passed a few 70 year olds doing exactly that!
With beautiful chestnut strewn paths on the way up to Kirstenbosch and an easy down to the beginning of ‘Chet’s Hill’, it was my bum and right thigh which felt tight. ‘Don’t think about it’ I said to myself and plodded on. I decided to take a sip of Powerade at this point, believing that a little booster for the last 3kms could come in handy and then suddenly, the green lawns of UCT loomed large. I picked up the pace and felt my heart smiling back at me though my ‘sprint’ didn’t last the entire of that home stretch which seemed to have got further the faster I ran! But I made it past the FINISH line. In time.
And so ‘there’s it’, as Suzelle would say.
Final word? How lucky that I have legs to run and an able body that helped them along.
#DOT Challenge and amazing boys that are rowing to RIO- thought of you too!
#Tracey Todd and your amazing, brave story Brave Lotus Flower Rides the Dragon
#Running’s a bit like writing: the more you do, the further you get!
And now for more of my book…
See ya next month!