I can’t say I was relishing this much because I bloody hate this race. Its a half marathon which goes from 0 to 390m in less than 4km. Straight up Kloof Nek from Camps Bay High with no warm up and just when you’ve coughed up a lung at the roundabout you get to cough up the other one on the near vertical incline up to the Cable Station. I can’t breathe let alone think. Oh yeah and to make this experience even better I’m going for a time. On the last two occasions I’ve hovered around 2:05 and today I’ve promised myself I’ll get a sub 2 on this monster. I know that to reach this I need to run hard at the beginning, because I won’t be able to make up the time during the fade on Signal Hill.
By the time I pass the Cable Station my legs are like lead, but I press on faster. Finishing Comrades last year gives you this weird perspective on pain. I’ve noticed that I can push myself harder over shorter distances (i.e. anything less than 89km) because I know it will be over and done with in a couple of hours. I’ve also started to think on races that if its not hurting then I’m not trying hard enough. Now that is perverse.
I’m running with Gregg who is much better runner than me and would be an excellent runner if he trained properly. Gregg is the sort of guy that has a couple of pints the night before, does a couple of easy runs a week and then posts a 3:30 marathon. Unbelievable. I’ve showed Gregg my scribbled-on-a-post-it-note-at-4am estimated times at the key turning points, and now he is along for the ride. He got me a sub 50 minute 10km in December when we ran the Gugs 10km together and now I think I’m his pet project. Make no mistake, today Gregg is out for a training run not a race, so whilst I’m frothing at the mouth, he’s chatting amicably with me. ‘How’s this pace?’ he enquires, ‘Can’t. Speak. Right. Now’, I croak. I’m feeling stronger than last year at the Tafelberg Road turn and storm the downhills in order to make up the time I’ve lost on the uphill. I hit Kloof Nek at such a speed I thought my knees my give in and then its the slog up Signal Hill.
Now I’ve lost the momentum and start slowing to a crawl whilst everybody passes me. This is the part I hate. I run this road every week, I know it like the back of my hand yet it defeats me on this race every year. Gregg glances over his shoulder to see where I am, staying just out of reach and speeds up when I speed up which gets me up the incline. I’m gritting my teeth now as the pain is beginning to bite, so I remind myself of the time I want to see on that clock and the downhill stretch to the finish.
We turn at the cone and I’m away. I can hear Gregg telling me we’re going to make it even if we do 6 minutes a km so we can ease up. With 6km to go I know I’m going faster than this and its in the bag, but just how far in the bag? I’m taking runners one by one on the Signal Hill downhill and I’m feeling good so I step it up down the Glen. So if you’ve driven down here you’ll know its a collection of bends on a very steep downhill. Last year I was crapping myself because if you trip here at speed, next stop is Accident and Emergency. Last year I was cautious, this year I couldn’t give a stuff.
‘Do you realise you’re doing 4:08 a km?!’ yells Gregg as I’m tearing down the hill so fast my eyes are watering (its the sweat and the smell of the finish line). ‘I’m at terminal velocity!’ he says in a concerned voice. Gregg is a tall guy and is also thinking about the probability of stitches. Right now I can’t slow down even if I wanted to. I’m gritting my teeth as we turn into the school and its 400m round the grass track to the finish. Gregg, now on the softer surface, is looking more confident and we cross the line at 1:55:59.
Route: Start Camps Bay High School, up The Glen to Kloof Nek, turn right onto Tafelberg Road, turn back to Kloof Nek, Climb Signal Hill and try not to fall as you fly back down to the school
Height climbed: 500m
Time started: 06:00
Total time: 1:55:59 smashing 9 minutes off last year’s time
Total distance: 21.1km
Weather conditions: Sunny
Runner’s condition: Smug