I’d been banging on at work all week about how much I was looking forward to this race. As every long distance runner knows you never ever ever say that. But I wasn’t racing, I was just running (and yeah, you’ll not catch me speaking like that about Comrades). Last year I took it easy and had a great run, this year I was going to do the same. Nothing to worry about, just a six hour run.
Weather forecast was perfect: 23˚ and sunny. My lift collected me at 4:45am and we joined the traffic at Hospital Bend, it was still moving when Gregg and I jumped out on Dean Street. After a jovial conversation about porta-loos (tackling one in the dark on a slope is something else) and bowel movements (runners have a strange habit of over sharing that you wouldn’t do with anyone else) we hooked up with some other AAC-ers outside the Spur and stood there shivering in the dark. 9˚ is bloody cold at 5:30am dressed only in shorts and a vest.
The half marathon runners were off at 6am and shortly thereafter I left the AAC group to crush into my C seeding pen and stand there waiting for the fish-horn. Our turn came at 6:25 and it was a bit of a shock leaving the body heat for the open road. For the first kilometre I bitched and ran like a chicken (arms glued to my sides) trying to ward off the cold.
It all seemed a bit better (and warmer) once the sun was up over Wynberg, and I settled into the bite-size-chunks routine. The course is so familiar now that its hardly necessary, but its a habit which I like. I met up with a few of the guys in the first 15, made a couple of pit stops and then bumped into Chris at Lakeside.
We decided to stay together. This was Chris’ 23rd outing (my 3rd) and he wanted to get under 6, I didn’t care and fancied the company. We ran together last year and it worked out well. We were caught between the two 6 hour buses through Noordhoek and then up Chappies. I got all tetchy about it (I don’t believe in running with pacers) until I realised it was such a good vibe, the pacer was chanting and clapping and cheering his bus all the way up Chapmans Peak. The yells that went up from the hundred strong bus when we reached the top were worth being part of, just to see the achievement on the faces of those that never thought they could run up this massive incline at 32km.
After not being used for about 10km, my downhill muscles groaned, but I kept a beady eye out for the ice lollies that I’d spotted but missed last year, slurping and running was a whole new experience. On into Hout Bay where we lost the bus and plodded towards the marathon mark, this is where it starts to hurt. Chris was slowing down and I did my best to coax him forward up Constantia Nek. We raced the Old Mutual worm up the hill which I think we only beat because there were 8 blokes in canvas frame and reached the top where had a well deserved calf massage.
I’d been monitoring my watch closely and I knew we had to push the last ten km hard, Chris was up for it but I knew it would be tough over the last three km on the undulating M3. I didn’t think we could make 6 hours if we didn’t somehow get faster and there was no chance of walking now. Tick, tick, tick and not looking good.
We were averaging 7 minutes a km at the turn onto the M3 and knowing this last section is just over 3km, the maths weren’t going to work out. Push, push, push Chris! If I could get him to kick up to 6 mins a km we might just have it with seconds to spare. As we hit the grass the crowd was screaming, I was screaming, 20 seconds!, 10 seconds! and despite Chris’ herculean effort the 6 hour gun sounded so close to us that I could see the smoke. 6:00:16.
I was disappointed for Chris, but I’d had a great run trying to help a friend reach his goal. To be honest a blue that was fun because I had someone to run and laugh with, will always outweigh a close bronze by myself. I’ve got all day to run alone on 29 May…
Route: Start at Main Road Newlands, down to Muizenburg, through Kalk Bay to Fishoek, across to Noordhoek, over Chapman’s Peak, through Hout Bay, up Constantia Nek, down to the M3 and then along to the finish at UCT
Time started: 06:25
Total time: 6:00:16
Total distance: 56km
Temperature: 9 – 23˚ and sunny
Runner’s condition: Fine