I am very happy to report that I survived the weekend, am uninjured and in a much better head space than a week ago. My post KAEM blues have subsided and I no longer feel like the world is going to end because I’m back in the real world, and no longer in the desert. Who knew that all you need two weeks after a 250km race to fix your sore body and flaky mood, was to run a marathon. I also have to say sorry to the few people who have been practising, and very much looking forward to doing their ‘I told you so’ dance.
I have to admit that I’m pleasantly surprised by my body, and had the most amazing time on Saturday at the Kaapsehoop Marathon. I decided before the race to run with two of my good friends Nadia and Anita, rather than slog it out alone. Anita was doing her first marathon and Nadia her second hoping to improve on her time. We were aiming for around 4h30 which doesn’t sound that hard considering the downhill course and good weather expected on the day. Anybody that has however run the Kaapsehoop marathon, will know the downhill course shreds your legs if you go too fast, and the best approach is if you think you’re going too slow, slow down even more.
There were however a few things with the organisation of the race that I found unacceptable so I will get them out of the way now so I can go on with the nice and fun things.
1. The queues on Friday evening for picking up numbers were completely ridiculous. There was only one queue both for entering on the day and picking up if you pre entered. I entered on the day but have to say that if I was expected to stand in that queue to pick up a number after going to the effort of entering online, I would have been extremely irritated.
2. The biggest problem however was the fact that there were no toilets (that I’m aware of) at the start of the race. When I did the race in 2011 we started in the Kaapsehoop town, and things were pretty well organised with at least 15 porta-loos available to runners. On Saturday people were skidding down steep slopes to hide behind trees to do their business all the while hoping to not step in somebody else’s business. There was actually a very real possibility of falling down and injuring yourself before the race, while looking for a place to empty your bladder. I can’t imagine being the owner of that stretch of plantation now littered with ‘flowers’ left behind by desperate runners. Unacceptable!
I almost get the feeling that the organisers are taking advantage of the fact that they are getting so many entries and trying to maximise profit by skimping on very basic, but important things like toilets.
Now that the unpleasant things are out of the way I can however say that the majority of the experience was extremely enjoyable. The goal of doing this race was to see if my body would actually carry on giving even when I was 99% sure that it could not. I’ve been asked so many times in the past week why I’m doing this race so close to KAEM and the answer dawned on me Friday night. I love taking up challenges that I am unsure of if I can do them never mind finish them, and this was definitely one of them.
Right from the start it was great running with Anita and Nadia as they were both excited and very positive. I wanted to help Anita have the best possible first experience doing a marathon and in the end she also helped me push myself beyond what I thought was possible.
All the way up to the halfway mark we ran well within our limits knowing the last ten kilometres of this specific event was extremely challenging. We unfortunately lost Nadia with about 18km to go but she carried on despite being in a huge amount of pain. I also felt as if I was lowered feet first into a wood chipper and really struggled to keep up with the very well prepared Anita. I can truly say that the very specific and diligent training she put it, became very obvious in the last ten kilometres when we overtook masses of runners in the final stretch, finishing in 4:20.
I have to say that I would never recommend this to somebody doing their first marathon and I also won’t recommend this as a race to try and do a personal best. I did not come across one runner that achieved their planned time and people missed their goal by anything from 20 to 40 minutes, exactly the way I did in 2011 when I did it as my first marathon. The fact that the route is mostly downhill gives people a false sense of confidence, which most of the time results in runners limping to the end, their dreams of a fast Comrades qualifier crushed together with their legs. It is however a fantastic event that will test your fitness and strength on a stunning route with wild horses and green rolling hills. I did not go to this race to achieve a specific time but to have fun and more importantly, I wanted to see if my body would keep on giving even when everybody told me it wouldn’t. It did not disappoint, and I’m excited to cautiously carry on pushing my boundaries and body while #runningallthemiles