Nota: I don’t have the official pics and will post them in a separate article, but I thought I should tell you a bit more about what happened this weekend…
It was pitch dark when I woke up…
What went into me? It may be a late midlife crisis, but I think that it is deeper than this. I used to think that there was time to realise my dreams, but now that I am in my mid-forties I need to act on them. This is why I started running again about a year ago, after a twenty-five years hiatus. I have always liked long-distance running. It was time to finally make it happen. I started training, right from the start. Obviously I was a bit slower, but the pleasure had remained the same.
Don’t get me wrong: I know that I will never be a champion. For me, it’s not about going fast. It’s about the experience. I want to run in the most beautiful places of the world. Obviously running the Two Oceans marathon was a no-brainer, and I signed in as soon as entries were open, back in February. The marathon is in Cape Town, and takes you from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. What’s not to like?
That’s Chapman Bay. I cried when I saw it!
Fast forward a few months, and here I am, boarding a flight to Johannesburg from London, then changing for Cape Town, because all direct flights are full. The enormity of the challenge I have taken on starts to down on me when we land.
I don’t sleep much on the plane. The day passes in a blur. I then have a short night in Cape Town before the race, and keep tossing and turning. I wake up at 3.30 am because of the early start, at 6.30. Me being me, I don’t want to be late for the shuttle to the start line. That said, I am so pumped up on adrenaline that I am not feeling tired at all.
Cape Town traffic has come to a halt, and there are cars everywhere, blocking each junction. The shuttle has to drop us half a mile from the start, and we walk silently in the pouring rain. This is not what I expected. I blame my bad luck. What a bad start of the day! There are people everywhere, from all walks of life and they are friendly. It helps a bit, but I can’t help feeling emotional. What did I get myself into? Will I make it to the finish line?
As I start at the back of the pack, I have no choice but to run quite slow, which I fine a tad frustrating. To make matters even worse, as the rain has finally stopped, people are getting rid of their bin bags, – they have used them as rain coats- and throwing them all over the place. You have to watch your feet in order not to trip on them, and also to avoid the street reflectors. And where is the ocean? I feel cheated. There isn’t a single ocean in sight, let alone two. This should be called main road marathon.
I shouldn’t have worried. We reach the Indian Ocean after 10k or so, and we follow the coast for a while. People are cheering us everywhere, and other runners keep asking where I am from. Some have run the Two Oceans more than 10 times!
I start to get a bit thirsty. At the stations, they are giving Powerade or water in small plastic pouches, and it takes me a while to understand how to drink it. In fact, the first pouch explodes in my hand. I get there in the end: you have to tear the plastic with your teeth, and then press it. Oh, and I normally hate Coke, which they also offer, but I must admit that I quite enjoy it while running. It keeps me going. It must be the sugar.
I pass the half-way point (28k) in a little under three hours, and it feels quite good. Is this what the fuss is all about? Needless to say, the worse is yet to come. What am I talking about? Well, it’s called Chapmans peak, and it basically means that in order to actually see the Atlantic ocean, you are going to have to earn it. It starts to go uphill. I had prepared for hills on the treadmill in London. But not such a long hill. Seriously, when does it stop? Everybody is walking after a while, and of course I am no exception. It seems to last forever.
And right then after a turn, you have breathtaking views of the Atlantic ocean. It is majestic, as if you were at the very tip of the world –and in fact I am at the very tip of Africa. I shamefully admit that I shed a couple of tears. I have done it: I have run from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. A dream come true. It was all worth it! Such views make the running easier, except when male runners decide to take a leak while admiring it, or barely hiding behind a bush. The fact that we women can’t pee while standing is probably one of the greatest injustices on earth, I think to myself. Not to mention that we have to be so much better behaved than them. I feel something wet on my legging. I think a seagull peed on me. Damn it. Let’s think of something else.
After enjoying the scenery of Chapmans peak, I feel like the worse is behind me. Once again, I am wrong: I need the climb the ‘Suikerbossie Pass’, and I start walking right away, because I have no energy left. I try to trick my mind into thinking of something else.
How about a little running gel to keep me going? On the bright side, after all the running gels I had to ingurgitate, I can confirm that I am definitely off Nutella. And don’t mention salted caramel ever again to me. I can’t stand the liquidey gels, because they don’t sit well on my stomach, so I tend to go with the more gooey ones, and they don’t come in many flavours. Suffice to say, I have never been happier to eat a potato at the station.
The turning point is when I pass the marathon mark in about 4 hours and a half. I know that, even if I have to walk for the rest of the race, I can make it before the cut-off time (7 hours). It is a huge morale boost: I haven’t come all this way to get a DNF. I start high-fiving kids along the street and keep telling myself that that yes, I am feeling tired, and stiff, and everything is hurting BUT it isn’t getting any worse, and I will make it no matter what. I shut my mind up and I keep running. I keep telling myself ‘Easy does it’. It works
The feeling of having only one kilometer to go is hard to describe. I have made it to the finish line, and I even manage a little sprint. I am one of the lucky ones: out of 11 000 participants, approximately 20% don’t make it to the finish line on time (or at all). I have run 56km in a little over 6 hours 15 minutes. I have seen two oceans today. I feel immensely proud and, well, serene. What an adventure!
The thing is, I now want to do it again next year. There must be something wrong with me!