So I ran my 3rd Knysna Half Marathon last weekend with my good friend Warren. I hadn’t planned on doing the run but when Warren told me he wanted Knysna to be his first ever half marathon there was only one answer and it was without hesitation, YES!
I admittedly had mixed feelings about doing the Knysna half in the run up to the event as although it had also been my first half marathon it didn’t hold any special memories for me. In fact my memories of my previous two runs were kind of negative. They ranged from freezing my ass off in the forest before the start to almost killing myself on my first run to get a sub 2 hour finish. My second Knysna half was a disaster after I fell over someone (idiot) in the first 10 minutes who thought it was a good idea to tie their shoelaces in the middle of the road. I hobbled home with a sore knee over 2 hours later and didn’t run for weeks after.
So 3rd time is a charm some say! Well I was positively determined to both help out my mate and also bury my bad sentiments towards the race and rather make it a memorable run! After Warren and I both entered he told me that he wanted to do the race comfortably and in less than two hours. I told him that he was capable of doing this and I would happily train with him and pace him on the day to share the experience with him and ensure he achieved his goal. I gave him a 12 week training programme from the Sports Science Institute that I know many people have used and had great success with. I told him upfront that I would run with him as much as possible during the week and on weekends without deviating from my own training programme too much. It was great to share his first steps into running as although he sometimes couldn’t see his own improvements in fitness and strength I definitely did and often reminded him. We mixed up training with some time running on the road and trails and although I pushed him hard some days he always rose to the challenge. Unfortunately a month out from the race he was really busy with work and missed a chunk of training. Some days he got down about the missed runs but I reminded him that he had come so far already and I knew that mentally he was strong enough to give the half marathon horns on the day!
So ideal prep aside race week came along and we headed off to Knysna or rather PlettenbergBaywhere we would be staying. The night before was a bit frenetic but Warrenand I met up after supper to discuss the morning and also so I could give him some proper running kit i.e. not baggies and a t-shirt. Warren and I are roughly the same height, weight and build (although he has much longer hair) so thankfully our clothes sizes have been the same since we were teenagers! Upon my arrival it was to my slight dismay Warrenhad invited Charles Glass (Castle Lager) out to supper and they were having a merry old time. I cooled his heels a bit as he was on his 5th beer and told him to get some sleep, stay hydrated and save the beers until the finish! I’m not sure if nerves were playing on his mind that evening but I hoped that the beers wouldn’t come back to haunt him in the morning.
We drove through together in the morning and joined the rather long queue for the taxis to the start. We thankfully got there just before 8am only to be told that the race was delayed! We huddled in the marquee tent and had some tea to warm up. We plucked up the courage as the early morning sunshine came out to head over to the start. Typically it was busy but wanting to get a good start we snaked our way along the embankment to about halfway up the field. Remember to duck if you are ever on the right-hand side of the half marathon start at Knysna. After getting a blanket over my head I learned quickly to avoid the other blankets, clothing, and sports drink bottles being discarded at the start.
So the race started but the typical shuffle to cross the start began, it took less than 2 minutes and we were happy for that. The first few km’s were slow but with the small hill at the start it was good to get warmed up and take in the vibe as well as say hello to some familiar faces. We started a bit slow as expected with the crowds but eventually settled into a comfortable 5 minutes per km pace and began to make up the time we had lost at the start. It felt great to be running Knysna without any niggles after my previous weekend’s heavy training. We went through the first 10kms under 55 minutes and approached the dreaded long downhill at Simola. I had some bad memories of this long downhill and we had agreed to take it very easy to save our legs for the flat 8 or 9 kms to the finish. I gaveWarrena USN Vooma at the water table before the descent and it seemed to kick in quickly as he sure was eager to get down the hill. As we got to the bottom of the hillWarrenwas obviously feeling great and the next few kms flew by as our pace quickened to 4 minute 30 a km.
I felt bad about cooling his heels but I asked that we slow to conserve energy for when we passed the 15km mark (his previous longest run months before) to be able to continue running to the finish. At the water table (didn’t stop for sambuca) we had another Vooma for the last 6km. The reduced pace and gel worked as although Warren took strain over the final 5kms he still managed to keep his smooth rhythm and pace going. I tried to lighten the mood with some emotive speeches and distractions to help him and to let him know I was both really stoked for him and proud of him for running so well in his first ever half marathon! I even resorted to shortening the kms at one stage and then distracted him whenever I saw a km marker board coming up by pointing and laughing at something so he didn’t notice the marker.
When we hit the brick catwalk that is the last 3kmsWarrenwas audibly taking strain as fatigue and pain started to try and take control of his running (the dreaded WALL). Let me tell you that it is hard to watch your friend battle fatigue and pain while you feel on top of the world. I started to break down the last 3kms into sections for us to eat up and then began the visualisation talks of picturing entering the stadium, hearing the crowds and then the sweet taste of the beer waiting for us at the finish. We walked the last water table briefly and then continued our run to the stadium and finish. As we turned onto the grass I spurred on one final push ‘for the crowds’ and we overtook a large group of runners and then finally we had the finish line in our sights. I turned toWarrenwith a huge smile and shouted “you did it, there’s the finish line, take it it’s yours!”
Warrenblew away his time expectations by finishing his first half marathon in 1 hour 52 minutes. There was no better feeling as I crossed the finish line with my friend. It was an amazing feeling and has given me such great memories of what is truly a must do race.
Perhaps we were a bit too overjoyed at the finish and maybe the beers were talking asWarrenturned to me in the Knysna sunshine and suggested that we come back in 2012 to do theMarathontogether. I laughed nervously but said if he was keen then why not!
Share your running, have fun and help a friend achieve their goal.