On Saturday 5th February I did my first Lion of Africa Half Marathon in 3 years (herafter referred to as LOA). It was another race on my Tri-ing for The Sunflower Fund race schedule and a taper down run for the Peninsula Marathon on 19th February. The route starts and finishes from the Cape Academy for Mathmatics on Firgrove Road and takes in a slightly undulating course through the leafy suburb of Constantia. It’s a good course to aim to get in a good seeding time for Two Oceans Half Marathon as there are some long descents, straights and a strong field taking part.
In the lead up to this race and following my non event sub 2 hour bus at KNC I decided to get some support for organising a pace bus on the day. I contacted @runnersworldza and they were very supportive of what I was doing and offered me an ‘official’ Runners World Pace Bus flag. I met up with the ever bubby Runners World online editor @amy_ebz and picked up my flag. I tweeted quite a lot about the LOA and doing the sub 2 hour bus in my @sunflowerfund kit (providing hashtags on both). I certainly hoped that the day would bring some familiar faces and the opportunity to meet some new ones too.
Another clear and warm @capetown morning greeted me as I headed to the race start to register for the race. After collecting my temporary licence I put on my Nathan pack with the flag attached and headed to the start. As soon as the flag was visible runners began coming over to chat with me about the route and my expected ETA and pace for the race. I was admittedly a little overwhelmed at first but relaxed and had a blast chatting excitedly with the other runners about the race and why I was running in @sunflowerfund kit. I shared my strategy of running a 5:35 min/km pace and that I was aiming to finish between 1:58 and 1:59 ensuring there was no pacing mistakes and making the sub 2 hour too tight.
The race was underway and I started towards the back slowly moving through the field whilst chatting with the other runners. I got caught up a little between a large Fish Hoek and @IthekoAC Athletics club groups that were full of morning cheer and I hung around momentarily to chat and let them get photographic proof of running with the sub 2 hour bus. I moved on and was caught by Quaseem from @IthekoAC who chatted for a while and then headed off. I bumped into fellow Satorian Lynn Christian who was determined to stay in front of me and asked that I give her advance warning if I was catching her. I didn’t until after the finish and was chuffed for her that she achieved her goal. I saw plenty of friendly faces on the road including @redsockfriday’s @johnmcinroy running with some fellow redsockers. The sub 2 hour bus started taking on passengers quite early with my first one being an Eskom club runner from Joburg down in the Cape for a few races. We chatted about the run and our goals for the year while sharing some banter with others around us and our bus’ passengers. I checked my Garmin occasionally to keep an eye on the pace making sure that I wasn’t getting to caught up in feeling great and running relaxed by running quicker than intended pace.
I punctuated our bus journey with words of encouragement, distance notifications, approaching water tables and even the occasional hazard on the road. I admit to getting caught up in the moment on many occasions as I just switched off and didn’t think about running or the distance but rather the experience and camaraderie we as runners were sharing. It was pretty special and I hoped that those around me were feeling the same way. We continued up ever so slightly on the higher roads above Constantia and then shortly after the halfway mark we began our slow descent above Alphen down to the Constantia Main Road past Constantia Village and then onto Spaanschemat Road to the final straight to the finish. We had quite a healthy number of people around us now as we headed up the short climb past Peddlars on the Bend onto a slight downhill with one little bump to go (as I described to one fellow runner). It was around this point that I bent down a little as we ran under a tree and suddenly became lighter. Another runner shouted and I turned around to see my flag hanging from a branch. Everyone laughed and I was thankful that it didn’t take anyone out including @dalebedford who was also with us as I found out later (sorry Dale). I decided to carry the flag from that point forward just in case it got tree napped again but thankfully the final 2 kilometres went off without incident.
We made the turn into Firgrove Avenue and then turned into sports fields to be welcomed in by the other finishers. As we turned into the final 50m on the grass to the finish I actually became a bit sad as our journey was coming to an end. We crossed the finish line in the LOA half marathon in 1:58:08 and I turned around to welcome the other runners in sharing handshakes, high 5’s and some hugs too. I felt overwhelmed when several runners from our bus thanked me for helping them run a PB or their fastest half marathon in years. I chatted with many after the finish and said that I would be running the Two Oceans Half Marathon in my Sunflower Fund kit and perhaps we could all hook up there again. The running part of the bus had been fulfilled and as importantly I hoped that in some way I had gotten The Sunflower Fund some good visibility and perhaps won them over some new supporters.
I hung around for a while at the finish and it was great to briefly catch up with both @cpt_grant and @MissyMac77 and hear how their races had gone. I walked out of the finishers area and then caught sight of another Satorian Andrea Boettger and her son Alex coming in to finish the half marathon and another race together. I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for Andrea she really is a Wonder Woman.
The Lion of Africa Half Marathon sub 2 hour bus journey was recorded by my Garmin 310XT here
My Sunflower Fund journey continues and next up is the Peninsula Marathon on the 19th February. I won’t be running as a bus this time but rather focusing on getting through my first marathon on the road in 3 years. It should be good mental preparation for Ironman South Africa in April.
A big thanks as always to New Balance South Africa for providing me with the best kit to run in and for supporting the Tri-ing for The Sunflower Fund initiative.
Love running and share your passion with others when you can. There are plenty of opportunities out there you just have to be prepared to take the first step.