So 3 years have passed since my last marathon on the road. As many of you know I’ve completed many trail distances equal and above marathon distances up to 80km. However this was a road marathon and as explained in The Night before The Night before I have a serious mental block with t@r.
My week leading into the marathon was full of positive visualisation and good planning for the run, it had to be I was really sweating about how it would go.
I woke up at 3:20am and stumbled around in the dark whilst running a bath and making a quick breakfast. I made my way through to @ Capetown with @beanker and we got to the start on Green Point main road with time to spare. It was kind of surreal as I was not feeling any nerves whatsoever before the race (a big first for me). My race plan was to run how I was feeling and try and aim for a 3h45 finish. Considering my one and only other road marathon time was a 4h33 3 years ago it may have been optimistic but with all my training towards Ironman South Africa I felt confident that I could crack a new PB.
Although the race was starting at 5:15am it was really warm and quite humid also. I hadn’t even started and I wanted to take my shirt off it was so stuffy. The Marathon got underway and I waved goodbye to @beanker and set off on my marathon journey. The first couple of km’s passed by without incident although I was sweating profusely and I put it down to the early morning heat and nervous energy. I caught up with @newbert before we turned back up Adderley Street and then Miranda Symons came trotting effortlessly past me, as she always does, and we chatted briefly before she headed off into the distance. I was running a 5 min a km pace and felt pretty good so decided to keep at it and see how I went. The streets were empty apart from the odd reveller making their way home and those preparing their retail shops for the day ahead. It was my first time running main road from Cape Town and it was kind of spooky with no cars to worry about. We continued on and as we made our way past Durban Road the South East wind welcomed us. It wasn’t strong thankfully and it was a welcome breeze to the heat. The water tables were thankfully well stocked and quite vibey for so early in the morning and a big high five to the organisers Top Events and the volunteers with their morning cheer that kept the runners spirits high.
I didn’t take too much water on until the 12km mark and was maintaining my pace quite nicely. There weren’t many supporters on route unlike at Two Oceans for example but there was plenty of chattering amongst us runners to keep me entertained. We continued to snake our way along main road quietly until we hit the half marathon mark at Ladies Mile recording a 1h45 split. The road became very congested as it was also the point at which we joined the half marathon route and I unfortunately lost the small group that I was running with. I hung on the back of the packed sub 1h45 half-marathon bus but eventually dropped back as they were pushing a faster pace. Not too long after that I heard a shout and spotted my Mom standing with other supporters outside Barons Tokai. It was so awesome to see her and I felt a sudden urge to stop and chat but not wanting to get all caught up with emotion I put my hand out and passed on my love to her as I passed and carried on running.
Just after the 25km mark I was quite relieved to see @beanker standing with @missymac77 as I was starting to feel a little energy depleted. She passed me a small bottle with some Hammer Perpetuem inside and I was grateful for it. The route carried on along the now very flat main road thru Lakeside as we headed into the cooler coastal suburbs starting with Muizenberg. It was a nice surprise to get a cheer from @angiecapetown who was marashalling at the Boyes Drive turnoff. I was on home turf now and watched the early morning surfers cooling off in the surf. @beanker next met me at the 31km mark in Kalk Bay at the end of Boyes Drive and I was happy because I was starting to take strain. I had been running at 5 min a km for 30 km and although I was happy to have that small victory behind me I was feeling slightly spent and became concerned that I had not started taking on some fuel earlier.
I was expecting to hurt at some point as one inevitably does during a marathon but I was secretly hoping that it would not be until the 36km mark, I was wrong! The pain started early at 32km and I wasn’t expecting it, my quads were starting to hurt all the way to the bone and the pain in my chest and shoulders was becoming very uncomfortable. I kept telling myself I was fine and my mind was playing games with me but my pace started slowing rapidly. I was suffering badly when I heard a cheerful “hey who’s this fit guy” from behind as @kimtaylorktp ran past with a broad smile and her sister Donna in tow doing the half marathon. I managed a grimace instead of a smile and a “hi” (i think) and watched as they cruised off ahead of me, their race plan being perfectly executed. I managed to keep my feet moving until we hit a small hill coming out of Fish Hoek that felt like a mountain and I resorted to a walk. I remember that I hit my chest with my fist out of frustration saying “come on!” the woman next to me got a shock and winced “ouch” and I figured I had probably been a little too hard on myself. The 34km mark just would not end and I kept repeating “you’ve ran this road hundreds of time, this is your backyard, now move your feet dammit”. I saw @beanker next at the 36km mark as we hit the hill going out of Glencairn before the train station. I stopped briefly for some Energade that was sickly sweet then put on my iPod looking for something to wake me from my poor state and get me fired up. I was so transfixed on the music that I barely even heard @redearthgallery (Eric Tollner) call me as I was nearing the Naval Battery by Dido Valley. I had never met Eric in person and I was stoked to finally bump into him so I stopped briefly and said hi but being in such a poor state I didn’t stop too long and moved on soon thereafter.
The last 5 kms were a sea of many broken runners including myself, it was carnage at times. As we hit the hill coming into Simonstown I ran past a Satorian (my running club) that was walking and visiby taking strain. I didn’t recognise him and as the hill was hurting me I decided to stop and introduce myself to him. Michael told me he was sick and we had a quick chat and I offered some encouragement before carrying on. Coming down into Simonstown square I picked up a bit of speed (it felt like it anyway) as I passed the 41km mark. I took a glance at my watch and realised I was going to achieve what I had set out to do. It was a massive lift to my spirit and my legs began to lighten and the pain felt like it was being drawn from my body and I even began feeling light headed. I only managed a couple of hundred metres more when I was suddenly and for no apparent reason completely overcome with incredible emotion like nothing I have ever experienced before. I just began thinking of my Mom, my brother Kris and my Aunt Myra that had recently passed away and I remembered why running for The Sunflower Fund had become so important to me. I tried to hold back the emotion, grit my teeth and keep running but then quite unexpectedly the tears started and I was forced to stop as I broke down and wept on the side of the road. I was bent over with my head in my hands when I heard another runner come over to me. He stopped and asked if I was ok, then probably realised I was having a moment and patted me on the back and said “its ok buddy take your time your there now.” I took a few moments and then straightened up and put my sunglasses back on and then started to run the final uphill to the finish.
I came down the hill towards the finish at the Simonstown Naval Sports Fields thankful to have had my moment outside the ground instead of in front of an audience. As I hit the grass and then turned into the marathon finishing chute I could see the finish ahead of me and the timing clock about to go onto 3h48. I turned around and there was no one behind me so I decided to walk the rest of the way in and take in the crowds and other runners’ emotions. I had a smile as broad as a Cheshire cat’s, I had really given it my all and was so happy to improve my PB from 4h33 and to do it in The Sunflower Fund colours. That niggling doubt about running on t@r and any self doubt I had been feeling was clearly left behind when I crossed the line to finish in 3h48:18mins. I met with @beanker and then collected my medal that I certainly felt I had earned that morning.
I cannot stress at this point how much belief in yourself can carry you to your goals. Self- belief or rather self-confidence is something that I have often struggled with. It often still bothers me when I go through these inner struggles but I’ve got better at overcoming it over the years and it helps that those close to you believe in you too. A big thanks to @beanker, my family and friends (on and off line) this past week for all of your continued support. We’ve got plenty of time and other events to come but each day I’m feeling stronger and more confident about my journey to Ironman South Africa on April 22nd. I just need to ensure that I try and keep my emotions in check that day!
As always a big thanks to our sponsors New Balance and Coral Wetsuits for their fantastic support of Tri-ing for The Sunflower Fund and the awareness that we are creating.
Believe you can and you will!