Standing in Pietermaritzburg at the start, I was feeling very calm and rather Zen like while the energy from the 12 825 runners around me was crackling with anticipation. I was a little concerned that I was carrying more equipment than what I had planned on (3 skin temperature sensors which were stuck on with plaster, the 800g computer which was going to record my skin and core temperature throughout the race, a GPS and a heart rate monitor with accompanying watch), looking like a bit of a lab experiment.
As the gun went off and the crowd surged forward I remember distinctly thinking – I just want to make the most of today – and for the most part, I think I did.
The first 20km of the race was fine, I was running with a long-time friend Craig who was doing it for the first time and whose mom was running too (Lynda is 60 and was running with a broken foot, how is that for crazy). I was a little concerned when 10 minutes into the race we could just not keep up with our mothers who surged off and left us to find our own pace with which to run. Luckily we were caught by the sub-eleven hour bus because I had no idea about pace or the actual route.
Half-way came and so did Lynda suffering from very sore feet and not really loving the race. Half-way also saw the first man crossing the finish line (in 5:23) which doesn’t do much for the confidence levels…
30km outside of Durban I felt a tap on my shoulder and found Ryan, my running charity partner just behind me, he’d decided to join the bus too, much to my delight because I didn’t actually think I’d see him until the end.
As we reached the lip of the notorious Fields Hill, 69km into the race with such a steep downhill and horrid camber that many runners have seen the end of their race at the bottom, you could hear a collective sigh come up from the group – Craig let out an audible moan since he’d been cramping on every downhill from around the half-way mark. Stuart the pace-setter (or bus driver) gave us a very stern talking to as we started down – “Pass me here and you will not finish this race” he promised, luckily I had no intention of going solo at this stage, I’d already confessed to Craig that I would be sticking with this bus to the end and would propose marriage to Stuart when we finished…
With 10km to go, knowing that it would be the longest 10km ever, I had news from a fellow club runner that my mom had been throwing up and had fallen behind us. Feeling pangs of guilt for not seeing her on the side of the road I resigned myself to the fact that my mom was a machine and would be ok with or without me going back for her, so I kept on going because really in a race like this, the most important thing you need to tell yourself is – “Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and you will eventually get there!”
Hitting Durban city centre and a flat road to the end, Craig re-assumed his position next to me with Ryan just off to one side, as we made our way through the screaming spectators who were lining the streets. Entering Kingsmead to a crowd that was going crazy as our sub-eleven hour bus was brought in 9 minutes ahead of schedule, Craig and I ran hand in hand over the finish line, with grins from ear to ear.