Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Thousands of runners braved the 2012 Two Oceans Half and Ultra Marathons this past weekend. It must be said that the weather was far from ideal. I was down in Cape Town for a wedding and was lucky enough to be in Muizenberg for the weekend. On  Saturday morning I laced up my shoes and my wife and I went out for a run. We only did about 8km and it was hellish; at one stage I was blown into road by a sudden gust of wind. It was icy cold and for that short 58 minute run we were drenched.

What struck me however was the determination of those braving the race. While passing through Muizenberg the road marking there were 14, 15 and 16 km, so still a long long way to go. Yet these runners were going for it, giving their all.

Sights on my runs 1
Last year I was down in Durban to support a family friend and my fathers at the big ones, the Comrades. My only experience of this arduous race has always been from the comfort of my armchair and this time we drove along the route and picked a point roughly 65 km into the race where it would be easy to support. The concept of even running that far has never crossed my mind but that day, seeing two people I personally, even after what had gone before, continuing to push themselves still, with another 'half marathon' to go was inspiring.

I had been an on and off runner up to that stage. In school I did athletics and cross country so I was fit and busy but I once hit varsity and lost that structured extra mural school set-up I grew lazier and lazier. In 2005 I started again just running around the WITS University Campus but a combination of laziness, partying and slow improvements meant I was done with the sport again. I would go through spurts but nothing lasting more than 2 or 3 weeks.

It is weird in a way because my family is quite active and my father in particular is a seasoned runner with the highlight of his career a three year sequence in London with 2:52 and 2:45 performances sandwiched by a stunning 2:30 in 1997, good enough for a top 150 placing in one of the biggest races in the world. But perhaps that was it. I never wanted to emulate that and the more people remarked how I was 'blessed' with my father's 'made for running' physique, I rebelled even more. My burst of running always took one of two paths. Either I would just happily plod along running as I felt like it not really pushing myself and getting bored. Other times I would put together incredibly unrealistic demands and expectations and suffer from burn out. The end result was the same; the running gear gathering dust.

Last winter however something stirred. I think it was perhaps seeing my father more humanized. For a 55 year old man he is in incredible condition and still running some fantastic times. His 10 km times for example still blow mine away and I could never keep with him doing intervals on the track! I have very vivid memories of him streaking down the Mall in 1997, with Buckingham Palace to our left and cheering him own as he majestically strode to that remarkable personal best at the princely age of 40. Seeing him at Camperdown however, there was a lot less of that incredible machine precision from 14 years earlier, just a really fit man, who has really taken care of himself, doing well at one of the toughest road races in the world. For the first time ever, I could just about see myself in his shoes.

Ten months later I am three weeks away from doing my first of hopefully many half marathons. For the first time since my school days, I have set reasonable goals and stuck to an achievable training program. While I would like to run between 1:40 and 1:45 on the 1st May, I now understand the dynamics of running a bit more and fully understand that most of all I have to go out there and just enjoy myself. With that attitude and with the right training behind me, the times will come.

From then on the sky is the limit, full marathons, Two Oceans, Comrades? With no pressure I am certain anything is possible with my two feet.

A new dawn.

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