Nick had a little idea, a few months back to run a race in Knysna, and his little idea somehow turned into a whole bunch of us traveling down to do this together, with supporters!
- Jonathan (Nick’s brother)
- Jeanette (RWFL friend)
- Lance (RWFL friend)
- René (our RWFL branch manager)
- Ewan and Claire
- Jessica (Jon’s wife) and their kids KD and Rachel
- Bradley and Connor (Jeanette and Lance’s kids)
- Nick’s mom, Denise
- Belinda (Nick’s sister, all the way from Dubai)
We arrived in Sedgefield on Tuesday after an awesome overnighter in Nieu Bethesda. The drive through the Karoo was beautiful!
I was determined not to overthink the race and just enjoy my holiday. We did all sorts of touristy things in Sedgefield and Knysna for the next few days.
For the most part, I succeeded in not thinking about the race , but the nerves caught up with me on Friday and I spent loads of the day very much in my head, stressing. I was hoping that the excitement would start to build once we collected our race packs, but I think I felt even more scared once we were registered.
There was one very funny moment when we were out to lunch with everyone. I received a whatsapp from my friend Debbie, asking how I was feeling about the race. I replied, except it was out loud instead of by text and everyone heard a random declaration of “terrified!” from me.
Friday evening was all about prepping for the race. We ate pasta for dinner and pinned our numbers to our shirts and did lots of pottering around, checking and rechecking that we had everything ready for our trip into the forest the next morning.
At bedtime, I had a cup of chamomile tea in the hope that it would induce some sleep. I actually managed about three hours of uninterrupted sleep before I started waking at regular intervals to check my watch and make sure we hadn’t missed the 3:15am alarm.
At 4am, we headed off to Knysna, where we parked our cars at the taxi meeting point. Lines of white minibus taxis were waiting to ferry the 8000 odd participants into the forest. I can’t quite imagine the logistics that an exercise like that must take!
We were dropped off in the forest at about 5am, where it was pitch black, but surprisingly not terribly cold, yet. An enormous pile of furry red blankets was available for the first few thousand runners in the forest and we each grabbed a blanket in anticipation of the chill. We were most grateful for them as the temperatures seemed to drop in the few hours that followed.
I did think that the sight of hundreds of people walking blindly into the dark, dank forest, cloaked in red blankets would seem just a little creepy and cult-like to the uninformed onlooker!
After our dark trail walk to The Glebe, we were greeted with bonfires, Toilet Town (a flush of portaloos) (Yes, I just made up a collective noun) and an incredible snack station, sponsored by Pick ‘n Pay.
We huddled and chatted for the next few hours, trying to get comfortable and stay warm and dry. The forest floor was a wet, muddy mess and we were thrilled when we remembered that we had a roll of black garbage bags in our tog bag. We had packed them to wear if it rained, but they turned out to be extremely useful for sitting on!
By this time, the nerves were replaced by excitement and I was looking forward to getting going and the euphoria that I knew would follow once the race was complete.
Finally, at around 7:30, it was time to make our way to the start line and take loads of start line selfies. Photos clearly are a very important part of the whole experience!
Just look at all those people! It took at least 5 minutes to get under the start banner!
People were clothed in a crazy assortment of old and tatty clothing which was discarded in the skips at the start line or tossed to the people along the road side, chanting “Knysna Mara-tonn”. For the first while, the chanting seemed fun, but by kilometre 3, I thought I might strangle the next person who I heard chanting anything!
The race started with a couple of hilly but very manageable climbs. I was feeling optimistic about how things would work out. That optimism lasted for about 9kms and then things got tricky. My plan was to take it easy for the first half of the race and speed up for the second half but the race got decidedly more difficult as we got further along. The road was narrow and rocky and there was absolutely nowhere to just run for any decent stretch.
Between trying to find the side of the road where the camber wasn’t too hectic or too many stones or the sand wasn’t too soft, it wasn’t a fun run. And when we finally got out of the forest, we had a very short patch of decent running and then the Descent-from-Hell as we ran through the Simola Estate. Words cannot describe that downhill. No matter what I had heard about it, I naively thought that a down hill meant I could gain some time. I was so wrong! The only way I could manage was by going really, really slowly! I can’t remember the exact point but somewhere around kilometre 16 or 17, I became really emotional. I was tired, it was damn hard and the end was still a long way away. I talked myself out out of the tears and promised myself that I would have a good cry if I actually finished the damn thing. Right then, I ran past a water point where orange quarters were being handed out – they were quite the most delicious thing I’d ever tasted! I’m not sure if it was my little pep talk to myself or the energy boost from the oranges and water, but I had the strength to continue.
The last few kilometres were a blur of sore feet and excitement that the end was in sight. I was eagerly looking out for my family and friends. As I crossed the finish line, I saw them and simultaneously, burst into tears. Nick and the kids were waiting to hug me and I buried my sweaty head in Nick’s sweaty chest and sobbed and apparently swore a little 🙂 And then I had to reassure the kids that I really was okay, just extremely emotional!
Apparently everyone got a little teary when they saw my exhausted tears. I’m so grateful for my awesome running family and their amazing support!
I was also amused to find out that Ewan’s friend Bradley had set a countdown timer to the cut off time just to create a touch of drama!
After the race, I went on a hunt to buy the race shirt which I had not ordered when I entered the race and then we all went home for showers and food. And naps. Oh my word, quite possibly the best nap I’ve ever had! And we rehashed the race over and over and over again. And rehashed it some more the next day.
So that was the story of the race. Three months of preparation, anticipation and excitement and all over in 3:19:51.
I do still have some thoughts on my performance on the day, where I’m at with my running and where to from now, but I will save that for my next post. For now… I did it. And it was something I never ever thought I would be able to do!