My First Marathon – Ashley Stokes
Where it all started
It all started with a pizza and a beer at the Red Herring when I asked friends of mine, who were running a Chappies (10km) in the next morning if I could join. They laughed at me. Their laughter was my motivation. I didn’t join them the following morning… but I trained. About two months later I found myself around the same table with the same friends who were running in the morning. This time I joined. I was prepared, but the look on their faces tells me they weren’t!
Having tackled 14 half-marathons in the past few years, as well as the John Korasie 30 km race, (which I trained for two years in a row, but had to skip because of illness and injury), I felt like a marathon was the next step. I was at a point where I was fit enough and felt the need to push myself and set a goal for a longer distance.
I’d done the John Korasie and loved it. The Cape Town Marathon was coming up shortly after and it just felt right to take the leap and dive into running my first marathon. I needed something to focus on after having gone through a really tough breakup. The training was just what I needed, and fellow club runners encouraged and supported me on my Cape Town Marathon training journey.
Training for the marathon
Training has always been tricky for me. I’m a fisherman and work strange hours. Some weeks I get to run every day and other weeks I don’t get to run at all. Missing the weekend long runs with the club was particularly frustrating; I felt I wasn’t training enough. But thanks to my fellow club runners I managed to join in on their weekly running program runs whenever I could.
On race day (and the week leading up to it) I was literally sh*ting myself. I was so nervous and excited. All the advice I’d been getting from FHAC members leading up to race day meant my mind was right and I felt mentally prepared. The biggest blessing was having such incredible support along the way. My sister, Tammy, organized all my friends and close family to form a surprise support team for me. Everyone was there. On race day close to 30 friends and family popped up at various points along the route, and everyone gathered at the finish. It was beyond incredible, how much those familiar faces cheering me on helped me through the race. There actually are no words.
At 35 kilometers into the race, I cramped up completely. It was horrid and I thought my race was over. I had CrampEase tablets, but no flipping water to take them with. A runner from another club saw me in all my pain and kindly offered me Eno tablets and water. I took it all: CrampEase, Eno, and water. Within a few minutes, I was running again. At 38 kilometers my body was very sore. Even my teeth were hurting. If it wasn’t for Sandi Larkin, I don’t think I would’ve managed a 4h55m finish, and qualified for the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon. Thank you, Sandi!
Wow! The first words to come out my mouth after I crossed the finish line were “Never again!”, but of course, that was just the chafe talking. A massive wave of gratitude swept over me when I realized all my friends and family had gathered at the finish. I can’t explain how important it is to have support.
On a lighter note
With only 50 meters of the race left, I managed what felt like a balls-to-the-wall sprint on that final stretch of grass. Later I saw that ‘sprint’ of mine on video. It was really more of a hobble. A grey-haired elderly lady and even a man with a boep overtook me.
The day after
Thanks to all the energy drinks and supplements I’d had throughout the day, I only managed to get to bed at 11 o’clock at night and had to be up at 3 am to head out on the boat for a hard day’s fishing. I was stiff and sore, and too scared to sit down in case I couldn’t stand up again. But I survived.
Advice to anyone doing their first marathon
Get your mind right, first and foremost, the rest will follow. Secondly, take advice from club members. FHAC is a wealth of information. They have been there, done that, and got many t-shirts. Lastly, make Vaseline your best friend.
There are far too many people to mention, but a special thanks to Tammy Stokes, Dalene Ingham-Brown, Sandi Larkin, Stephen Hayes, Bernie Hayes, Nebreska Allworth, Clive Jones, Michelle Kasfikis, Dave Van Niekerk, John Ross (rest in peace) and many many more, you guys rock.