It’s a long way to Tipperary….

And as it happens, a long way to Gordons Bay as well! False Bay 50km- Nicola Forgan- DNS. This is what Finish Time results have recorded in the history books. For those unfamiliar with running acronyms DNS stands for Did Not Start. This journey, however, cannot be reduced to 3 letters.

In my own record books my False Bay 50 journey started at 10am the previous day, with a road trip from Fish Hoek to Gordons Bay. A brief stop at Somerset Mall (for number pick up) a place just about as confusing as any labyrinth. Onwards to Gordons Bay, where I had booked a room in a fabulous BnB, which also happened to be directly above Clarence Drive, a road that seemingly turned into the Grand Prix of Monaco throughout Saturday night and into the wee hours of Sunday morning. Twas the wee hours of 3:30 am that I arose to get ready for a 4:30am bus call from Gordons Bay to Kleinmond (the start). The running world is, as most know, full of characters…The bus was filling up and on hopped a man far too chippa for 4:30am. He was chatting to just about anyone who looked in his direction and proudly announced that he had a babalas, as well as what his intentions were for the day. Not being a morning person myself I wondered for how long would I have to endure this Chatty Cathy. As it turned out, not for long as about 20min into the 50min bus ride “Cathy” started to hang his head in the babalas drive of shame. He was indeed feeling motion sickness, something he also announced to the surrounding audience. 2min later he was at the front pleading with the bus driver to pull over.  Cue Sicky Nicky(myself) who had prepared for potential motion sickness by bringing a bag, clear of course and albeit very small. I had hoped that he had just maybe had a rusk for breakfast. The real hero in this tale of woe, is the bus driver, who confidently told the man that there was a toilet on the bus. A kind, fellow runner then escorted “Cathy” to said toilet where he stayed for the remainder of the trip, thank goodness for small mercies!

I digress. We arrived at Kleinmond at 5:30am and it was colder than a witch’s… something or other. With an hour to wait until the start at 6:30am. “Why had I not come better prepared!?” I thought to myself. “Oh well at least there was plenty of time to queue for a porta loo..” the internal monologue continued.This porta loo experience reminded me of the play 7 Brides for 7 Brothers, except this was 7 porta loos for 700 runners, oh the pressure.

6:30am and we’re off, a little loop around Kleinmond and then out onto the R44 toward Pringle Bay. I once read that some people enjoy listening to audiobooks whilst running, something I used to roll my eyes at until I was on this rather desolate stretch between Kleinmond and Pringle Bay. I could have got through at least 7 chapters of The Secret.

Pringle Bay turnoff eventually arrived at approximately 22kms and so started the long climb toward Rooi Els. Picture the climb from Glencairn Spar up to the top of Blackhill and then multiply that by 2. Kilometer 26, you can finally see False Bay and Clarence Drive in all its glory. Faced with a road similar to that of Chapmans Peak, although twice as long ( a common theme it seemed). This 20km stretch of road is a long haul with many winding turns, but rarely a lot of down, it feels mostly flat. The real “work” comes at about 37kms after which you’re faced with some nasty little climbs all the way toward the end of Clarence Drive. On just about every one of the climbs someone would say, “almost at the top and then downhill from there”. Pinocchios!

The lot of them!

From the beginning of the race I had a strategy to break it up into tiny bites. 3kms at a time; 3,3,3 + 1= 10; start again 3,3,3 +1= 10 and so on and so forth. The plan had been working and I slowly ate the “elephant”. After 40ks, however, I found myself hanging in for dear life to try and make the 6hr30 cutoff set for the race. I had been managing the constant 7min30 a km but after 40k and with the climbing I was doing 8 and 9 min kms. Around 47km I conceded that I would not make the 6hr 30, but I felt proud of my effort and felt determined to see it through to its end point. At 48ks, 6hr21min on the clock an official pulled up next to me and said, “I have to pick you up now.” At first I thought he was joking but when I realized he was serious a short argument ensued. I pleaded with him that I had run 48ks, I said that I would move off the road and run on the pavement. The conversation ended with me running away from him like a small child runs away from a parent. If I can’t hear you, you are not speaking was my mentality. Shortly after a traffic officer pulled up alongside me and said that they had to open up the road, something which I understood. We agreed I could carry on if I went to the other side of the road and onto the pavement. Fine with me as long as I could finish what I had started.

Close to 49kms another official arrived in front of me asking for my number. I felt that this was the compromise I had to make in order to continue so I gave it over without too much resistance. Up until this point I had felt positive about my efforts and about the experience, but honestly after getting up at 3:30am, having run 49km from Kleinmond to Gordons Bay and 6hrs 30 on the road the taking of the number broke my spirit and I was reduced to teary trudge towards the finish line.

Logically I understood the rules and the need to enforce the rules so as not to be denied being able to host the race again. I understand that Clarence drive is a popular and busy route particularly on a Sunday, but emotionally I just could not accept that I was not going to be able to finish the 50km. I had agreed to be on the pavement and not play in the traffic. I was 1km away and not 10km. I think it important to note at this point that the organization had been very good and there were wonderfully supportive watering tables and people along the route which I greatly appreciated. You might be wondering why the taking of the number upset me so. By taking the number they were also taking the chip which would have registered me crossing the finish line although at 6hr48min and not within the cut off. I didn’t want a medal, but it felt important for my efforts to be “recorded”. A DNF is heartache in itself but a DNS meant I wasn’t even there. Much like when we were younger and would await our call up for something that felt important to us and that call up never came.

As little happenings from our youth replay in our adult lives the question remains, is knowing you’ve accomplished something you’ve set your mind to, without it being recognised by the world at large, enough?

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