What a day! We had all started the morning with specific goals whether it was to go sub-something or take 30 minutes off our previous time. The marathon and weather gods had other ideas.
On Saturday I did all the prep work. Got my number pinned on, packed all my nutrition, charged the watch. Everything laid out and ready for the morning. The drive into town was uneventful and we parked in our usual spot, despite the organisers warning us that not all the parking garages would be open. Anyway, we made our way to the start and joined the toilet queue then headed to our start pens. So far so good. Great organization with good signage and helpful Marshalls.
I met up with Gavin, Brenton and Beaumont in the starting pen. We were confident that today was going to be the day when Gavin and I went sub-four. We started, and headed out of town and onto the NI, first hill and Gavin was gone. I tried to settle into the race and manage the nerves and my breathing. Pace was steady at 5.45 but something was off. The legs felt heavy, I had no energy and by 5km I knew it was going to be a long day. However, I had faith that this was just a bad patch, and I would come out of it. I ate every 45 minutes and kept sipping on my water, but I just felt worse and worse. Crossing the Stanhope bridge I got a welcome shout-out from Lauren and I kept plodding. By 19km, the bad patch had not gone, and the emotions took over.
I walked around the common sobbing and tried to send a pity WhatsApp to someone, but it never got sent. A very kind spectator from Top Form put his arm around me and walked with me giving words of support and encouragement and offering food. I managed to compose myself and plod on, but I was convinced that I was not going to finish, never mind go sub-four. That had already become a distant dream. After that I remained a bit of an emotional mess. Every time I saw a familiar face I wanted to bail, Fani, Lauren and Shirley your support was invaluable but each time I declined the offer of a seat in a car, I don’t know why because my spirit was broken.
Trevor and I played tag for about 15km, taking it in turns to shout encouragement as we were both deep into the pain cave and digging ever deeper. It helped.
At 30km Bronwyn Kloppers, doing her first marathon, caught up with me as we crested the District Six hill, and gave me some much-needed positive talk. “We only have 10km and then another little 2km and then we will be done” she said. The novice helping the old-timer. I managed to run through most of town, it was downhill after all, and everyone knows you cannot waste a good downhill. I told Bronwyn to go and somehow, I kept going, walking most of the time. I was still not 100% convinced that I would make it and if we had run directly past the stadium, I would have bailed. The sun was beating down and there was no relief from the heat, but I kept drinking and eating even though the gels were sticking in my throat. At each water table I threw water over my head and tried to absorb the energy from the supporters lining the road. I hit the dog leg out into Sea Point and, seeing the runners passing on the other side of the road gave me renewed hope.
I started shuffling along, 100 steps running, 2000 steps walking. Eventually, I made the turn, and only then did I believe that I would finish and qualify. I staggered across the finish line and Bronwyn, bless her heart, was waiting for me with a big smile. That was the longest 4 hours and 46 minutes of my life.
Well done to all my FHAC clubmates. We all struggled and not many goals were attained, but we will go back to the drawing board as Gavin said and live to run another day.