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First 42. What a feeling

I did my first marathon this past Sunday.

What a hack. 

No, I kid. It was great. Well, the first 30km were. Then everything became an anguished blur of searing hip pin and excruciating buttock tingling.

Again. I joke. But it was bad. And good. It was good and bad. Like a Stormers season.

The race was the Peninsula Marathon, a straight-line run that starts outside the Cape Town Stadium (so nice that the Fan Walk is getting used again, even if it is 515am) and finishes in a dusty Naval park in Simon’s Town.

I think it’s the fact that there are no hills on the route that my bum aches so queerly right now. Generating your own momentum for 42km will do that to you, apparently.

Actually, my second first

Anyway. This wasn’t technically my first marathon. In 2009 I was rubber-armed (you know, you say ‘no’ your friend says ‘yes’. You say ‘get lost’, your friend says ‘it’ll be great fun’. And so on…) into entering the Riebeek Marathon.

At that stage I wasn’t running nearly enough to enter a marathon. But my idiot mate assured me that my vast running experience, albeit only over half marathon distance, would see me through.

It didn’t.

At 21km (the halfway mark, for non maths geniuses) at the Riebeek I was fine. Ready for my medal, my Coke and my burger. But they don’t give you that 21km into a full marathon. They don’t even give you a pat on the back. They just tell you to keep going.

By 25km I was finished. Not the race, mind, but in my mind. I was sore, angry at myself for being talked into something I knew I wasn’t ready for, and angry at my twit mate for grinning benignly throughout the race, like a stoned Beatle wafting through his acid trip, not knowing where he is, but enjoying it all the same.

By 30km I was grumpy, walking, shuffling and ready to pack it in. I hobbled for another five kilometres, caving in to pain after posing deceitfully for friends supporting on the sideline, waiting to take a photo of my epic struggle.

Eventually, after being swatted away by a traffic cop, a sympathetic farmer drove me to the finish. Of course, Kujo the Boerboel sat in front and I enjoyed the rear end of a bumping bakkie.

So after all that, entering for the Peninsula three years later, with the intention of entering the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon, was a big step.

Better prepared

I’m glad to report, then, that this 42km experience was a breeze in comparison. The only hurdle this time around was my inability to pull my pants up quick enough as I tried to dart out of the portaloo straight into the run when the starting gun was fired.

My training was fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa far better (as David Byrne of the Talking Heads might say) than in 2009, and my legs, mind and attitude were ready for the challenge this year.

The Peninsula basically makes it’s way down Cape Town’s Main Road for 42km. They (I love ‘they’) say it’s easy because it’s so flat. And I guess in a way it’s easier than races with big climbs. But I wouldn’t call anything with 42km in the title easy.

For 30km I trundled along happily, wilting only as I passed the 34km marker and realising instantly that, no matter how much training you do, pain will always accompany you on these runs. It’s something akin to Dexter’s ‘Dark Passenger’, always there, neither your friend nor your enemy, and coercing you to do unspeakable things.

This time I embraced the pain, made it my friend. Every jolt up my buttock I treated as a sore step closer to home.

Done!

Eventually, I crossed the line in 4h20. Not too bad, and a respectable qualifying time for the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon. The key was post-finish. I was smiling. I was happy. I was sore, no doubt about it. But not for long.

On a beautiful Cape Town day, with a gleaming ocean for company on one side and mental runners on the other, I conquered one of my unfinished demons. I ran, walked, shuffled… and finished.

Just 14km to go. 

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