There is only one thing on my mind right now and that is the Two Oceans Half Marathon. Absolutely everything I do is gearing up for this event. What I eat, what I wear, what I think about… this race is all consuming. For some reason I have chosen a hilly and technical course for my first half marathon, but it is a dream… and that’s it… I am committed completely to training for it. I never imagined that this would be me… but it is and I couldn’t be happier. I have discovered that I can do way more than I ever imagined, I have discovered that a lot of things that I never ever dreamed of doing… I can actually do. I have learned so much, not just about running, but about myself. I have pushed myself harder than I ever thought I could, and I have bounced back smiling.
Running is working… I am not going to lie, it has been hard, but I am totally doing this. I have had help every single step of the way… there is a fantastic team of runners, and biokineticists, and all out encouragers alongside me every single step of the way. Over the past two years, I have slowly, really slowly, progressed from a walker to a runner, from zero, through countless Parkruns to a 5K, then a 10K and then a 15K runner. My dream to run the Two Oceans Half Marathon was just that… a seemingly silly dream that I didn’t actually want to say out loud. Until I joined the Sports Science team, it could not have become a reality. But, over the last six weeks… 4:30 am starts to the day and ALL the hills around the Cape Town southern suburbs and along the route have been run, and run, and run again.
I have to say, when I got the programme and realised that I had no idea what I had gotten into. I took one look at it and knew that I was in way over my head… where I had happily been chugging out 5km three times a week, a lot more was going to be expected of me. Long, slow runs are a fantastic idea, so apparently are hills, sprints and dare I say (long for me) fast runs. I was extremely quiet for a couple of days… because massive overwhelm… and then decided to just take it one day, one run, one hill at a time… trust the team that designed the programme. Trust the team that runs with us… and if I was ever going to run my dream… then it has to be now.
It turns out that strength training is a large part of our running programme. It doesn’t require a heap of equipment or gear… you just need yourself and to know how… I find myself standing on one leg all over the place, I am quietly becoming a flamingo. These tiny little exercises that look so easy, that result in buckets of truly ugly sweat, are not that easy at all… and apparently make a huge difference to your running… turns out this could be true and after weeks of strange and bizarre exercises I am starting to run a little faster.
Well, let me just say that if I was a middle of the pack or an elite runner, this probably wouldn’t be the hardest thing… but as a back of the pack runner, I find myself not only stressing about time and missing the cut-off continuously. Apart from that, we have had things like hills, and speed training to conquer. I find myself laying it all out on the tarmac. There is no pretending that this is easy, gasping and running slower than even the slowest walker… it is somewhat revealing. But I just can’t quit… As for speed work and intervals, I love them… but my goodness there are folk on my team who have seen me at my lowest, when I really think twenty more meters is just not worth it… And yet, you just do it, you carry on, because doing your best is really not about what other people think, it is all about getting one foot in front of the other, and saying good job to your team as they breeze past you!!!
If you have been following my journey to health from the start, my biggest difficulty has always been sleep… and it took two years to finally build up to routinely getting between six and seven hours of sleep a night. It was hard, and required enormous amounts of discipline on my part… and I could never sleep longer than seven hours at a time. Well, running has cured that… and I have finally cracked the big time… with eight hour sleep nights three or four times a week… Trust me if you are battling to sleep, a lovely long 15km run on a Saturday morning, and a couple of 10 or 12km runs in the week, will ensure that your sleep quota will be sorted out nicely… dishes will be left, laundry undone and I am so thankful for a family that understands, who are picking up the slack.
Up until now I have had exactly one running speed and it is hardly running… 9 minutes a km. That means 45 minutes for a 5km, 90 min for 10 km, 225 minutes for 15km… and so do the math… three hours for 20km. Yes, I am going to be on my feet for a long long long time on race day. The point is 9 minutes a km is really the slowest you can be, without missing the cutoff… it is going to be tight. And all along, the time stress has been enormous for me… I really don’t want to be stopped before I reach the finish… but just this last week my time has started to creep down and down and down. I am getting marginally faster. This race has gone from impossible, to maybe, to… I could actually do this… These are exciting times and actually I can hardly wait. Yes, I am worried about what I will wear on race day. Yes, I am worried about running with millions of runners on the day… and yes I am worried about the cut off… But I have done the training and mostly I feel really excited about this race… excited that I can actually run it, excited to be there on the day… and excited to see the finish line.