A wedding, a honeymoon and an ultra marathon

Can you believe it’s all over? What a journey, what an experience, what a vibe! Firstly, our wedding was amazing! Becs looked absolutely stupendous and I cleaned up relatively well too, all our guests had the most brilliant time and the weather played ball – holding off the rain until exactly 00:01, when we had to leave the venue. We returned home the following day and packed our massive bag, and slightly smaller running bag, and headed off on the most incredible honeymoon. We started out in Knysna, where we ate a crayfish and drank quite a serious volume of wine, and did precisely one (fairly short but hilly) run. From there we moved on to the Tsitsikamma Forest, where we drank a fair amount of wine and did exactly zero running over the two nights we were there (although we did do some trail walking through the gorgeous Tsitsikamma Forest and surrounds). After that we headed back down the coast to Wilderness, where we did one (flat) 8,5km run and ate and drank to our hearts’ content (including a couple of litres of rum and coke at the local cocktail bar). From there we began our journey down through the Garden Route to Cape Town, stopping off in Stilbaai (the least friendly town on the Garden Route) and Cape Agulhas for one night each, neither of which we ran on.

When we arrived in Cape Town on the Thursday prior to the race, it was too late to do any serious running so we decided instead to enjoy the time we had with our friends, going to one of Cape Town’s top restaurants, The Pot Luck Club for dinner on Thursday night (courtesy of Becs’s brilliant chef mate, Freddie Dias, who happens to be one of the sous chefs at the restaurant). On Friday we were really good, Jeanine and I spent most of the day with our feet up, resting our legs as much as possible, we ate healthily and stayed clear of alcohol, and went to bed early in the hope of getting a good night’s sleep ahead of the big day. Our alarms began chiming at 03:00 on race day, and so the four of us (Jeanine, Hilary, Becs and me) began our pre-race rituals. Having laid out our kit the night before, we all got dressed, ate our breakfasts and gathered our goodies, and headed to UCT and the start of the race.

After half an hour of driving around UCT we found parking and headed down to the start, in the howling, freezing wind, with Jeanine stropping all the way, having a proper moan about how cold she was. Thankfully Becs and Hilary had convinced both Jeanine and me to keep our long sleeved Jeppe tops on as we headed to the start and to run with them around our waists, because it was a very cold hour-and-a-bit wait for 06:30, when the cannon would signal the start of the 46th Two Oceans Ultra Marathon. With the 21 and the 56km races starting on opposite ends of the road, we said our goodbyes and good lucks to Becs and Hil as they headed over to their seeding pens. With about 20 minutes to the start Jeanine made her way to D-Seeding and I found Shan, Taryn and company in E-Seeding for the start.

As we anxiously waited for the cannon to fire, the nerves began to show, with all of us jumping and jittering around, taking selfies and giggling somewhat hysterically. We had a nice big Jeppe bus gathered, which included about 11 novices and a couple of runners who had completed one ultra previously, not exactly the most experienced bus in history but a great bunch. After Eye of the Tiger and a very emotional rendition of our national anthem (during which I shed substantially more than one tear), the fish horn began blasting, followed shortly after by the cannon fire, which marked the start.

It took us about 6 minutes to cross the start line from where we were standing in E-Seeding and even longer to get up to a decent running pace, but by 10kms we were going along at about 6:10/km, which I was more than happy with. Our first 20 or so kilometres were relatively uneventful, barring losing Frank shortly after 10kms. He’d been battling with flu for the week leading up to the race, and wisely retired. We also managed to pick up Kim Dowden who joined us for the first ±30kms until we lost her shortly before Ou Kaapse Weg, which incidentally is also where I lost the bus. I think they must’ve walked the water point just before Ou Kaapse Weg, which I ran through and by the time I realised they weren’t with me anymore, it was about 2kms later and I was well into my climb up that beast of a hill, I figured if I slowed to a walk I’d probably never get going again, so I just pressed on.

I found Kim about half way up and the two of us climbed steadily together, putting a decent amount of distance between ourselves and the six-and-a-half hour bus. By the time I crested Ou Kaaps (having lost Kim somewhere on the climb), I was pretty chuffed with myself, rewarding myself with a quick selfie and a pic or two of the view. We had been very lucky, so far with the weather and although we had come through some light drizzle heading into Kalk Bay, and the view from the top of Ou Kaapse Weg wasn’t amazing, the wind had been at our backs on the way up, every now and again giving us a gentle uphill shove. At the top, however there was a nasty cross wind, which felt like it could pick you up and throw you off the mountain at any moment, it was also colder than a witch’s tit. The head wind on the way down on the other hand was exactly what we wanted, holding us up on the steep downhill. Kim caught me fairly quickly after reaching the downhill and I warned her not to open up too much, but to try and be gentle on her legs, keeping it to about 6:30/km on the downhill. At times I was going even slower than that, and even had to stop to tie my shoes tighter because my feet were slamming into the front of my shoes, causing me additional, unnecessary pain. I have to say, that downhill was the worst thing I’ve ever run, I’d run up Ou Kaapse Weg twice happily if I could avoid having to run down it. But as they say, what goes up, must come down and down we came. By the time I got to the bottom of the hill my legs were aching. My knees, my hips, my ankles, my feet – everything was sore, but once I got onto the flats of Tokai I got myself into a really nice rhythm, going along at just under 6:00/km.

I cruised through the 40km mark, went happily through the marathon mark and shortly thereafter found Kim, limping at about 45kms, struggling with her knee. I told her we were almost there, 11kms to go and that everyone was hurting, the only thing to do now was to keep pushing – “slow shuffle”. About 2kms later, I had a little vomit, possibly the result of over hydration in the cooler weather. We walked for a few minutes after that, while I composed myself, during which time, the six-and-a-half hour bus caught us. When I realised we were in the midsts of the bus, I said to Kim it was time to push on – my personal aim was to finish ahead of that bus. We pushed through the next 8kms, both of us struggling with the sharp, ever-changing camber on Southern Cross Drive, and by the time we reached the 53km mark I was really battling, my legs were seriously hurting, but I knew we’d come this far, there was no turning back. With 1km to go, I started to wane, at which point Kim (using some choice words) motivated me to keep moving and, as we entered UCT, pure adrenaline took over and we picked up our pace. Rounding that corner and seeing Becs, hearing her cheering for me, hearing her saying, “Well done, Mrs Briggs-Davies!” gave me a lift like no other and the Kim and I pushed and pulled each other over the line.

Kim and I finished in a time of 6:24:33 (according to my watch), and my official time in the Cape Argus the next day was 6:24:32. Jeanine (obviously) had finished almost an hour earlier, running in 5:37:28, and Candy finished her 10th Ultra in 5:07:42 and was awarded her Blue Number at the finish. Becs and Hilary ran a 2:33 for their 21 and all of us were exceptionally proud to have been a part of the #RunningForRoly initiative.

In the wake of the success of this blog and the interest shown by a number of people to donate money in support of #RunningForRoly, we are investigating various ways to make it more official. I have spoken briefly with Jeanine and Candy’s mom – The Jan – about setting up a trust fund in Roly’s name, that people can donate to and we also want to approach Jeppe to add #runningforroly to our Jeppe kit, offering the same to other Jeppe members for a nominal fee that would be donated to this trust. Initially the trust would be used towards the cost of Roly’s care, but who knows where the reach of this project will end. Thank you to everyone who supported us on our journey, please stay tuned for more updates on what will come next.

6 thoughts on “A wedding, a honeymoon and an ultra marathon

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