Preparing for Maratona di Roma – for real this time

Day 2

Yesterday afternoon, as I was waiting for the kid to saunter out of school, a WhatApp message came through. It was Garth from Embark letting us know this morning’s route.

It said we were running up past Camps Bay High, then turning the corner into Kloof, heading up Kloof past the Round House and up to the circle at the top where we were allowed a breather before heading along Signal Hill Road towards the first parking lot. Once there we were to run up the gravel path leading towards Lion’s Head and then turn around once we have run 33 minutes.

Instantly a wave of nausea flooded over me. My jaw dropped. My mouth felt dry. And my stomach took on that lame feeling it gets when I anticipate something absolutely dreadful about to happen. Ugh! No!

It’s only Day 2 of my training with this group, and I’m still feeling the effects of Sunday’s awful Landmarks half marathon experience. The Embark guys are on Week 3 of their training, so this should be quite doable for them. I, however, will be bringing up the rear … a lonely, disheartening spot in any sport and my least favourite place to be.

But I gamely set the alarm for 5:15 am. Checked that it was set for Thursday. Checked again that it was set of 5:15 am on Thursday and tried to get to bed early. Early was 11 pm. Getting to bed earlier would have been preferable but that’s just how my life works.

At 5:30 this morning I scrolled through Facebook as I sipped my tea and fought back waves of nausea. You can do this. You can do this. You can. How bad can it be? Just walk when you need to. Or run a bit slower. Okay, my running a bit slower IS walking. But fine. It’s all time on the legs. Do the distance. Stay in the moment. We were born to run.

At just before six I pulled in to the Glen parking lot. No cars. No one standing about. Wrong venue, of course. Twit! I briefly considered parking at Camps Bay High and joining the group when they got there, but that would have been cheating. I need to start at the start. Do the distance.

Vida! They’re meeting at Vida! By the time I drove past them, looking for parking (No parking at six in the morning?! So many fitness freaks in this town!), the group had gathered around Garth who was explaining whatever needed to be explained. By the time I had found parking in a side street and jogged towards the start, they had already set off. No way, man! Extra running as well as catch-up running!

Before long I had caught up with one runner. After exchanging some friendly banter, I passed her and saw the rest of the stragglers heading up the hill. A few hundred metres on I picked off another runner, and passed him. Another runner stayed up ahead for quite a while, and I used her as my marker. If I could just keep her in sight I would be fine, I figured.

STeve Atwell whizzed past on his bike, his killer smile beaming, calling encouragement. And he knew my name! Seriously. He called out my name as he cycled by. It doesn’t seem like much, I know, but believe me the small details make all the difference. These guys take an interest. They’re not in your face, not bootcamp shouting at you, but they’re watching you. They’ve got your back.

I passed the third runner as she started to fatigue and then talked myself up the rest of the hill. I had to slow down for a few walk breaks. And I was spotted (by STeve) walking! Oh, the shame! The embarrassment! Nah. Not really. I was still moving, and moving forward. That’s all you need to do: put one foot in front of the other, and keep doing that, no matter how slow, until you reach the finish.

I made it to the top of Kloof. Squinting against the sun and the sweat in my eyes, I saw a Garth-shaped silhouette up ahead, calling encouragement, telling me to keep going, arm raised, ready to high-five me when I reached him. I had (mostly) run to the top of Kloof! Whooo!

‘I want you to go a bit further,’ he said. ‘Try to make it to the parking lot. Run for 33 minutes.’

So off I went. At a walk at first, straining against the short, steep incline, then a slow jog. Some of the other runners were heading back. They smiled, waved, said hello. They’re so friendly – all of them – it’s amazing. Small details, folks, is what keeps the punters coming back.

I made it to the parking lot and then thought: ‘Gravel road! Must do gravel road!’ There were no more Embark folk around, but I pushed myself up the gravel. Jogged a bit. Walked a bit. Jogged some more. Doubled over with my hands on my knees to catch my breath. Staggered on. Two girls came down. ‘Where do we turn around?’ I puffed. They told me to turn around about now, as we’re meant to run 33 minutes. ‘Okay,’ I said, and pushed on a little higher. They must have thought I was either deaf or stupid. Nope. It’s called stubborn. Or it could be stupid, actually.

I don’t know how far I got before I turned around – not terribly far – but I was pleased that I had done the distance, done the time, and gone a little bit further.

Now it was downhill all the way home. ‘Wee-wee-wee,’ cried the little pig, all the way home! ‘Wheeeee!’ went the runner who had just surprised herself, all the way home!

And I was all on my own, as usual. Fek. Not another runner in sight. Just me, trundling down the hill. But it was okay. I was running. I felt great. Awesome, in fact. Free and light. Born to run.

As I came trotting into Camps Bay I saw Garth still standing on the pavement, chatting to one of the other runners. Everyone else had left. There was just me still running. I wanted someone to see! I had been spotted walking, twice, and now I was running! Someone please see! (Look, mom, look!) They turned their backs and walked off. The morning’s run was done. But I wanted someone there at the finish! I sped up (What? Where did that come from?), whistling and calling ‘Oi! OI!’

Garth turned around, a look of surprise on his face, and then a smile. He raised his hand for a high five, but, laughing (a bit manically, maybe), I launched myself off my feet – I was going in for the hug! Man, I was so pleased with myself! They had forgotten about me, the bastards, but who could blame them? They said run for 33 minutes, not 48. If you want to run longer you have to start nearer the front, I should think. And be faster. Maybe actually run all the way.

It’s almost midday now, and I’m still on a high.

Bring on Day 3! Bring on Bay2Bay! Bring on Maratona di Roma!

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