Not all runs are easy

Saturday 21 February 2015

Training for Rome Marathon (for real this time)

Week 6 of 10

28 days to go


Yep. Today there was some walking.

We did the Embark Training 15 km run and then added on some distance to make it a longer run, ending up doing 21.2 km – unfortunately not the intended 25 km. But man, it was hard!

We set off from the entrance to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens – one of my favourite places in the city – at six o’clock this morning. The route goes uphill immediately. I had already decided that today nothing is going to hurt. It was going to be a nice, easy run. I was going to feel comfortable and end strong.

2015_02_21_Kirstenbosch low res

Outside Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, looking up at Castle Rock, at six o’clock this morning.

It seems I was the only one who had this goal in mind. The rest of the crew set off at quite a fast pace and I was very quickly left trailing behind. I wasn’t right at the back, but there was enough distance between me and the guys in front and between me and the guys at the back to make this yet another solo run. It always has me wondering why I bother getting up at the crack of dawn – and now, with the changing seasons, even before the crack of dawn – to run with this bunch when I could very easily just run by myself at a time that suits me. But then, let’s face it, I might not run at all. What is a suitable time for running a long distance all on your own?

But I felt good – relaxed, comfortable and ready for a long run. We were running in the leafy suburb of Constantia, where dense foliage and tall trees obscure oppulent homes on huge estates. It was all quiet and peaceful. The incredibly wealthy have no need to show their faces outside their front doors at six in the morning, it seems. Although, to be fair, a good number of them were probably already out on the road, running or cycling, or swimming in their olympic standard pools in their back gardens.

Near Wynberg Park I pulled up next to Firstborn Daughter. She wasn’t looking happy. ‘What’s up?’ I asked, worried that her shin splints or aching hips were acting up. ‘I need to pee,’ she said. Ah … here we go … our usual dilemma: finding a public facility while out on a run. I’ve been thinking that we should lobby for funding for more public toilets along popular running routes. They don’t even have to be fancy – we don’t need fluffy white towels or hot air jets or even mirrors. Just a teepee straddling a hole in the ground would be good. Just somewhere that one can find relief and not have to spend the whole run looking desperate, with eyeballs swimming in yellow liquid.

Anyway, at about 7 km we reached the Constantia Village Shopping Centre and made a dash across the road. One of the bigger, slower girls was running with us at this stage, and seemed very happy to have some company – clearly she’s one of the group’s solo runners too. She pushed on alone and so now we were behind even the big girls. Oh well … Running without baggage is more important than being ahead of the pack. Or even in the middle of the pack.

Firstborn Daughter didn’t look much happier after her visit to the very clean and sparkly Constantia Village facilities. She’s not in a great headspace for running at the moment, and it worries me. I hope she managed to pull herself out of her funk before we board the plane to Rome.

We spotted one of the strong runners walking up ahead. She had started half an hour earlier than the rest of us to run 5 km before we had even got out of our cars. She’s training for the Paris Marathon, which is a month after the Rome Marathon, and her training is going significantly better than ours did (or is).

We fell into step behind her and followed her all the way of Southern Cross Drive – that endless, mean-spirited, nasty runner eater of a hill that loomed ahead of us at about 9 km.

Suddenly there seemed to be hundreds of other runners on the road, mostly running in big groups and wearing very brightly coloured clothing – all hot pinks, lime green and orange. Each group was being coached and encouraged and cajoled up the hill by a stronger runner, obviously assigned as their leader. It must have been a club run. I don’t know which club it was but I always wish I could run with a club like that. I don’t know what it is; I sign up for a group or a club, imagining that this is the kind of support I would get, and that my running would improve (maybe even dramatically) because of it. But each time ends up kind of the same – I sign up for a group that has an ‘every man for himself’ (or woman for herself) mentality. It’s survival of the fittest, not ‘we leave no soldier behind’.

I’m pleased that we had had a sip of water at the shopping centre, as we had had no other water along the route. The coach carries a bottle of water for the group but he chugs off into the distance to enjoy a lovely, speedy run with the front runners, without so much as a backward glance to see if that back guys have taken the correct route or have fallen over in a run-induced coma. The goold old Spartan Harriers walkers used to assign club members to water duty. They would drive a car laden with water, juice, sweeties and even biscuits or fruit cake, along the route and stop every 3 km to feed and water the walkers. And they did it with such good cheer, it felt as if we were at a kiddies’ birthday party.

So we tackled Southern Cross Drive on empty stomachs and a sip of water each. But we did it. We completed the 2,5 km hill without walking. We were pretty slow but we felt better than we did the last time we ran it and we even passed two groups of runners on the way up. And water waited at the top: a water fountain that sprayed a fan of water high up into the air, making it almost impossible to get any of it into your mouth.

I was still feeling pretty good. The other runner and myself settled into a comfortable pace and trotted out that last few kilometres back to the start, chatting about our training and our upcoming marathons. There were some steepish gradients along the way and the traffic was starting to become an issue. Firstborn Daughter lagged behind a bit, still looking pretty miserable.

I spotted one of the big guys up ahead – he had come chugging past me on the hill at the beginning of the run. He was breathing heavily then and now he was on his own, walking the last few kilometres. He had run a marathon the week before, so he was entitled to feeling not-so-strong but I think he’s also finding running tougher than usual.

We made it back to the start point, where the rest of the runners were spread out on the lawn. We each had a quick sip of water from the communal bottle, posed for a groupie, and then headed back out to add on some distance. It was all going pretty well, I thought.

It will be all nice and flat, I thought. But it wasn’t. There was a constant gradient and the path was narrow and uneven. The road was quite busy by now, and the cars were driving way too fast. We ran until our Garmins told us we had done 18 km and then turned around to head back to the car. But we were both done for. I think it must have been a combination of a pretty tough course, dehydration, a rumbly gut and hunger – I hadn’t had breakfast, and had nothing to eat along the run, except for a bite of Firstborn Daughter’s icky tasting pink energy bar.

It was a walk-run back to the car. It was horrid. The best I could hope for was to clock a 21,1 km, as a 24 km run wasn’t going to be squeezed from these legs. Firstbord Daughter, thoroughly fed-up with the run by now, seemed to get her second wind and started leaving me behind – tossed her own mother to the vultures! I was pleased to see that she was running a bit stronger, though, but noticed that she needed walk breaks too. I needed to stop running so badly that I even stood still to blow my nose on some damp tissue that I had in my fanny pack.

Taking a tactical stretch - it is always better to look as if you're doing something useful while trying to catch your breath, rather than just stand there looking shattered.

Taking a tactical stretch – it is always better to look as if you’re doing something useful while trying to catch your breath, rather than just stand there looking shattered.

We ran past the car, desperate though we were to just stop and crawl across the road to it, and then turned back, stopping when the Garmin announced that we had done 21,1 km – okay I pushed on for another 100 m, so that it would read 21,2 km. Call me obsessive!

2015-02-21Saturday Run Route low res

And then we both sat down, each on a low cement post and just felt thirsty, hungry, sore and sorry for ourselves. There was no water, and the rest of the guys had all gone to a restaurant for breakfast. I had thought of joining them, but just couldn’t be bothered anymore. I just wanted to get home. There would be food and liquid at home. And a shower. And somewhere soft to sit or even lie down.


Somewhat tired and unhappy runner finding solace in a rather unsatisfying, icky pink energy bar.

Somewhat tired and unhappy runner finding solace in a rather unsatisfying, icky pink energy bar.


Firstborn Daughter was close to tears. The harsh reality of how very far a marathon is has finally dawned on her. In the car she said she thinks this will be her only marathon. She’s feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenge she has taken on, how soon it is (28 days away!) and how little preparation she has managed to do.

2015-02-21 Rome Marathon 28 Days low res

Driving home I felt quite weird. My head was spinning and my stomach was quite unwell. My calf muscles were burning and I think my thigh muscles had become paralysed. I was feeling quite spaced out.

But after a shower, some coffee and scrambled eggs and baby spinach on toast, and lots of water, we both perked up.

Bring on tomorrow’s 10 km run. That will put my total mileage on 50 km for the week.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s