The last winter was a bit difficult for me health-wise. I ended up at the doctor’s a lot more frequently than normal. After a few visits, Dr Chris stopped me mid-sentence, took his glasses off (and when his glasses are of, his gloves are off) and said “listen here my boy, when you still played Monday night soccer, I never saw you. Now I see you here every month.” He looked at me with a stern face and said “my advice, get active again. Finish-en-klaar.”
I didn’t take offence to being called a “boy” like some people would. After all, the man is two years younger than my father. In fact, I have been seeing him since I was eight years old (that’s one of the perks of living where you grew up). My medical record with him goes back decades. If there is anybody qualified to speak on the state of deterioration in my health, it was him.
So, I considered myself duly chastised, and went off to find my old pair of tekkies and started hitting the road around the beginning of September. Having set my sights at doing a 10km at the Old Mutual Soweto Marathon, I went on the internet and registered. I must say, registration was the easy part. It was the training that was a bit wobbly. The only time I can fit the training into my work schedule, is in the morning. For the record I am not a morning person – psychometric evaluations have proved this. So the training was tricky, I won’t lie. I only managed to get up to 7.11 km by the last week before the race. (Ja! Do you see why Dr Chris was so upset with me?)
So the day of the race came along and there I was, up at half past three, determined to be on time. According to the aide-memoir email I received informing me of the race pack collection procedure; we were supposed to take the N17 exit to avoid running into road closures. And so I followed the instruction to the tee. The problem is, everybody else followed the instruction to the tee. So as I on-ramped back on the N1 from a pit stop at the Oasis BP off Beyers Naudé, I could see the traffic backing up from a few kilometres yonder. And so we all sat (spot the novice).
Anyway, by the time I was able to on-ramp, something weird happened. Angie Khumalo played Junior Taurus and
Lady Zamar’s Mamelodi on Metro FM. The irony! A Tshwanetorian driving into Soweto to run “the People’s Race,” and Mamelodi is playing on the radio? I had to play that as loud as I could, it was a moment! Or was it just an excuse to calm my nerves, not wanting to think about the last three kilometres. I knew I could do the 7 km’s, but what then?
My strategy was simple. I was going to psychologically ignore the first three K’s. In my mind the 3km mark was the start of the race, from there I would start running like I always did (the mind, it understands calculus, but it’s so easy to fool). But when I arrived at the starting line I realised that I was so late and hurried due to the traffic that taking puffs from my inhaler completely slipped my mind. And so my strategy had to be adapted a little. Two minutes run, two minutes’ walk to help my lungs recover – and so we chug along.
Nike+ app On – BEGIN RUN – 3 – 2 – 1 – BEGINNING WORK-OUT. Let’s Go!
Bear in mind at this stage I’m running 30’ late. By the time I started the ultimate winner Lucky Nkasi was done, while Mthobisi Balaoyi and Thabang Mosiako we already fighting it out for second and third spot. Also remember, by this time I am also trying very hard to numb myself to what is going on because I need to get through the first three kilometres. But reality hit me when I was chugging along towards the 2km mark and I saw one of the Phalula twins running in the opposite direction, I am not sure which one it was, I think it was Dina (because she had shoes on). About 200 m behind her I saw Rene Kalmer and they were obviously in the final stretch of their half marathon. And there I was, two minutes on – two minutes off – I am doing this!
Related article: Obzeva’s horse encounter
At the 2.5 km station, I saw this guy ahead of me, his name was Bongani. Just like me he had a temporary licence on, and was built like he ran for the same club as me. You know the one that only accepts people who are a few meals ahead and a few bowel movements behind? Only he and I looked in a serious contest for the presidency. As I passed him, I told him not to worry, I was just clearing the lane for him. He chuckled, as most people do on this race.
At the 3km mark I saw this mamacita! A chocolate coated J.Lo, a goddess in speedos and she was chugging along just like me. She managed to get passed me, while I was walking on my two minute recovery cycle. So I politely asked her to tell the people at the water station to wait for me, “I am on my way.” Against the assault of laughter, she almost lost her footing. I never did get her name, as she was constantly ahead of me. Not that I minded, I had a strategy remember 😉
At the 4km mark I saw this couple running together (well they looked like a couple). They had a little boy with them, he looked nothing older than 10; and he was running with them. I assume that was the son. My dad tried to make me run with him when I was a child and I hated it. I wondered what the race felt like for the 10 year old kid, but he looked like he was having fun. I guess some people are just born like that.
At the corner of Rustenburg Str and Makhura dr I put my head down to fight the incline. I knew the 5km mark was not far off, and I was determined to meet it with a gallop. I could be late, I could have forgotten my inhaler. But what I was not going to do is walk past the 5km mark. The run up was tough, for some reason, I couldn’t understand why. I don’t normally feel that strained at 5km, and so when I eventually looked up I saw the sign, like rain in a heat wave. By the time I got to the 5km mark, Tamara (that’s what I call the woman on my Nike+ app) said “Congratulations, you have broken your 5km record.” I shaved 4 min off my personal best on a 5km. So it all made sense. I was feeling strained, because I was going faster than ever before – 43:24s was the time. At this stage I was amped. Trying very hard to ignore the tightening in my calf muscle, because my race only started 2km ago, remember?
Before long I was turning on Immink Dr, powering towards the Diepkloof –Rea-Viya station. Now by this time I was trying very hard not to be distracted by the whiff of vetkoek lurking around the corner, like that delinquent friend from school trying to convince you of bunking the afternoon maths class. I was looking for the 7km board, but could not find it. But by this time I was feeling so good that I was stealing 30 sec off the recovery cycles and trying to make up for the time I was definitely going to lose in the last 3km’s. As I turned on to the Soweto Highway this JMPD official asked if I was one of the last ones. I was like “Yei, don’t play, I just passed about two hundred people back there!”
A little bit of humour to help forget the incline I was facing on the Soweto Highway. It was staring down at me like nyaope addict on a high, and was still looking for the 7km board, and it was nowhere. You have to understand, the last time I felt muscles in my stomach was at birth. And doing an incline without a core is like FC Barcelona playing an El’classico without Messi. But right there, like a blessing I heard Tamara confirming from my Nike+ app, that I had just passed the 7km mark. She also said that I had just done my fastest km ever. Just the motivation I needed to fight the hill, until the I got to the “VUKUZENZELE with MORVITE” advertising board where I started upping the pace down the hill, like Jack Parow on his poegie.
At the 8km board there was a late bus I was chasing, and as I passed them they started cheering. I pointed to the board and said “this is a record. Never been this far!” They cheered even more. I tell you what! At that moment, in my own little world, I think I knew what Casper Nyovest was feeling like when he #FilledUpTheDome. I walked about 60% of the last 2km, but I don’t think I could remember the last time I felt as proud as I did when I crossed the finish line.
It was done, I finished it, Tamara confirmed it #Soweto10KHasFallen.
I cannot comment much about the race organisation. I have never done something like this, so I have nothing to compare it to. All I know is, for me the experience was amazing. Although there is one issue I need to address with the organisers. And that has to do with these flag marshals who insisted on calling me “Tyma!” For the first two kilometres, I thought there was someone behind me. Then I realised they were talking to me. I mean What The Hell!? Anyway, hope they fix that next year when I come back for another one.