The Comrades Marathon Medals

Are you confused by the medals at Comrades? Don’t be, silly! Let me break it down for you with the times required to get these medals.

The Gold Medal

If you want a gold medal, then you need two things:

  1. Be born for this,
  2. Work your ass off.

If you want a gold and don’t have number 1, then be prepared to do two times number 2. You ask Belinda Waghorn, she has a gold medal and claims to not have much of number 1. While her fellow gold medalists were running 130km per week, she was running 230km per week leading up to that Comrades gold. To get a gold you have to be among the 10 best male or female runners on the day. That doesn’t mean you have to be in that pack from the start. The Comrades Marathon race only really starts at 60km. As a woman, you have to run the race at an average pace generally of between 4:05 and 4:20 minutes per kilometre (obviously depending on who else arrives for the gold medal on the day and depending on whether you’re running up or down). To stand a chance of having a stab at this medal, you’ll need to have run a marathon in under 2 hours and 50 minutes in the 6 months leading up to your gold medal attempt. As a man, if you want a gold medal, then you’ll need to lift that game a bit and run somewhere around 3:30 to 4:00 minutes per kilometre average. Are you vomiting yet?

This year, I helped one of the runners in the top 20 by running behind him and spraying his hamstrings. I looked at my watch while I ran next to him and I was running at 3:20. And he wasn’t in the top 10! So be prepared. To even stand a chance of being one of these men, you have to have run a marathon in under 2 hours and 30 minutes in the 6 months prior to Comrades. The numbers put it into perspective, right?

The Wally Hayward Medal

This is a cool medal. This is for men who don’t make it into the top 10, but still run under 6 hours. It’s pretty difficult to get one of these, and until just a few years ago only a handful of people had this medal. But with a more open society and more capable runners having access to the race, we’re seeing more and more men get this medal. It fills me with joy when I think of that. Yeah, so Wally Hayward. To get a Wally Hayward, you need the following:

  1. You have to be a man.
  2. You have to run 89.2km in under 6 hours.
  3. Don’t be in the top ten.

You’ll need to be able to run 89.2km at an average pace of 4:02min/km. How you liking your shot at that Wally Hayward now? It’s best to have run a sub-2:45 marathon the six months prior. You can do it!

The Isavel Roche-Kelly Medal

This medal was introduced this year in 2019 and the first recipient of that medal is my dear friend, Yolande Maclean. She adds it to her 8 gold medals. The Isavel Roche-Kelly medal is half gold, half silver for obvious reasons. To get one of these medals, you need the following:

  1. You have to be a woman.
  2. You have to run 89.3km in under 7 hours and 30 minutes.
  3. Don’t be in the top ten.

To do number 2, you have to run the whole distance at an average pace of 5:02 minutes per kilometre. The whole way. All 89.2km! Essentially, with the introduction of this medal, women can no longer get a silver medal at Comrades. To get this medal it’s probably beneficial to have run a sub-3:10 marathon the 6 months prior to Comrades.

The Silver Medal

That medal to which mere mortals could possibly aspire! Previously, all runners who came in under 7 hours and 30 minutes would be eligible for a silver medal. This has changed recently because women who achieve this feat now get the Isavel Roche-Kelly medal. But you men could possibly aspire to get this medal if you can run the full 89.2km at an average pace of 5:02 minutes per kilometre. Nice! You’ll have a better chance at it if you’ve run a marathon in under 3 hours, but at least a sub-3:10 marathon will give you a good head start at getting a silver medal at Comrades.

The Bill Rowan Medal

This medal was introduced in 2000 and is named after the winner of the first Comrades Marathon in 1921. He won the marathon in a time of 8 hours and 59 minutes and to get the medal, you’ll need to do the same. A sub-9 hour Comrades marathon will require you to run 89.2km at a minimum of 6:03m/km for every kilometre. Go get that medal! If you can run a marathon comfortably in 4:03, you’ve got a chance of getting one of these cool medals. I said “comfortably”!

The Robert Mtshali Medal

Made of titanium, this medal can be worn by those who manage to get over the finish mat between 9 and 10 hours after the starters gun goes off.

This medal was named after Robert Mtshali who was the first unofficial Black runner in the 1935 Comrades Marathon, finishing his race in a time of 9 hours and 30 minutes. His efforts were not officially recorded as government and race rules of the time stipulated that, in order to compete in the Comrades Marathon, you had to be a white male.

That really talented runners can now participate in our country’s greatest race, is really encouraging. That every young person can dream of doing the Comrades Marathon and that the dream can become a reality fills me with love and pride. We owe Robert Mtshali a debt of gratitude for that.

To have the privilege of owning one of these medals, you’ll have to run the full route at an average of 6:09min/km. That’s a marathon time of 4 hours and 13 minutes to give you a chance at earning this medal.

The Bronze Medal

I know that all of this seems easier and easier as we go on, but the Comrades Marathon is very difficult. Very difficult. I fully expected to get a bronze medal on my last one because I had an amazing 4:11 marathon time. So a Bronze medal was well within the realms of possibility for me. I snuck over the mat panicked half to death in 11:50, only just earning my copper Vic Clapham medal.

I fully expected to be able to get in between 10 and 11 hours. All I had to do was run at an average pace of 7:23min/km the whole way. I didn’t come close on that day. The only time I ran anything like that was for the last 17 kilometres. The up run is particularly difficult.

So although I will now tell you that a marathon time of 4:20 should get you home in time to get this medal, I have personal evidence to suggest that even a 4:11 marathon won’t help you achieve this. Of course, I have that head injury thing going for me where my head just gets in the way of success. So if you don’t have a head injury, then 4:20 should be fine.

The Vic Clapham Medal

I am the proud owner of two of these little copper medals. To get these medals, all I had to do was finish the Comrades Marathon before the gun went off at 5.30pm, 12 hours after I had started running. It seemed easy when I started. Neither time was it easy. The first time (a down run) I had run a sub-4:40 marathon. The second time (an up run), I had run a sub-4:20 marathon. Both times, I crept in with less than 20 minutes to spare. The Vic Clapham medal was introduced in 2003 when the time limit for completion of this great race was extended from 11 hours to 12 hours.

Vic Clapham established the race to commemorate the South African soldiers killed during the World War I. Run for the first time on 24 May 1921, it has been run more than 90 times since then and is now run by over 20,000 people annually.

To stand a chance at getting one of these medals, the qualifying criteria of a sub-4:45 marathon will not be enough to get you over the line in time. You have to run the full 89.2km at an average pace of 8:04min/km for every single kilometre. Seems like a lot, but I am living proof that this is a mammoth task even with a good marathon. Hwever, if I can, then you can.

The Back-to-Back Medal

I also have one of these medals. It is awarded to novice runners who complete an up or down run in succession. This means that your first Comrades finish and the subsequent run in the opposite direction both completed in under 12 hours will qualify you for a back-to-back medal. This medal was only introduced in 2005, but if you completed a back-to-back before then, you can apply to buy your back-to-back medal.

The Comrades medal is a tiny medal. about as big as a R5 coin and twice as thick. It was quite a surprise to me when I received my first one. All that for this, I asked? It is evidence to prove that size doesn’t matter. Those 3 medals are my most prized medals. They represent an achievement in my life that will be very difficult to match.

I hope this gives you a better understanding of the Comrade Marathon medals.

Yours in the love of humble little medals.

SlowCoach

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Yoga Schmoga Part II

Yeah, anyway. I thought I’d give it a chance because, by now I’m a bit more grown up, I’ve run the Comrades Marathon which pretty much means I can do anything I set my mind to and my body is a bit stronger than the time that impossibly good looking woman was swanning between impossible poses on my new TV. My TV is older now and I’ve discovered Netflix. So I’m regaining my couchness again which is comforting. I’m still running, slowly, but I’m running small distances.

I’m sure you’re wondering how I ended up in a fucking flaming hot yoga studio. So am I. As I type this, I can’t really remember how EP talked me into joining yoga for a month. I think it had something to do with my paying for our RAC membership and so if she pays for a month of limitless. Limitless yoga, then we’d be square. That’s a whole year of limitless running versus a month of limitless yoga. Fuck it! I’m such a moron!

We signed up at a place called The Yoga Republic. An entire hippie place filled with very serious hippie yogaists. That’s not a word and I’m sure I’m coming back for another round of earth life for making that word up. Everyone is very serious about the yoga art/sport/practise/life. I think I just don’t belong there.

Anyway. EP signed us up for one month . There’s a calendar of all sorts of yoga classes. There’s Hot 26+, Air Yoga, Vinyasa Flow, Yoga Shred inspired class, Kundalini Yoga, Ashtanga, TRE and the non-descript list goes on. I, like you, still have no fucking idea what I’m signing up for when i read those words. There are two classes that have names which tell you what you’re going to get, and would you know it, those are the two classes I’m really enjoying. I can’t do half the shit in the class, but I’m enjoying them. The one class is called Restorative Yoga and works with your parasympathetic nervous system. Perfect for handkerchief on the sleeve, me! I cried in the first class which is apparently quite normal. The second time, I had my shit together and I was able to do some of the poses. Long, slow and deep / Yin yoga was not as erotic as it sounds, but it was good for my stressed runners body. I got a laugh out of the instructor for this one when she described some ridiculous pose, akin to checking for a tennis ball that’s rolled under the bed, but without putting your hands on the ground. I was struggling to get into the pose and she walked over, and nodded knowingly. “Yes, do you have a shoulder injury?” Clearly having seen this problem before on someone. “Not yet,” I confirmed. At least I got a laugh out of someone yogaey. EP sniggered next to me.

Many of the classes are done in a hot studio. Apparently, the studio hasn’t been hot enough for the past few weeks as there is something wrong with the heating mechanism. I won’t be going back if they fix the heating because I’ve run a marathon in the desert in summer and I’ve never been as hot as I was in that fucking studio today. Some moron yogaists complained that it was cold. Chops! EP and I were faint and nauseous from the heat. EP looked at me at one stage today and said, “Should we just go?” I stayed, mainly to see how much I could take, and of course because I’ve run the Comrades Marathon so I could do this. Although, I must admit that today, I probably only did 10 percent of the poses. At one point i looked at a guy in the class and wondered where the fuck he’d put his head in one particular pose. At another time, I looked up from the pose I had only barely managed to get into and everyone had turned into magical tea sets hanging in the air. I wondered how they had morphed into levitating teasets while I looked like Mildred the Hippo, sitting with my knee hanging over my shoulder by my ear. I mean, I managed to get my knee hanging over my shoulder by my ear and that wasn’t good enough? I was supposed to “flow” from that into levitating tea set, instead of grunting and plomping onto my side, unable to “flow” my shoulder out from under my arm. I shall not go back for Hot Flow Yoga!

I’ll tell you what I’ve got out of yoga. I am more relaxed. Seriously, either work has lightened up significantly, or I’m just feeling more relaxed. I’m learning how to breathe. My lung capacity is getting larger and I’m breathing better. I’ve only done 4 classes, but I’m feeling lighter and calmer. It’s a good feeling. I dread the classes because the stretching is just horrendous and of course the humiliation factor is still dialled all the way to the right. But I’m feeling better for the yoga. I still prefer running and I still prefer the couch over all this silliness, but I’ll keep at it for the remainder of the month because hey, I ran the Comrades Marathon. I can do this!

Namaste

LongSlowDeepCoach

Yellow Enamel Paint

“Time trial league starts on Tuesday and we haven’t marked the route yet!” I lamented to Francis. We must have been in the Wimpy where bad things happen last year sometime when we decided that we need to re-mark all the RAC time trial and, mind you, club run routes. “We” were Francis, Michelle, EP and myself. “We” are morons!

“Saturday afternoon sounds good to me. Will you be up to it after a marathon?” I asked Francis (guess whose the biggest moron of “We”!), knowing that this weekend would be our last opportunity to mark the route and knowing that EP and I had planned a very relaxing, do nothing Sunday. Francis liaised with the Chairman of RAC, Dick, and I agreed to fetch the paint from him on Saturday morning while Francis was running her marathon in Sasolburg. (Read about my own Sasolburg marathon a few years ago here). Time trail league is a series of 5km time trials around Joburg. Something else Francis and Staci started which is going to attract thousands of runners like their Freedom Runs for Freedom Day. The time trials in Time Trial League (TTL) get rated, formally or informally, by those that run it, on various criteria. The one criterion that RAC does not do well at is the markings on the route. The patriotic RAC member in me could not allow us to be marked down on something I could clearly do something about, so I was adamant that this route would be marked, perfectly, before TTL started this year. Which is how EP and I found ourselves at Dick’s house on Saturday, fetching paint. Dick and I had both forgotten about Francis’ arrangement and so it was late in the day when I arrived. Dick pottered around his very well-stocked garage looking for paint and brushes and solvents we could use for the job. In hindsight, the most valuable thing he could have given us was a bloody box to put all that shit in!

Into the back of EP’s work bakkie (truck) went:

1 x 5 litre unopened yellow enamel paint

1 x 1 litre previously opened yellow enamel paint

1 x 1 litre previously opened black paint

2 x small unused paint brushes

1 x large paint brush for what I initially thought Dick said was to cover up my boobies. Turns out the big brush was to cover up my painting booboos. I blushed momentarily until I realised that it was just my middle-aged deafness which had misinterpreted Dick’s well-meaning comment.

1 x leftover of mineral turpentine in a 750ml bottle

1 x 5 litre bottle of mineral turpentine

No box

EP and I then headed home to drop off dogs that we had with us and then back to the club to start painting the road. Francis met us there and we headed out onto the road in the bakkie to start painting. The first task was to stir up the ancient little tin of yellow enamel paint. That took me half an hour. That stuff would just not mix up. EP tried to make me give up several times, but I’m an asshole and I did it right. With the yellow enamel paint all smooth and perfect, we began. Oh, did I mention that this yellow enamel paint was labelled high sheen, road, enamel paint. Yes. Well that’s what we had.

We started off well, argued a few times about shape, size, location, placement, direction, angle and meaning of arrows and got to the 3.5km mark after 3 fucking hours and darkness descending on us. My 3 hours of squats had my knees shrieking in agony and my almost lying on my side to paint the last mark. EP, as always, was getting hangry and Francis had run a full standard marathon in the morning, so we thought it best to call it a day. We agreed that EP would take the paint in her WORK bakkie and, after club run on Sunday morning, we’d quickly finish up. We were all exhausted. When we got to EP’s house, we decided to just leave the paint stuff in the back of the bakkie and we’d use it in the morning. I would meet EP at the club at 7am for a quick run and then we’d do the remaining markings. Exhausted, I went home, fed my dogs and climbed into bed, knowing I had done a good deed for the club I’m so passionate about and I’d have a nice run in the morning.

On Sunday, i got up, looking forward to a run, a quick act of service and a relaxing Sunday with my EP. At RAC, I met some friends who I said we could join at the start of our run. EP arrived in the bakkie and then seemed to be taking forever to get to me. EP is known to dilly dally a bit. So I wandered over to the bakkie and a thunder cloud was hanging over EP’s face. “Hello love,” I smiled tentatively. “The paint has spilled in the back of the bakkie.” I looked at what EP was pointing at. The thunder cloud grew in size and positioned itself over my head. The two of us stood staring at the 5 litre (now open) tin of yellow paint lying on its side at the far end of the bakkie and the wave of yellow enamel paint spread across the rubberized coating and the rubber mat on top, unable to do anything intelligent. “You get the paint, I’ll go find us a box,” said one of us eventually. The next bit is a blur. I know we went and scouted the surrounds of the club for boxes and newspapers and the like. I know we moved the bakkie onto grass and I know we channelled a lot of the paint into a box and put it back into the tin. We were exhausted. We also knew this was not our car and so something had to be done and quickly.

First thing we did was to go buy coffee because neither of us could face this task without coffee. We almost cried when someone commented on our yellow hands in the coffee shop. We decided we’d go buy a broom, a lot of turpentine and some cloths. All of that cost us R700, which was nothing compared to the investment of time we were about to make. I went back to my house with everything and EP was going to meet me there after opening the house for the dogs. EP had one procrastinaty, petulant moment which I nipped in the bud with a “You can’t go see the puppy because this thing needs to be cleaned off before it all dries.” I could hear EP sigh angrily. We were both moving underneath the thunder cloud still, but I was into action. EP was still in avoidance.

“I have a plan!” I announced triumphantly to EP when the bakkie pulled into my driveway. Really, I had a semblance of a plan which seemed like it would work perfectly and we’d be out of there within an hour with a sparkling clean bakkie. But i had to sound positive and enthusiastic to the now totally deflated EP. The plan was thus:

Park the bakkie on an incline (I have that in my garden, luckily) Take the newly purchased broom. Pour turpentine at the top of the mess and let it run down towards the broom and then sweep the turpentine up against the stream until all the paint had dissolved in the turpentine. Sweep out the stream onto the grass. Then take all the cloths we bought and lay them over the remainder of the mess and soak them in turpentine. Let them soak over the paint and then magically wipe up the dissolved paint! E voila! Have you ever seen this meme?

That’s kind of how the plan went. As we started pouring the turpentine and brushing it, so the yellow started to spread like uncontrollable mercury, until eventually, the entire back of the bakkie was yellow. And we were yellow. Everything was full of this fucking yellow enamel paint. We took the cloths and started cleaning the mess. I felt hopeful. I knew that the size of the mess seemed to have increased, but i knew we were making progress. I’m not entirely sure how I knew that. The evidence before us would have indicated something else. But I’m an eternal optimist and I knew we were doing the right things, so only good things could happen. EP was less optimistic and the temperature in the back of the bakkie was both sweltering and icy. What an absolutely unpleasant experience this was. In hindsight, we should have taken photos, but i think we were both too angry to imagine we would ever see a funny side to this debacle. At one point we were all yellow enamel painted out and EP announced that a break would be taken. All we did in the break was move our cleaning effort into the house to try and clean our respective running watches which were by now well yellowed. A few deep breaths and a commitment to action and we were out at the bakkie again, cleaning with a renewed desire to end this misery. Both of us silently contemplated all the individual choices which had brought us to this point in our lives and how we could have prevented being here. I joked, when we were close to being finished, that I was losing my will to live. Just like our running, I was nearing the end and ready to give up, EP was nearing the end and had found a new enthusiasm to finish! That’s pretty funny actually. Running and our baggage in running is really just a reflection of who we are in the real world.

We cleaned the rest off with a high pressure washer and went over it all once more with some turpentine, cleaning out the tiny holes and crevices which are created by a rubberized surface. The high pressure spray had started to peel off the numbers from the number plate so we stopped that immediately. All in all, the cleaning took us 5 fucking hours. We finished at about 2pm, exhausted, dirty, smelly, sticky, yellow and furious at the wasted day of rest. I was happy, though. EP and I had really tested the maturity of our relationship. We hadn’t had a single angry or blaming or criticizing word, which is not like either of us. We had weathered this storm together with love and determination and a shared responsibility for the cause and for the resolution of the problem. We still hadn’t finished marking the route, but that was not going to happen on that day. Francis, who had not been party to this disaster, was still keen to finish. When I told her what had happened, she laughed, skipping through all the misery, to the part where we all find this very funny. She realised, however, that yellow paint was not going to be part of the rest of the day, except for our scrubbing and turpentining ourselves to flakiness. We looked liverish. There are little dust spots of yellow all over the place today.

By the start of TTL tomorrow, the route will be marked perfectly, trust me. Just don’t run on the actual arrows because you might slip on the wet paint!

You know how I always try to be philosophical about stuff. But I don’t really have much to learn from this experience. I suppose we learned a few things.

  1. EP is a scientist. For scientists, especially microbiologists, most problems can be solved with bleach. It was a really new experience for EP dealing with enamel paint. Lol.
  2. I was amazed at the sheer volume of mess that can be created with just a litre or two of paint.
  3. Enamel paint is fucking horrible stuff.
  4. Yellow is a fucking horrible colour.
  5. Rubberising the back of a bakkie could be a stupid decision, depending on your luck.
  6. Always use a box.

At the moment, in the back of my sedan is a box with:

1 x almost finished 1 litre of high sheen, yellow enamel road paint

1 x half full 5 litre of high sheen yellow enamel road paint

1 x 1 litre previously opened black paint

2 x well used small paint brushes

1 x big boobie brush

2 x 5 litre bottles mineral turpentine (I was surprised by how far the turpentine went)

10 newspapers

A lot of yellow stuff.

I’ll love seeing you at the first TTL fixture at RAC at 5.45 tomorrow and, if you come see me afterwards, I’ll show you my yellow fingernails. Let us know what you think of the road markings.

Yours in the spirit of turpentine fumes.

SlowCoach

Running Taught Me To Make Gin

Hot on the heels of one of the biggest disappointment in my life, (it seems so dramatic when I say it like that, but I’ll explain), I ran the Bugs Bunny trail run, hosted by My Road Less Traveled, yesterday. It was such a hard route. 3.5km of sheer climbing over technical slippery rocks and gravel. Of course, that’s just up my street because I’m so dumb! The harder the better. It’s just more fun for me when it’s impossibly hard. I wonder why that is. I guess life has been quite good for me. I’ve had a good life. Things have come easily to me and so I choose difficult things because then I feel like I’ve earned them or I get a real sense of accomplishment from the overcoming. I choose jobs that I have no idea about and stretch my mind and my abilities sometimes way beyond what I’m capable of, but I learn and I grow and it makes things exciting.

Hence my new hobby, making gin. I’m not really a drinker and I don’t really like gin. So who better to start up a gin making business than me? I really don’t do easy stuff! I started making rudimentary gin earlier this year with a bottle of vodka and a few herbs and flowers and spices. Nice. I love the creative process. I love the scientific process. And it turns out I have a bit of a hand for this. Everyone has been liking my gin. So EP and I discussed a few times and we figured that we would start a gin-making business. We discussed the market that we’d like to capture and we got the ball rolling. This is what running has taught me about making gin:

  1. In order to make gin, you need vodka. I’m not going to explain the whole process, but I decided to make my own vodka. I bought a still which is a machine which separates ethanol from water in a fermentation. Vodka is ethanol. Yes. Vodka is ethanol. Watered down ethanol. To make ethanol, you need fermented sugar water. No. Sorry to burst your bubble, but most vodka is not made of potatoes because the amount of fermentable sugar you get from potatoes is just not worth the effort. To make sugar water, you need water and sugar and a bucket and a spoon and you need to have run the Comrades Marathon. I know that might seem strange, but while I stood over the 20 litres of water with a six kilogram lump of sugar at the bottom, stirring continuously, it helped to be able to tell myself that I had run the Comrades Marathon and so I could finish this. 3 hours. I stirred that fucking bucket of sugar water for 3 hours. And if I had not been able to tell myself at least 8 times that I had finished the Comrades Marathon, I would not have been able to dissolve all that sugar.
  2. Once your sugar water is prepared, you add yeast and some other stuff to start the fermentation. The YouTube video said 20 degrees. The instructions on the packet said 28 degrees. I’ve made bread and I would argue it should be 34 degrees. I trusted the video because at the end of the video, the guy ended up with a lot of vodka which is where I wanted to be. The yeast I used is called Turbo Yeast and promised a 7-10 day turnaround. We were in the middle of a heatwave so I took the fermentation out of what had become the distillery and put it in a cupboard. Checked the temperature, 22 degrees. Perfect. And then I waited. 7 days. The fermentation was going bloop bloop bloop in the cupboard. Evidence that the fermentation was not complete and the yeast was still turning the sugar into alcohol. 10 days. Bloop bloop bloop. 12 days. Bloop bloop bloop. I’m not a patient person. But running has taught me to be patient. It took me two years to run the Comrades Marathon after I had fully anticipated I would run that race 8 months after I told Daniel I’d run it with him. Actually, that’s still so funny, knowing what I know. So two years to be ready to run Comrades had prepared me to engage with this bloop bloop with love and patience. At day 13, I went on a distilling course. And I found out things that I wish I didn’t know. I almost gave up. There are so many legal hoops to jump through, just to get a shot of vodka into your kitchen and that’s without making gin and without selling the stuff. I also found out that my yeast had been struggling along at 22 degrees when I should have been taking full advantage of the heatwave! I move the fermentation into the kitchen where there is adjustable underfloor heating and dialed the heating up to 30 degrees. I also realised that my fermentation had probably run out of oxygen so I whipped some air into the fermentation and continued the bloop bloop process. 15 days. Bloop bloop bloop. I’ve got this dog. He’s curious and clumsy. He investigated the bloop bloop and knocked the air lock out of the bucket. I could have killed him, but I fixed it and continued the bloop bloop process. 18 days. The bloop bloop appeared to have finished blooping. Finally! The fermentation was complete. Allegedly.
  3. We opened a company called CocoJade Distilleries and we opened a business bank account. All that stuff moved forward. Nothing moved as quickly as I had wanted. Exactly like my legs. Like EXACTLY like my legs. After the fermentation was over, I had to clarify the “wash”. It’s called a wash once the fermentation is complete. Then I had to degas it. It’s full of carbon dioxide after fermentation so you have to get rid of all of that gas. Picture a big 21 litre bucket of Coca-Cola needing to go flat. You can either stir until you need to remind yourself of your Comrades marathon or you can pour that bucket into another bucket, let it settle, pour the bucket back into the first bucket and let it settle and then do that over and over until the wash is flat. Less requirement for a Comrades reminder, but my back…..20 litre buckets full of fermented sugar are heavy, yo! I filtered it a few more times to get a very clear liquid to put into the still. Then on Saturday, I sat the entire afternoon distilling the wash into acetone, methanol and ethanol, leaving the water behind. It’s a process, I tell you. You have to watch it all the time and adjust your cold water flow to keep the condenser at the right temperature. And you need to be patient. Yesterday, I wanted to give up on the first hill at Bugs Bunny. What was I running this for? It was hot. I hadn’t trained. My back was sore. This was only going to carry on being hard. Just. Give. Up! Making vodka is hard. It takes so long. It takes so much time and sugar and water with no real guarantees. Just to make vodka requires a million forms. If I want to sell vodka, I need to navigate a thousand very expensive legal processes and get all sorts of permits. I won’t be able to do it from home because you can’t make gin in a residential area and our business model doesn’t really warrant a huge property and and and. Sometimes I just want to give up.

As it so happens, yesterday I didn’t give up. I didn’t die. I didn’t come last and I really enjoyed my run. My legs are a bit hungover today which is to be expected because I hadn’t really trained properly and I hadn’t been doing the necessary gym work. And that’s how running has taught me to make gin. Saturday’s distillation produced vodka that was less then perfect. I’m so hard on myself that I fully expected that it would come out perfectly. I was so disappointed. How could my vodka not be perfect? But if I’m honest with myself, I didn’t do everything perfectly in preparing the wash. Maybe all the sugar wasn’t dissolved when I put in the yeast. I should have fermented at 30 degrees for the whole time. I should have stirred it up properly in the beginning, feeding the yeast with oxygen. I should have kept the dog away from the bloop bloop. I should have checked if the fermentation was really over before clarifying. Ag! It got what I deserved. It wasn’t perfect vodka, but it was good enough for a first attempt. I didn’t win yesterday, but it was good enough. I never win, but I suppose it’s always good enough. Running and making gin are teaching me that sometimes you just have to do things that you love with love and the rest will follow. Keep going forward with commitment and focus and eventually, you’ll get over the big mountains and you’ll enjoy some of it and you’ll come to a point near the end where you see an impala leaping gracefully past you and you’ll remind yourself why you didn’t give up and you’ll be grateful that you didn’t give up.

Wish me luck with the gin. I have also decided that I will help someone else create a vodka making business and they can supply me with the vodka I need to make gin because making vodka sucks. I’m going to try one more batch of vodka and then I’ll hand that over to someone else who wants to make perfect vodka. I want to make gin and that’s what I need to focus on. Today I start the second part of the legal hurdles that I will have to navigate. It’s actually like Inchanga where you’re half way up and you can see the rest of it winding up and up and up in front of you. I seriously feel like giving up on this one, but I won’t. At least if I start, I can evaluate the merits of going forward.

I’ll be sure to take you on my gin journey. I might even get to like gin, kind of like I eventually got to love running!

Yours in the love of running and gin, I think.

SlowCoach

A Box Full of Knives

I got what I deserved this weekend. 4.16 is my personal best time for a marathon. I like to think that’s a pretty decent time for a marathon. Of course, when you’re friends with women who run marathons in 2.47 or thereabouts, you just always feel like a loser! “You’re not supposed to be comparing yourself to Comrades gold medallists,” snapped EP. Anyway, personal best 4.16. So when I crossed over the finish line at Kaapsehoop Marathon on Saturday in 4.58, one would think I’d be a bit disappointed. But I did a little air punch, smiled, bowed my head in gratitude and, of course, started crying.

When EP entered me into the Kaapsehoop Marathon on 3 June this year, we knew I needed a totally unachievable goal to get me off my couch and back out onto the road to recovery. The majority of my injury was over. I was still experiencing pain going up and down stairs, but I could run when the moment inspired me. I had put on almost 10kgs and I was breathlessly unfit. Getting onto the road was demoralizing and frustrating. But now I had something ridiculous that I had to train for and it had an end date to it. Amazing how student syndrome can be inspiring. How was I going to go from barely managing a 35 minute 5km time trail to a marathon in just 5 months? You just have to start somewhere. So I started. In a poetic twist, I started the day before Comrades in Durban. I was going to run Umhlanga Parkrun and maybe a little short warm up beforehand. I told EP and Lehlohonolo I’d do the warm up with them on their easy run. I won’t do that again. The little warm up was over 9km, run at pancreatic-failure speed. I wanted my 300 Parkrun points so I went from 5km time trial to PB 15km as a start to my marathon training. I really do try to be normal most of the time. It doesn’t come easily to me.

I had started my road to Kaapsehoop and it wasn’t as bad as one might have imagined. My broken knee and foot were a little sore after that run, but I rested it until I got back from helping at Comrades and started again….A little more circumspect this time. For the most part, I did my running return on my own except for a few lovely runs hanging on by my fingernails to EP and meeting some beautiful, almost long lost friends along the way. It was good to come back, slowly but surely.

EP fell early in August and tore ankle ligaments which had me having to get myself out of my bed and onto the road while EP snoozed away. It was tough on some of the colder days, but as Kaapsehoop’s date drew nearer, it became easier to haul my ass around the various neighbourhoods on runs.

Illuminati Michelle has turned coach and set up coaching sessions at RAC on Mondays and Randburg Harriers on Wednesdays. (You can join us on either evening from 5.30pm) I joined her for track when my foot was ready and started slowly. Work was crazy, so I only really got to track once every second week and both weekend long runs. I was getting stronger from the focussed programme my new bio had given me and things were looking positive for Kaapsehoop. I foam rolled. Every. Single. Day. I became very disciplined and focussed as October rolled around and I started planning for my date with my nemesis.

On the day, I was really terrified. I felt under-prepared. I had a plan which would see me finish in just under 5 hours, but really I would have been happy to get to the stadium in under 5.30 or even just get to the stadium. But I knew the treachery that was about to unfold on my still fragile legs. As I emerged from the forest near Kaapsehoop, just 9km into the marathon, I had my first cry and it was a cry of fear. I saw the downhill roll itself out like a red carpet in front of me and I couldn’t imagine how I was going to manage this. And then this calm enveloped me. A little voice said, you have nothing to prove. You have nothing to qualify for. You have nothing but yourself and your best and that’s what you will be today. You won’t be this race’s best. You won’t be your friends circle’s best. You won’t be any best except your best and you won’t even be your best ever best. You will be your best today. And that’s exactly what I did. I ran the race I planned. I forgave myself when I was behind and high fived myself when I was ahead. I was being the best me I could be on that day and I had a really wonderful run.

You know, running is like a gift of a box of knives. It’s a gift, but it has really sharp and painful edges to it. It teaches lessons that are usually quite unwelcome when the teacher arrives, but the lessons are gifts in every sense of the word. I received a huge gift from my favourite little knife this week. Thank you Kaapsehoop for the sharp stabbing pains in my calf today, but thank you for reminding me how to be my best, not by forcing myself forward, but rather just by being myself.

I ran most of the race in my own little bubble. I ran a few kilometres chatting to a lady who runs marathons for fun and I spent a poignant few minutes with Ingrid who I know is an amazing trail runner and was struggling at the end of her first road marathon. I was so inspired by her finish on Saturday. Truly inspired. I was also inspired by my own race. I managed a sub-5, just as I had planned….to the minute! I am less broken now than in previous post Kaapsemoer years.

Buddha says that when the student is ready, the master teacher will arrive. We sometimes like that master teacher. We more often dislike that teacher intensely. I now know why I’ve kept going back to my little box of knives in Nelspruit. Make no mistake, this marathon is almost beyond compare in it’s beauty. It is also almost beyond compare in it’s physical brutality and it’s mental torture in the last 8km. I have loved and hated this marathon and now I know why. I am the student and I was not ready.

Thank You for my box of knives. Thank you, Kaapsehoop Marathon, my favourite knife in the box.

Yours in the love of the gift that is running

SlowCoach

P.S. On our annual detour home from Kaapsehoop this year we met this amazing family who I know are just another little gift I get from running. Nice to meet you, Buxy and Mohammed!

Wil Net Nie Ophou Nie

Warning! This blog post goes on and on and on.

South Africa has some of the most beautiful landscapes. I especially love this time of year when the winter fires have cleansed the world of all the rage and ravages of winter and the first hints of green are starting to show through the parched grey and yellow of winter. And so the joy in my heart as I drove along staring out the window, sometimes as a passenger and sometimes as the driver, was overflowing on Friday at the start of our journey to something I had heard loosely referred to as Lormar. Because the journey to Lormar in the middle of the Karoo desert was a long one, EP, Illuminati Michelle and I had agreed to split the journey into two legs with a Friday evening stop-over in Bloemfontein (which means flower fountain). The Free State, of which Bloemfontein, or rather Mangaung, is the capital, is not known for its beauty, but I just adore the early September Free State. The solitudinal square houses on massive expanses of yellow, grey, blue and green plains are comforting and at times breathtaking. Truly beautiful! And the plains just seem to go on and on for days. We ran the Naval Hill Parkrun in Bloemfontein on Saturday morning together with Francis and Kerry, who, at this stage of the weekend, had on all her clothes. What happens in the desert, stays in the desert!

Naval Hill Parkrun

Naval Hill Parkrun (8km into the day for IM and me)

If you ever choose this lovely parkrun, do not park at the bottom of the hill and walk up, unless you need an 11km training run instead of just a 5km parkrun. Trust me on this! Illuminati Michelle and I did an 11km training walk/run on Saturday. That hill to Naval Hill seemed to go on and on around one corner after another…..both ways!  Even though I knew what to expect, coming down was no different!  After the Parkrun (and the extra 3km up and 3km down the hill), we rushed back to the gorgeous B&B we had stayed in – Touching Senses Garden Cottages – showered and started our journey to the middle of the Karoo desert.

I’m not entirely sure where the landscape changes from Free State fields for days to semi-desert scrub, but the landscape changes subtly as you drive along, and soon, the Free State fields are replaced by days and days of sand and rock and xerophytic, scrubby vegetation. Of course, as with most trail runs, there is the obligatory drive along kilometres and kilometres of gravel farm road which never seem to come to an end. But they do eventually and then you find yourself in a new little world, away from cars and the stress of living in the city. Away from the noise of the neighbours….well for some of us, that is! Away from “the real world”. I looked at the people who are lucky enough to call this little world their “real world” and I thought how fortunate they are to be able to do that. I don’t know if you’ve been feeling it too, lately, but the world seems to have gone mad. It’s almost like we have replaced the blood in our veins with venom. We are on constant high alert and we’re suspicious of everyone. It’s just not natural. For the past year or so it has felt like we’ve been spinning into the centre of our own self-made vortex and something cataclysmic is going to happen which will spit out the small pieces of those of us still living. And so this little Fairview Farm in the middle of the Karoo which seems to go on and on and on and on brought a moment of peace and escape from “the real world”.

The Karoo desert, a semi-desert, is a place of extremes. Searing hot temperatures in the day and freezing cold, fire-worthy nights. Howling winds in some places and peaceful silence in others. Lormar stud farm located on Fairview Farm, owned and run for four generations by the van der Merwe family, is home to sheep, cattle, turkeys, chickens and horses. The farm is bordered on the south by the Sneeuberg mountains. That name was all I needed to hear to know that, even though those people were lucky to live there, I would never be living in something named after snow! The farm is home to a herd of Arabian horses and world-renowned Arabian endurance horses have been bred there. Portraits of some of the family’s favourite horses peppered the dining hall, along with a large happy portrait of one of the patriarchs of the family, the most recent of whom died sadly last year just after the 2017 Lormar event. The pain of the family’s loss was still evident and regular reference was made to Piet van der Merwe’s passing last year throughout our weekend of events.

You know, I’m night blind. Not night blind enough to not be able to drive at night, but I can’t see at night. I never enter night races because it’s not really fun running when I can’t see. I’ve also had very little luck with head lamps and I find I am constantly having to buy batteries which are just terrible for the environment. Through some strange events, I was entered into Lormar Endurance trail run which is made up of two stages: 1 x 8km Night trail run on the Saturday night and 1 x 24km trail run on the Sunday….in the desert….in the day…..in Spring. Let me try and remember who it was that entered me into such a stupid endeavor. *thinking* I started to panic because a night trail run. What the hell? The events company sent us a mail a short while ago, advertising stadium quality headlamps with rechargeable battery packs, at a discount just for race-goers. So I bought one and started training with it. Extreme Lights were not joking when they invented this thing. I’m sure there should be laws about running with it because it could blind a truck driver 20 kilometres away! I was pleased. The first hurdle navigated, I started to worry about the distance and the pack. I hadn’t been training with a hydration pack, I’d only recently started training at all and now I was going to run 24kms on trail in the desert in Spring. *thinking* And then my vortex got in the way. Several things on top of one another had me either out of time or just out of energy to train for such a big distance, so I squeezed in two 15km road training runs, run with my hydration pack, the weekend before Lormar! I have trained less for more, so I felt ready. It is quite laughable how little I had trained for this race, but I had already resigned myself to just going for the experience and to enjoy the peacefulness of the Karoo and to walk a long hike if necessary.  What I have been very good about, however, is going to the biokineticist once a week, doing the programme he gave me once or twice a week at the gym and rolling and stretching every single day. I can almost sit upright now with my legs in front of me. Don’t laugh! It’s a thing. I explained it in “Yoga Schmoga”.  So although I’m not fit and I’m not fast, I am quite strong now and I’m able to use muscles which had theretofore been unutilized for anything I had ever done. And I was largely pain free. You don’t know how much that means to me to be running largely pain free. It’s been a tough vortexy year to eighteen months, I tell you.

I knew nothing about anything about this weekend. EP had entered me *aha* when given someone else’s entry. EP had made all the accommodation bookings, EP had planned the trip. EP had done everything. All I did was pack a bag of running clothes and a warm top for the cool Karoo evenings as instructed by the event organisers. I forgot my gaiters, which is a very stupid thing to forget when you’re running a trail run in the sand and rock and xerophytic, scrubby vegetation of the Karoo. I also forgot that it’s only early Spring and the Karoo. Luckily, the goodie bag for the event contained a pair of calf length socks and EP had ordered a lovely pair of pink ankle-length socks with some of the money going to a worthy charity when I’d been entered. I was told to be at the start of the night run at 6.30….I think. I really just followed the herd, so to speak.

The night run was lovely, commencing with a running of the Arabian horses.

Lormar Endurance horses

The Arabian horses started us off for the evening run

I was one of the first to switch on my stadium headlamp, lighting the way for many of my fellow runners from early on.  My eyes were fixed on the light in front of me, hoping that I didn’t throw myself head first into the person in front of me because I didn’t see them. For the first bit, I ran with Francis and told her I would not be able to maintain the swift pace she had set. Soon after that we became separated and I wasn’t sure if she was in front or behind me. I’m not sure where we ran. I didn’t know where I was most of the time. What I do know after the Sunday run is that I am very grateful that we were running at night. If I had seen the last two kilometres of that route stretched out in front of me like it did on Sunday, I swear I would have given up. I ran a really good strong race on Saturday night and I finished happy that I had done my best and saved very little for the following day. I had no idea how I was going to manage 24km the next day. I had run a 5km Parkrun, walked 3kms to the Parkrun from the car, walked 1km and ran 2km from the Parkrun to the car and now I had run my level best 8km with no clue and no sense of self-preservation. That distance on that Saturday was further than I had run in one week for months, notwithstanding my two training runs the week before! And the next day I would do another 24km. Okay, so no gin and tonic for me then. I’d have to at least get some sleep in preparation for the day. Sleep would have been possible, had it not been -2° that night and of course I’d brought just a warm top for those “chilly Karoo evenings”. Listen Lormar! Next time, maybe a little warning that it gets freezing cold at night would be a kind gesture. Added to that, the rooster! There’s a rooster there that is still on British Summer Time and that fucking thing started crowing at 3am right outside our window. And it just went on and on and on and on. I resolved to, after the race, drive to the nearest town, buy some Nando’s sauce and cook him for supper! But I can’t hurt animals so…mxm! I thought someone else was bound to oblige because many people were cursing that rooster on Sunday.

At the start of Sunday's 24km run

At the start of Sunday’s 24km run

The start was cold on Sunday, but I get hot quickly so I was dressed in shorts and a little top with my hydration pack. The hydration pack was prepared for a reasonably warm 24km long run which should be about 3-4 hours considering I was planning on walking most of it, my being so very undertrained and all. Francis had lent me her gaiters from the previous night’s run so I was feeling a bit better about that. We went off and were soon heading up a very steep hill. I tried to run a lot of it, but I was tired. The year’s tiredness seemed to descend on me on that hill and I walked more than I had hoped. Then the hill got steeper and harder to climb and I found myself pushing my legs via my quads into the ground with my hands to get myself up the next layer of rock. It was starting to get very hot and I knew the first water point was only at 6kms, about 4kms from the current trudgery. Soon after we summited this hill (it wasn’t the top top of the hill, but it was a good look out point), several people stopped to take pictures of the view and I realized a very steep technical descent was upon us. I took the opportunity to get in front of as many people as possible because I love those bits and I knew many other people would be fraidy catting their way all the way down the hill. I passed many people. Many people. I was polite and asked them if I could pass on their right when they got a chance and most people let me pass. Some were stubborn, but eventually, they surrendered to their fear and let me pass when they got a chance! Then there was a technical undulating stretch in a gully at the back of the hill which was slightly technical but very runnable.  And then. Then the run opened out onto a large, flat, runnable plain. My enthusiasm waned and I began walking. The entire pack of people I had just passed on that hill came past me like a herd of antelope on the move. I felt like they ran right over me with little concern for the fact that I was alone on this desert plain with the sand and rock and xerophytic, scrubby vegetation of the Karoo. They disappeared. I walked. Trudged. I attempted to run, but it seemed like a crazy mammoth task, this running thing, so I walked some more. The windpomp (windmill) appeared and I knew that would be the first water point. I turned in there and some friends who had come along for the experience greeted me. I was still feeling good. I had a drink of the fresh windpomp water and headed off again. The split for the 12km race and the 24km race was at this water point. I know! There was a 12km race and no-one bothered to offer me that option!!! *thinking* Do you even love me at all?  All those antelope that had run over me on the ugly Karoo plain headed off to the 12km finish and I turned onto the 24km route. The rest of the day would be spent alone with occasional interventions from other lonely runners.

That Karoo desert certainly goes on. Schalk reminded me of that as he ran up to me on a very dreary piece of the desert which was now heading towards the searing side of things. He commented somewhat out of frustration and somewhat out of resignation as he passed my trudging self, that “Wil net nie ophou nie”. This is difficult to translate into English because the direct translation of “Just doesn’t want to stop”, doesn’t really capture the meaning of what he said to me that day. There are a lot of things in the Karoo that wil net nie ophou nie. Schalk and I went forward together for some time. Sometimes he was in front, sometimes I was in front. And then, on a slightly easy downhill, while heading towards a herd of cows and the second water point, the most magnificent sight engulfed us. Schalk called out and pointed to the right. There from out of the sunshine came a herd of between 10 and 20 Arabian horses. They were magnificent and they were free and running wild. They turned sharply at the cows and headed towards Schalk and myself. We stood there, awestruck. They sped past, their athleticism seething from every pore in their bodies. They looked free. They sounded free. They felt free. They were running not because they had entered and they should go forward because it was further to go backwards to the start. They were running because they were born to run and they were free to run. And they ran. And ran and ran and ran. Schalk looked up the hill at me and shouted, “All worth it!” It was. All the searing heat I had endured, the loneliness, the frustration. All that we had endured….and were to endure….was worth it for that moment in our lives. I cried. I was quite overwhelmed by their beauty and their freedom. I hate that we harness animals for work or worse, for sport. I hate seeing people ride horses. I hate watching horses jump over things with people on their backs. I hate that jockeys hit horses to make them run. I hate that we humans hammer shoes into horses’ feet “to protect them”.  I think it’s monstrous. I loved seeing those horses free. I realise that they’re probably not as free as the horses in Kaapsehoop that roam the environment free, because these are bred to be sold to other people that will force them to race for them. I get it, but on that day, in that moment, in that place, they were free and they were doing what free, wild horses will do. It was wonderful.

At the water point, Schalk and someone who I just refer to as Cape Town because I never got his name, marveled at our fortune in having seen that sight. Then we walked off together basking in our collective joy. At some point, I suggested that we were on a reasonably runnable section and we should run. It was strange. I think none of us really wanted to start running because it would mean heading off into the lonely desert alone again, whereas here, we had a couple of kindred spirits with whom to pass the kilometres. But we started running together. At some point I had looked up toward the mountain I had been warned of the day before. I saw a gorge that went up to the top of the mountain and surmised that we would not be able to go up that way because it seemed too steep and pathless. And then I tried to figure out where we would go up. We ran along and slowly turned back towards that too steep and pathless gorge. The hill to the gorge was rocky and steep. My back started to ache and I took my pack off. I started a run 200 paces, walk 100 paces strategy partly to forget about the pain and partly to ensure that I ran as much as I could. Schalk passed me as we headed into the gorge that was not fit for human consumption. I was walking with my pack in my hand, but as I arrived at the first climb into the gorge’s rocks, I realized that I’d be needing both my hands for this part of the “run”. Lol. Road runners would probably not understand the concept of requiring one’s hands for any particular part of a run! I’d be needing my back too, but I just had to put that pain in my pocket for some other time.

Wolweberg

First we climbed THAT!

For the next two and a half kilometres we would ascend 270m of altitude. It was frighteningly steep and difficult. I cried a few times. Whenever I cried, I would look up and Schalk was there with his hands on his knees, on the verge of tears himself. It’s a funny thing, really. There were times when I felt I would never be able to complete this climb. There were times when I felt it was too hard and I couldn’t do it. But looking back, it seems irrational to think like that because 1. There were no dead people lying around so other people had been able to do it and 2. The organisers wouldn’t want people to die, right? Right? But at that time, it just seemed so impossible and so impassable. So I cried. I also once cried out, “I can’t do this.” But then there was no easy way of getting down, so I just carried on. It made me laugh at myself and my petulant whine. I saw Schalk posing for a picture with his hands on his knees (I don’t think he was posing so much as just near dead) I cannot wait to see that picture because I am in the background with my pack in my hand, scowling at the mountain! I had taken my pack off again at some point because my back was screaming, “I can’t do this,” louder than me. Once at the top, I attempted a pose for the camera and then assumed Schalk’s hands on knees pose because it was the only plausible way to be upright at that point. Then I shared a laugh and a nice smile with the photographer and I went and got some juice from the water point. There was an array of treats at the water point, but I didn’t want anything. I had enjoyed a Pace & Power Soutie biscuit and a Pace & Power Jooblet (I love those things) half way up the gorge to make myself feel better so I didn’t really feel like eating anything else.

The Gorge

Then we climbed THAT!

We had been told at race briefing that after that hill, it was downhill all the way with a steep technical section just over the top of the mountain. It was. There were a few kilometres of switchbacks and I was reminded of my bucket list wish to run up Alpe d’Huez. This was not road like Alpe d’Huez, however. This was loose steep, sharp uneven gravel and rock. It was incredibly technical and I only figured out how to really run it half way down. You have to totally engage your core to run it and once I harnessed what Oarabile, the biokineticist, had been trying to get me to do the past few months, I ran the last bit quite easily. By now, it was 11am and the sun was baking me and the surrounding Karoo. I was almost out of water and EnduraPower juice. I had been smart by not filling my pack to capacity because I knew my back would not be happy. But now, with the sun baking down and my not really knowing how much further or longer I would be out in the desert, I started to sip sparingly. I started to get a pain in my rib cage which appeared when I ran and then, if I held my chest tight with my hands and deep breathed while walking, it seemed to ease it. I got to the bottom of Alpe d’Huez with still 6 or 7km to go. It just seemed to go on forever. My back pain had been replaced by rib pain.

The view from the top of the gorge

The top of the gorge

My legs were tired. I had promised myself several times that I would just walk the rest of the way, but there’s this idiot inside me that will run. So I switched to my 200 run 100 walk strategy again and that worked well. While I would walk, I would hold my rib cage together. As I neared the road that I had run on the previous night with just over 2km to go, there sat Wilson in the Karoo heat, directing us to the finish. I asked him if he spoke English or Afrikaans. He told me Afrikaans. I asked him, “Wilson, kan ek ‘n drukkie kry asseblief?”. He was quite taken aback by this very strange, old, bedraggled lady asking for a hug, but his face broke into a gorgeous smile, he jumped up, opened up his arms and gave me a wonderful hug. And with my love tank all filled up, he waved me on to the finish, promising it was only about 2 or 3 kilometres to the end. It was. But oh my word, that long, boring, dreary desert road almost crushed my spirit.

IMG-20180923-WA0024[1]

Strong run at the end of that infernal long desert road

Until I realized. I realized that I was still strong. Of course, I had just done something quite hectic, so I was a bit sore and a bit depleted. But there I was. Not dead. Not last. Not crying all that much. Not kicking stones. How amazing! I was strong. I was not doing my usual Quasimodo impression. I was following my walk run strategy without wailing when I had to run. How far I’d come from not being able to walk up and down stairs just a few months ago. I can be really proud of the consistency I’ve had in my strength training and rolling and stretching. I am. Of course, I could probably be even prouder if I had done some actual running training for this, but I’ve picked the high value exercise and done what I could to get and keep strong. Sometimes it’s just about doing as much as you can with the time and money that you have available and forgiving yourself for everything else. I finished that race still strong. I could have managed another 5km if you’d told me to, and I was pleased with that. I had seen some really beautiful things that day and I’d overcome some interesting challenges. Sometimes the spirit wil net nie ophou nie.

I had finished the challenge well, not realizing that my biggest challenge was still coming.

We ate lunch, drank a few Hope Gin and tonics (I can really recommend the Salt River gin from Hope), had a nap and then we were herded onto tractors for a sundowner in a secret location. The tractor ride there was exciting and dangerous and I sometimes found myself hanging onto the tractor with my butt muscles! The band, Bad Peter, were excellent and loads of fun. The lead singer had impossibly white teeth. The whole thing was just so lovely.

When it was time to go back on the tractors, EP, Illuminati Michelle and I got onto a different tractor that only really had standing room left. I didn’t think I had the muscle tone left to ride the moving tractor over this bumpy terrain like a surfer! EP, Illuminati Michelle and I looked at each other, very concerned about the imminent falls we were about to have. EP has torn foot ligaments, so standing was just not an option. EP sat down on the floor of the tractor. My knees were just not going to do that. Lol. Falling flat on my face was a more attractive prospect than bending down to sit on the floor of the tractor trailer. Hahahaha! Bernard and Judy offered Michelle and I their knees for us to sit. Illuminati Michelle and I sat gingerly on their knees in a semi squat because we were too nervous to put our entire weight on their legs. And so began the great squat challenge at Lormar! That tractor ride went on and on and on and on. Then, just when you thought it would come to an end, we went over a crazy bump in the road, Bernard and Judy called out in pain as their backs slammed against the tractor side. Illuminati Michelle and I felt bad so we upped the ante on our squat game and hovered slightly more gingerly over their knees. When the tractor finally came to a standstill, we stood up and thanked Bernard and Judy, but both of our legs were shaking. Bernard and Judy must think we weigh next to nothing. The two of us, in an attempt to not offend or hurt other people, had squatted for in excess of 20 minutes! Oarabile would be so proud, but I’ll never tell him, because his squat torture would just be dialed up after that! Thank you for your knees, Bernard and Judy! The only pain I have today is quad pain!

Lormar Tractor 1

The tractor ride there. Hanging on with my butt.

And that was it. A good old-fashioned farm supper, followed by a good night’s sleep, interrupted only by the British Summer Time rooster at 2.55am, and we started our journey all the way back to Joburg. It didn’t go on and on and on as I had anticipated and we had enough snacks to keep even EP entertained.

The human body is an amazing machine. Here I am, heading towards 50 years old, a grandmother to one and two halves (they’re coming in November and December) and I am still able to do almost unachievable things with my body. I am stronger and my body is more resilient than ever before and I’m getting stronger every week. Simply amazing! The human body is nature’s finest creation. Thank you God for this gift of a healthy, strong body. I can’t wait to do more amazing things with it. Kaapsehoop is coming!

Thank you to all the lovely friends with whom I shared this little weekend. Well done to Illuminati Michelle for winning the shorter version of the challenge on her first trail run without proper trail running equipment! She really is something quite spectacular! Thank you God for the lovely Karoo and the beautiful Free State. We live in an incredibly beautiful country. I love exploring it with EP. Can’t wait for more!

Yours in the love of running and things that wil net nie ophou nie.

SlowCoach