Race: Sanlam Cape Town Marathon

Back in March, I challenged myself to do my first marathon which would be the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. It was finally here. I am not even sure where to start with this post. A week before the marathon I was not very confident and my morale was really low. I knew my training for the marathon did not go as it should have and that was one of the reasons I felt meh leading up to race day. Don’t get me wrong, I was extremely excited to experience a first marathon but because I am such a competitive and ambitious runner, I set targets that are sometimes a bit ambitious. A sub 4 hour time was in my head but I knew realistically, 4 hours 30 minutes was more on the cards as I have not trained for long distances over the last 3 months and the longest road I managed to do was only 17km in that period. I knew my body was not conditioned for the long run but still I somehow thought sub 4 hours would be ok.

I took the day off on Friday to go pickup my race pack. As Murphy would have it, it seems as if the whole of Cape Town had the day off and the rain did not help either. The Cape Town Marathon expo was held at The Lookout at the Waterfront. It was smaller than I expected but was very spectacular non-the-less. I picked up my race pack and had a peek to see what seed I was. I did not expect to see a big red A next to my number. My face had one huge grin and smile on it because I knew I should have been in at most seed C! Think I could tick being in seed A off my bucket list!!!
I went to pickup my other pack at the SPCA stand where I finally got to meet the lady behind the scenes. What a wonderful person and I am so happy to be part of the cause! Thank you Natasha! I am in love with the running top!

Saturday I did a chilled parkrun and relaxed the rest of the day planning to be in bed by 8pm as I already set my alarm for 3am even though the race starts at 7am! What tends to happen is, I think to myself a hour in the morning is enough to get everything ready and I always never leave on time. So this time I got most of my gear ready for the next morning. Pinned my race numbers on my shirt, put everything in a bag so that I could just pick it up off the counter and go.

Running Gear

Usually I struggle to sleep before a big race day and when my alarm went off at 3am I was impressed I had such a good sleep! There was no time to hit the snooze button, which I usually do by the way! 4am I was out the door and on my way to the Waterfront. Getting there early has its advantages, no bathroom queues, no scores of people so you can go and check the starting pens before. I met a runner who came down from Pretoria just to run the Marathon. Love how events bring people of all walks of life together. Being in seed A, I was very anxious. Being in the group with the big boys and not wanting to look like a chop or fish out of water! At least I saw some familiar faces in the pen so I just hang out with them looking like I belong there. haha. Katlego from Expresso Breakfast Show was there! ARMS LENGTH AWAY!


National Anthem was sung and then the gun went off! I had a game plan to take it slow, save the energy for the last 10km. Within the first 2km that plan went right out the window. I was sucked into the vibe and the adrenaline kicked in big time and by the time my first target came, I was already 3 minutes ahead of the time. 25 minutes at 5km. Going towards the CBD and down to Paarden Island , my rhythm was great and my strides were just flowing that I could not even think to slow it down. I planned to take a GU (energy gel) every 45 minutes so when I hit the water station just before the 10km mark I stopped to take a GU and noticed that the sub 3 hour 3 minute bus was behind me. I checked my watch and I was about 10 minutes ahead of the target time, oops. 50 minutes at 10km. This being my first long distance race, I thought it was a very clever idea to stick the GUs in my socks. Rookie mistake! Word of advice, never ever ever do that as it is uncomfortable and they cut holes into your ankles and make you bleed. I didn’t have any other place to put them so I just continued pushing through that. Back towards the CBD we went onto the MyCiti bus lane. Such a beautiful sight with Table Mountain in the background I wanted to take out my phone and do a facebook live but at that stage I was too in the zone.

Back into the CBD we went and past the Castle and through Woodstock towards Claremont. At the 15km mark I was still 10 minutes ahead of target. 1 hour 15 minutes at that stage. Not ideal as I knew I would not be able to hold this the whole way to the end. At least the half way mark was in sight and from there I could change the plan slightly. The spectators started to get much more and more on the side of the roads as we entered Rondebosch and Claremont and I was hearing my name and go go SPCA! Just past the halfway mark, I was 12 minutes ahead of target and decided to take a GU break. Not sure if it was a good or bad thing but my body at this stage was already feeling it. 1 hour 48 minutes at the half way stage (21.1km). I was not as strong as I was earlier so when I got going again, my pace had dropped to about 30 seconds slower per km than the first half. The mind also started to send signals the body to say slow down. There are people walking, why don’t you walk too my mind kept telling me? Sometimes my mind takes over and then I walk. It’s frustrating and it’s something I have been working on. Just because your mind says something does not mean your body feels it.

At the 30km mark, 2 hours 45 minutes, I was still ahead of my target, probably only by 3 or 4 minutes but still there. At the 32km mark is where what people told me about would happen. The frikking wall. I stopped and took my last GU. I also needed to pee. Luckly there were portable toilets I could pop into and as I was about to enter one, I saw the 4 hour bus casually jog past me. Well, frak. There goes my sub 4 hours. The mind already told my body that 4 hours was not possible now and that you should just look at the next target you set yourself, 4 hours 30 minutes. Determined to not let this deter me, I tried to make it a quick stop but the amount of water I had taken in just would not let me have a quick one. I was back onto the road but then it happened, cramp. A cramp in my upper right hamstring. I’ve never felt it there before. Tried to stretch it out, nope. Ice on it helped a little and continued to try to jog it off. Walk, jog, walk, jog was on the cards for the next 3 kms. Frustrating as it was there was nothing I could do about it at this stage. I should have listened and gotten rennies for this run. Apparently that helps with cramps. It was a long way back to town on Main Road and it’s very misleading as it’s a slight uphill but it does not even look like it. At 35km I was 2 minutes behind the target and knew that now sub 4 was now definitely not in reach. With 3km to go I noticed a flag come past me. It was the sub 4 hours 15 minute bus. WHAT THE HELL? The last 3km felt like the longest ever trying to stay ahead of that bus! At the 40km mark I was 10 minutes behind the target and if it were not for the spectators outside Green Point Stadium, I would not have had the energy to push my legs over that line. The atmosphere inside the stadium was amazing and my legs literally were wobbling as they were running on the mat the last 100 meters.

Regardless of time. I had done it. I had finished my first road marathon. My legs were broken. Getting over that line the mind sent signals to the muscles to say, hey guys, it’s done…you can stop working! I think it took me longer to walk 2km back to the car than the last 10km of the marathon! I was going to meet up with friends but at this stage all I wanted to do was get home and go die on the bed.

Cape Town Marathon Medal
I did it!!!

Lessons learnt:

  • Train for longer runs
  • Don’t put GUs in your socks
  • Don’t listen to the mind
  • Take cramp tablets
  • Sub 1 hour 50 minutes at GunRun is possible
  • Work hard enough and sub 3 hours and 30 minutes for Sanlam Cape Town Marathon is doable next year

Next up is the Marloth Mountain Challenge this weekend. Yep, crazy. I am not sure what to expect. My left achilles heel is killing me. Hoping that is will be fine by Saturday morning otherwise it is going to be a loooong day out on the mountain.

I wish I took photos on route but I am also waiting on the photos from the event to all be identified and will post a few on social media!