The Big Day: Two Oceans Marathon 2011, Cape Town, South Africa
I don't believe in omens, good or bad. If I did, I would have had serious doubts about the 21 kilometers I was planning to run this morning. In order to have plenty of time to get all sorted out at the starting site before the race, I was up at 4:00am (insanity, I know). The cab was ordered for 5:00am. Bad omen: he was 20 minutes late. Another piece of bad luck: we couldn't find the guy we were supposed to give a lift to the race site, so we ended up wasting even more time. Oh, and then because of our late departure for Newlands, we got caught in messy, slow-moving traffic. In the end, Robyn and I jumped out of the car and speed-walked down the hill to get to the starting line on time. We'd worked too hard preparing for today to let a series of unfortunate events keep us from achieving our moment. (Which was the theme for this year's marathon: This is your moment. Cue Whitney Houston... Give me one moment.... racing with destiny... Ok. Stop!)
The morning was cold. I was not fond of that. Guess what happens whenever over 14,000 bodies squash together in a confined area to push their way towards a starting line: it warms up. Yet another plus for body heat. Robyn and I did not have much time to get too cozy with our neighbours because we only made it to the starting area exactly one minute before the signal was given for the race to begin. ...And we were off... Kind of. We were only able to shuffle our way forward a bit and dance in place a lot (also helpful to keep warm when one is scantly dressed). 14,000 (+) people take up quite a bit of space and do not move quickly.
(At the starting line while waiting for the human mass to move forward)
Because of my seeding and late arrival to the venue, I was in the far, far back of the amoeba of people moving as one on the streets of Cape Town. I'd never been in such a crowded half-marathon before. I've only ever run the MTN half-marathon in Kampala two times, so that's not much experience. In Kampala, more than double the number of people opt for the 10km run than the 21km or the 42km runs. The number of participants in today's 21km race was comparable (but less, I believe) to the number that run the 10km in Kampala. After my experience with congestion on the run today, I can only imagine the chaos that occurred and the resulting frustration during the the infamous 2009 MTN Marathon. The streets stayed crowded this morning for the entire duration of the 21km run. It was not until after the first hour of the run that I finally gained enough freedom to move about and run as needed, and I was able to make up for a lot of lost time.
If I had to choose one word to sum up my experience with today's run, it would be inspiring. I was inspired by the positive energy the exuded from everyone and surrounded me. I was inspired by the encouragement we gave each other. The streets were lined with people clapping, cheering, playing instruments, beating frying pans, giving support. I was inspired by the level of fitness of so many thousands of people. There was an 82-year-old may running with us. I did not overtake a 70-year-old women until just meters before the finish line. I hope to achieve a similar level of fitness as I age. I was inspired by the progress I could feel that I've already made with my personal fitness. I felt so good along the route and ran more strongly than I ever have. Yes, it was an inspiring day.
(Running 'the world's most beautiful marathon')
I've officially competed in three half-marathons, and I've completed two full marathons, but it was not until the Two Oceans Marathon that I was awarded a participant medal at the finish line. What a fabulous, pleasant surprise! I am so proud of that medal. Getting here was not easy. I had to go outside of my comfort zone. But I didn't just step outside of it, I took a running start and did an olympic-distance long jump out of it. It was the first time I travelled a significant distance to compete in a race, and it was also the first time in a long time that I travelled on my own to an unfamiliar destination. I really do not love big crowds, yet I had to endure one when collecting a marathon kit and another one today at the start and, well, for pretty much the entire run and after. Overcoming my insecurities was worth it.
(Basking after the big finish)
I ran with my little Canon digital camera and filmed a few bits at the beginning, along the way and the finish line. I've pieced together a little video. I've blogged two times before about the power of Nicky Minaj when running. Today Kelis, Britney, Kanye and Lillian joined Nicky on my race-day playlist. Roman's Revenge is the soundtrack for my video. The footage is a bit shaky, Blair-Witch-Project-maybe-make-you-sick-when-watching shaky. Oh, and the language in the song is a bit rough, so beware if you have delicate ears. Enjoy!
My trip to Cape Town is not ever yet. Wine country is on the itinerary for tomorrow.