A year ago running in the OMTOM (Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon) was just a figment of my imagination but on Saturday March 31 the dream became a reality and I ran the half marathon (21km) of the most beautiful race in the world.
I only started running when I was almost 50 years old with Bo-Kaap Athletics in December 2016. I guess I have always been a closet runner but never explored my full potential in primary school when I used to love sprinting but bunked PT (physical training).
Now at the age of 50, I want to start using my legs. Usually it is expected of a woman of 50 to shop for bloomers but I was trying on running pants. So you could say I was a late bloomer.
I soon found myself entering races and joining bootcamp. Training thrice a week and going to bootcamp twice a week became my life-style. Thus far I have 16 medals under my pouch, from 10km, 15km to 21km races.
But I didn’t become a runner only to earn medals. I ran and exercised to be fit and healthy. As much as I enjoyed the activities, I realised the importance of eating healthy as well. I probably dodged illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure because I kept on running like Forrest Gump.
Although I have completed three half marathons (Gun Run, Landmarks and Cape Peninsula) since last year, OMTOM was a different kettle of fish.
It felt like I was running my first 21km even though we had trained on that route, which was a roller-coaster ride of up and down hills and long flat roads.
It started from Protea Main Road, to Paradise Road, in Newlands, then into Edinburgh Drive.
My aim was to just finish the race and not try to run for PB (personal best) as I was sharing the road with about 16 000 people. The weather was perfect, not cold, not windy and not too hot.
Most of our club members were scattered as everyone was running in different seedings or groups from ABC, D, and E which started at different times.
About 6km in I felt water sprayed on my neck. It was fellow club member Hajiera Ely who is 59 years old. She was telling me how she rushed to be on time for the race. The stress caused her chest to close. She asked me to hold her water sachet and she pulled out her asthma pump. I was worried and suggested she take it easy. She insisted she was fine and after a few minutes her breathing became steady. She was okay and I was relieved. Running must have done her well.
I moved ahead and found myself alone in my own little world on Southern Cross Drive, Constantia. It was at the 11km mark when I felt that either my old age or my mental instability kicked in. I was praying for strength as I was slowing down but when a man in a yellow club T-shirt shouted “Keep going Bo-Kaap” my chin suddenly lifted and I trotted further.
When I came to Rhodes Drive I thought I could make up for lost time and I sprinted downhill but my legs were becoming like lead just when another hill came alive. In my mind I started singing “The hills are alive with the sound of music” but the other voice in my head said, “You can’t sing like Julie Andrews and the way you run you will never be like Elana Meyer or Caster Semenya”.
However, I shifted my mind to positive thoughts because I wanted to finish. I lifted my legs as high as I could but it was more like slow motion running because I couldn’t even run past a few walkers.
Pain can make one self-conscious and as I start looking back I begin to appreciate how far I have come and what I have achieved in life.
Before I turned to exercise, I was not healthy and I couldn’t even walk up a hill.
Now I’ve lost 9kg, so far, and I can actually run.
As a single parent of two young boys I can only try harder to overcome this hurdle. A physical struggle like this can only make one mentally stronger.
A 70-year-old woman ran past me and I felt the urge to push forward again.
Soon it was a kilometre away from the finish line and photographers were standing in line while the crowd cheered at the UCT rugby field.
Another club member, Natheer Adams ran past me and said, “We are almost there”.
I was almost there and the music of Chariots of Fire came to mind. I was digging for deep breaths and straightened my body. In my mind I was Elana Meyer who ran fast, but in reality I was probably running in slow motion. As I approached the finish line, someone shouted my name. I was wondering if that voice was the figment of my imagination from last year.
I got an SMS a few seconds later that my time was 2h40m. I realised if you take the hours and minutes away, it reads 42 backwards.
Two days later our coach Anees Gamiet asked us if anyone was interested in running the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon 42km in September.
Well guess who’s imagination ran wild?