It was my first time….racing in my home country that is 😉
I was a little nervous but that is fairly normal feeling before any race, right? This time I also felt more pressure because my family was there too. Parents, aunts and uncles, cousins and neighbors all calling me days before with good luck wishes. I felt I can’t disappoint. I would have to go for it and give my best. But what if I did not have it in me?
It was cold morning with thick fog covering the lake and the mountains and before I knew it we started to run. It was more like a sprint and I knew I was going way too fast, but everyone were really pushing it and I felt I had no choice but to push with them. We reached the forest and started to go up. I was expecting for people to start to walk but they were still running. I was surprised and in my head I was asking why the hell are they still running? I did not want to be the first weak link so I run too…my breathing heavier with every step. Then one girl stopped, I smiled and overtook her feeling relief. Eventually I started to walk and others followed in my steps. I knew that If I wanted to finish this race I would have to stop looking at others and pace myself.
The first hill was massive, my legs were burning, I felt shattered and we were only 1 mile in. I turned the corner and more uphill was in front of me. My hands were on my tights and one slow step at a time I was pushing higher and higher. Little raindrops were cooling my body. Eventually we reached the top and started downhill running. I loved it and overtook a few people. I felt in control. Obviously this did not last too long, few hundred meters later I was once again nearly on my knees trying to climb another uphill. I read it is hilly route but come one, someone give me a break and some flat part….for that I had to wait a little longer.
5 miles in I reached first control check and we could stop for some food and drink. But no one was stopping, people were grabbing bananas and carried on running. I again forgot about running my own race and carried on running with others. Someone shouted to me, you are 8th lady keep going? I was stunned but it did gave me a massive boost to push harder.
The forests of the Table Mountains were stunning, but with the thick fog that morning there was something spooky about them too. At one point there was no other runners around me, it was just me and the trails. I loved it. Yes I thought I must be the last runner but in the end I did not really care about that.
Soon I saw some hikers. One guy shouted to me “Hey, who made you run”? I laughed and said no one, to which he replied “so why the hell are you doing this to yourself?” I did not have to think about the answer, “I love it” I said and ran on with the lightness in my legs, and at this point I actually believed it.
Eventually we exited the forest and run through a trail of massive stones. It was flat, maybe even a little decline but it was one of the hardest parts of the race for me. The stones were wet from the rain, they were not big enough to give a flat service under my feet. I was tip toeing from one stone to another freaked out that any minute now I will either fall and break my leg or loose control and twist my ankle. People in front of me were so fast. I could not believe with how much ease they were taking this route? I was genuinely scared, nearly walking. But that was ok, only a year earlier I had my leg broken, only a month earlier I had my knees hurt in bad fall so it was expected to be scared and it was fine to take it easy.
Soon we reached forest again and with more ups and downs I was slowly making progress. At mile 11 I reached second checkpoint. I stopped for few minutes, talked with the volunteers and other runners, I wanted to enjoy this race. I was also tired and my legs started to hurt. I needed this break.
From there it was pretty much downhill running. But I did struggle, tough trails of stones and tree roots played under my tired feet. But the finish was near.
I eventually reached the road and from there it was last mile to go. It was a demoralizing part of running for me. The hard service under my feet, slightly going up was not the way I would want to finish the race. But there was no other way. I mixed walk with run and I pushed knowing that in few minutes it will be all over. I reached the field, music was playing, people were cheering. I heard my dad screaming my name from the other side of the lake. I saw my mum clapping. It was happy moment. I had one last corner to do, I stepped onto the wooden bridge and flew to the floor. I fell so fast I did not even realised that I did it. I picked myself up and slowly run across very slippery bridge. The photographer was laughing but he did said I was not the first one falling in that same spot.
And with my last step off the bridge, I run up the last tiny hill to the finish line. My parents waited for me there. I was given the medal and a tshirt and my name was read out as a finisher.
I was tired, actually I was more than tired, nearly broken. But in my heart I was happiest person. I finished. It was tough, it was challenging but most of all it was amazing. Till next time…