What a wonderful opportunity it was when I was asked to do a Race Report of a race which was a personal accomplishment for me.
Nevertheless, in 2018 my training partner Abdool and I decided to run the 21.1 km in a team at the Joburg Ultra Long Distance Triathlon race on the 2nd of December 2018 at the Cradle. Both of us, for different reasons, had the desire to be able to participate in a long distance race and receive a medal to show for it. At that stage I was training on my own and although I did the km’s, the kmph was an absolute disgrace – even for my age.
During October 2018 I received the bad news that I had to urgently undergo an operation on my right leg. After negotiations with the Dr he agreed that I could participate at the TTA Triathlon Champs on the 4th of November 2018 to qualify for the SA sprint Triathlon champs in January 2019. However, I immediately thereafter had to go for the operation. On the 6th of November I underwent surgery on my leg. I had to wear compression socks day and night for 6 weeks – so the dream of competing in the long distance triathlon disappeared into thin air and I felt extremely cheated.
After the SA Sprint Triathlon, which went ok, taking into consideration that I had only a few weeks to train, Abdool and I decided to enter and train for the 21.1 Wally Hayward on the 1st May 2019.
To be honest and with a little bit of embarrassment, I have to confess, because of our fitness level,Abdool and I started to run / walk a 5km. My husband’s remarks on the distance and the time it took us, I shall keep for myself. Every weekend after that we improved on what we did the previous Saturday. After we could run the 5km without any effort, we began increasing the run distance by 1 km a week. Then 1,5km and then 2km. We did different routes, some easier than others, just to not let the boredom of doing the same route, get the better of us. Two weeks before the event we did an 18km run. We were so tired at times that we had to walk. At that stage both of us, especially I became extremely disillusioned as my common sense told me that there was no way that we will be able to finish the race in the cut-off time, although we trained very hard and according to our levels. After the disastrousness 18 km run, I asked Nico to work out if we would be able to finish the race and he said we would be able to, if we could average 9:45 min per km. This gave us a goal to work towards in the race and we felt more positive. We were also extremely fortunate to be injury free at all times, which was wonderful, as we increased our training gradually and with caution.
I then realised that we needed a taper program for the last week and a half as my expertise as a coach did not reach that far. Both Abdool and I were extremely worried of how little we had to do those few last days. Some days only 30 min run or easy swim for an hour, or 40 min cycle on a spinning bike.
On the day the taper paid off and I felt good and ready for the race, but was also a little nervous. Abdool and I could not find each other at the start, as there were just too many people. It took Abdool 2km to catch up with me, because we were so far apart at the start. When I saw him I was so relieved as the thought had crossed my mind that I would not be able to finish the race without my training partner, as we depended on each other for moral support.
At 9 and 10km we did our best splits, running 8:52 min per km. We also had a wonderful surprise when Annerie and Wooding waved and cheered us on as we ran under the bridge at 10km. At 16 km (which was a slight uphill) I was really battling to keep on running and our split for that km was10:04. I got extremely worried, as I was too tired to work out what our predicted finish time will be, although Abdool assured me that we were on track – he can do “somme”.
At 18km we came across an aid station. I took something to drink and kept on running. What I did not noticed at that time, was that Abdool stopped to finish his coke. When I realized Abdool was behind me I stopped and called him to catch up with me. I was too scared to stop and wait for Abdool as my goal was on finishing in time, which I realized was passing extremely fast and stopping for Abdool to catch up with me was just too much for my tired body, as I would not have been able to start running again. At 21km my dear friend Lorraine came from the front to cheer us on. She saw Abdool behind me and after spoken to me went to support him as well.
Running into the stadium, cheered on by a number of Sterk Span athletes who gracefully waited for Abdool and myself, I burst into tears because I then realized that all the hard work was not in vain. We finished the 21.51km in 3:24. A precious 6 minutes to spare!!!
For my training partner, Abdool, I have the utmost respect as he is kind and a real gentlemen whenever we train together. Without him I would not have been able to finish this race in time.
I was also tearful when I read Nico’s unexpected WhatsApp message on the social group in which he congratulated us on our big personal achievement. Nico also posted a message on Facebook in which he wrote “Alma and Abdool must be our heroes for last week, both running against the odds and finishing the Wally Hayward Half Marathon ... I am so proud.”
Although some of us are older and much slower than the rest of the group, we all feel special in the Sterk Span family, as we get praised for achievements, which is the result of hard training and perseverance, no matter how slow or how fast we are.