Run, Comrades, run: Running in the rain

2012-04-09 10:09

Runners are usually a rather cheerful bunch, and ultra-runners particularly so. This is because depression doesn’t have a chance against endorphins (the runners’ drug of choice), while more experienced runners also know jokes and laughter are bound to make a long distance seem shorter.

But on Saturday, during the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon (really an ultra, at 56km), the lot turned about as gloomy as the weather.

Sure, the fun and games were there in the beginning, like when a dreadlocked guy behind me took a shot of something from a small bottle and laughed throatily, as if it was strong tipple.

Another remarked that he expected that it would be showering down already as we started, but instead there was just a bit of wind at manageable strength.

As we ran through Main Road one guy joked that a spectator should put his dog behind him so that he could run faster. People cheered from their flat balconies in their pyjamas.

Just before the 10 km mark in Retreat I slowed down to take a picture of the rainbow, and of what promised to be a glorious sunrise over the Muizenberg mountains. It was promising to be a great day.

But as I put my phone away the first light drizzle started. I intended to tweet the race as I ran it, but this put paid to any attempt to use my phone. The mountain clouded over.

By the time we got to the stretch of road between Muizenberg and Fish Hoek – it runs along the beach, and is one of the prettiest in the country – it was pouring down.

There were a few jokes initially, but gradually, as everyone’s running shoes became soaked and heavy, the rain invading the running pants, and our muscles refusing to stay warm, the jokes dried up.

One of the guys at the water points broke the tension a bit as he offered “Coke with rain” in a cup. It made a refreshing change from the cliched jokes at these water points when the volunteers pretend to serve Coke with whiskey. Not that anybody really laughed, though.

By now we realised we had to conserve our energy to try to keep warm.

Breaking Constancia’s neck
We were only 15km into the race but already the water was streaming across the road and puddles became unavoidable.

I really felt for the five guys who ran in the Old Mutual “worm” – a 15 metre-long green frame which said: “Run for more than yourself ”.

Their bodies might have been dry, but the rigid structure of the worm made it impossible to swerve around puddles.

Noordhoek was rather pretty and the beach was visible as we ascended Chapman’s Peak Drive past the halfway point. This was a gorgeous few metres.

Unfortunately the ice lollies the organisers served at around this point were rather unappetising in the weather. On a hot day these would have been perfect.

Chapman’s Peak really was nothing as bad as some made it out to be, and friend and fellow journo Moffet Mofokeng agreed afterwards.

“I killed Chapman’s Peak,” he said, but I wasn’t quite with him when he said: “I dealt with Constantia Neck”.

To me it rather felt like the two-and-a-half kilometres of uphill about 10km before the end, dealt with me.

Mini Bar Ones were handed out about halfway up the hill (I actually mistook the massive banner for the top) and as a chocoholic I forced one down my throat. This made me nauseous, so in self-pity I walked a bit.

But let’s rewind. Chappies was probably the most spectacular bit of the race, but the rain-veiled landscape just made me more miserable.

Hout Bay was a sloshy mess, but the DA Youth water table brought a massive smile to my face when I imagined the beleaguered ANC Youth League doing the same.

The raincoated Young Blue Waves offering us water sachets were true heroes in my books. If we had an election at that stage of the race, they would have gotten my vote.

They made the protesters against the Chapman’s Peak toll offices – yes, the campaigners were there with a petition that we could stop and sign if we felt so inclined – like a sour bunch.

Once Constantia’s neck was broken, it was downhill to the finish and the mood picked up a bit. Except we didn’t quite imagine that the rain would serve us with a last, massive downpour, and the last 2 km was more of a swim.

As we got into the stadium for the final 200 metres to the finish, we discovered that the grassy sports field has turned into one massive mud bath. At first people were careful to avoid the mud, but eventually gave up and ploughed through, ankle-deep.

The best I could do in positive thinking was to imagine that it was a trail run. I finished five minutes before six hours – the makeshift clock that was put up after the overhead structure was blown away earlier, told me so.

Later, as I sat purple-lipped and freezing in the shuttle to the parking, some chirpy guy in a Boksburg vest said there was an upside to it all.

Despite being a positive thinker, I’ll need a bit of time to remember what it was.

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