Trembling Two Oceans

2012-04-10 10:52

David Moseley

I just told someone I ran 56km on Saturday. When you say it out loud, it really does sound the height of lunacy. Comrades may be South Africa’s oldest, longest ultra marathon, but the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon is tough (and far) enough for me.

After crossing the line on Saturday I had to fight back the tears. Relief and elation have never been so closely entwined. There was even cheeky acknowledgement from the Runner’s World editor, who was on the mic at the finish line, chirping “well done, David. You finally finished something.”

After eight Two Oceans Half Marathons, I was talked into entering the Ultra. After all, you can’t call yourself a runner in South Africa unless you’ve done one of the two biggies.

People tell you it’s an emotional roller coaster, but you never really believe them. You nod appreciatively at their experienced advice, all the while saying in the back of your mind “how hard can it be”.

Well, let me tell you. The Two Oceans Ultra is hard on the body, but it’s your mind that takes the more brutal beating.

One-legged shuffle

In all honesty, my taper probably started a week too early with a riotous five days of wedding celebrations in the Drakensberg, but I never expected my legs to fold like a pack of soggy cards at the 28km mark on Saturday. Twenty-eight kilometres done with 28km to go. That’s a long time to be counting down to the finish line.

At 30km my running partner left me in search of our treasured sub six-hour finish, a time he missed by a mere five seconds. Perhaps he should have eaten the secret salmon the night before.

By 35km in I was almost in tears at the thought of running another half marathon distance just to get to the finish. The rain helped in that regard, because no one could tell if I was crying or just sopping wet as I inched up Constantia Nek.

Running alone, the battle was all in the mind for the second half of the race. I knew I was fit, but the pain in my leg was excruciating. And the emergency bailout busses at certain points along the route looked lovingly warm and inviting.

Thankfully I could see inside the steamy windows. The miserable faces of soaked and defeated runners was all the encouragement I needed to push on. I didn’t want to look like that for the rest of the weekend. I’m a known “non-finisher” of endurance events too, so hobbling over the line would at least put to rest some suspicions regarding my competitive temperament.

But man, what a struggle. And all after feeling so strong and fresh in my training, and over the first half of the race. But this is where the unheralded heroes of the Two Oceans come to the fore.

It’s no secret that Saturday was wet beyond belief. On the Kalk Bay section of the route runners were more than ankle deep in puddles, with at least 10% of the field needing to be recovered by scuba divers.

You’d have been drier if you jumped straight into a swimming pool. And yet the lunatic supporters and refreshment table volunteers were still out in the pouring rain, cheering on random runners and dishing out advice, encouragement and the odd apple ice-lolly. That’s dedication. And bucket loads of loopiness.

There’s a moment in a race like this when you forget about finishing, or times you expected to achieve, and it all comes down to fighting with yourself, giving up internally and then reigniting the fires. I can’t. I can. I can’t. I can. That’s the rhythm you run to.

For the last 14km there was an internal war raging in my mind, with casualties piling up on both sides. But you look around and see strangers willing you on, like emergency Red Cross helpers, waiting to ferry you to safety. And then with 4km to go, you see your grinning friend, who’s been standing in the rain all morning waiting to cheer you on, and you have to hold back the emotion because you’re so chuffed he’s there to talk you through 300m and send you off with an encouraging bum tap (and news of your beloved Stormers win). Against all advice, your fiancé also appears at the finish with a hug and a smile. And it’s game over.

Again? Never. Maybe. Probably. Of course. Why not? Most definitely.

- Follow @david_moseley on Twitter.

Send your comments to David

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  • Tamaryn - 2012-04-10 11:26

    As one of those "Lunatic supporters" in the rain, it was the least we could do.... :) Glad you had a good run!

  • Mark - 2012-04-10 12:12

    As a fellow finisher I have to just echo your words in terms of the supporters, water point people and medics, its just amazing the support and energy they all have that really helps your endure, especially under rather interesting conditions! So glads its over...well for this year at least. Well don on your finish.

  • Judith - 2012-04-10 12:54

    Well done! And you made the pain amusing as well in this article

  • Jaco - 2012-04-10 14:44

    Dude, I only did the 21km on Saturday and all I can say is: "Maximum Respect". Well done. And very well written. I agree wholeheartedly on the volunteers and supporters. Thank you everyone who helped.

  • kerynlc - 2012-04-10 15:59

    I can so relate to this and to peering inside the bailer's busses and thinking death was preferable to a weekend of non-achievement.

  • MattandPet - 2012-04-10 16:10

    Well done - it was extra tough this Saturday with the rain and wind but its all worth the sense of achievement - we need more stories from the everyday runners - the ones who really feel the pain!

  • john.sourcer - 2012-04-10 18:15

    Good stuff. Now come and run Comrades.

      David - 2012-04-11 08:58

      Ha Ha. Yes, John. Maybe next year. Running is done for 2012, now it's wedding planning time.

  • allan.clean - 2012-04-11 08:01

    Those suppporters/water table workers were just the best. Ran my first marathon and my first(and proballylast)two oceans Ultra, it was very hard on the body, how can you ever thank supporters that stood out in the rain for hours to encourage us runners. Thank you to each one of you.....

  • Nomfundo - 2012-04-11 08:39

    hahahahaha! I can relate to this article, this was my first Two Oceans and all I wanted was to finish within cutoff and I did! What an amazing experience. Definitely coming back next year:-)

  • Ntombifuthi - 2012-04-11 09:09

    Ohhh so true, the main motivation for me was to get to the finish so I can have a warm bath and hot chocolate, thought of the rescue bus, but figured I'll still be cold and wet in there. After 6 hrs of cold and wet I did it. Congrats to u and all the finishers. This one is for the books.

  • LindiBleu - 2012-04-11 09:27


  • ilene.barrington - 2012-04-11 10:19

    With all due respect to Ultra runners and the article writer, some of us will never even finish an Oceans half within the cut-off time. That does NOT make us any less of a runner! Do agree about the supporters, water table guys and girls and marshalls. You people all ROCKED!!!

  • Candis - 2012-04-11 13:18

    I will never ever forget the trembling lips of my dedicated parter at the finish line turning blue! And I also cant thank the supporters and volunteers enough! When some random lunatic supporter called my name in encouragement I had only enough energy to lift my hand in appreciation which was so delayed they had probably screamed at another 5 trembling runners behind me! Also the little girls that handed out their jelly tots - I got two green ones! The warm tunnel of humans on top of Constantia Nek high fiving me as I climbed over the hill. On Chapmans I envied the surfers in the oceans which were just black dots, only to be reminded that my brain was malfunctioning as was my ears from the guy the blowing the whistle so loud he definately spurred us on. The bands who insisted on playing whilst packed like sardines under their gazebos! Those water point people with top sales skills to get you to take their water before their colleage in charge of the powerade. Big mama in Kirstenbosh! Whoever said 'come rain or will do it' that kind of stuck with me. And whoever you were in Fishoek in your pajamas and gown, drinking steaming hot coffee, oneday I dream to be you cheering on some other crazy runners! It was pretty ULTRA for my first, loved it!

  • Justin - 2012-04-11 15:59

    Two Oceans is not Part of the Big 2, Hell i would argue if it even pArt of the big 50...its a totally Overated Race! If you were already struggling after 28km it just means you hadnt prepared properly, and that you would be struggling on any race. If this is your mental state after a simple 56km run, never try and run Comrades as you are in for a rude awakening! And PS Comrades isnt the Longest Ultra in SA have you heard if The Washie or any 100 Miler for that matter!

      David - 2012-04-11 16:36

      Hey, Mr Happy. Calm yourself. Sorry not as awesome as you. Will try harder in the future. Douche.

      Justin - 2012-04-12 12:54

      Its Just so Amazing how People do this Marketing Orientated average run and think they have done something special. Wake up people the Two Oceans is average at best. Maybe its about time you stepped back and discovered what running is really about.... The TO is turning Running into a Status Seeking, ego growing superficial sport. When it is supposed to be the purest and simpliest form of enjoyment....

      Marion - 2012-04-13 18:09

      I agree with David on this one. Justin you really do come over as a Douche!!!! Well done David and great article.

  • melis28 - 2012-04-12 09:15

    Congrats on finishing :) - what an achievement, ESPECIALLY in that weather!!! Loved your article! I ran the 21km and couldn't imagine running in squelching shoes for 56km :o

      Justin - 2012-04-12 12:55

      Surely you mean walked...doubt he done much running!!

  • paul.africam - 2012-04-14 10:19

    How can your running partner leave you?

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