Although my first Two Oceans Marathon was run in 1993, my Two Oceans
story began years before. Living in Grahamstown, as a family we made the trip
to Cape Town in the late 1980s to support my father during his two voyages. In
between his last and my first, the family’s Easter trip to Cape Town continued.
While I was still too young to run the ultra, and there was no half marathon in
those days, my father and I spent the next few years volunteering as marshals
and manning water stations. So, by the time I ran my first Two Oceans, I had
plenty of ‘experience’ and motivation.
The moment eventually arrived and I was old enough to take part in my
first Oceans. At the time, the minimum age was 18, and I ran my first ultra
while in matric at Graeme College. Prior to the start of my first few voyages,
a number of Albany Road Runners clubmates would meet at a nearby garage in
Claremont, then make our way into the starting area together. Soon after the
start, everyone would be off into the distance, but a few kilometres before the
finish line, I’d often spot my clubmates slowly making their way to the finish,
greet them and then run ahead. My first Oceans was completed in 4 hours 54
minutes 39 seconds. The following year I bettered that time by 50 seconds.
During the mid-1990s I was involved with the Grahamstown newspaper Grocott’s Mail. Thus I obtained Two Oceans
media accreditation, so on completion of the race, I’d run a bit further to the
car, grab my camera and a warm top, run back to the finish area and photograph
the remainder of the Grahamstown finishers. Thus there would be action photos
for the next edition of the paper.
In 1996 I had the run of my life when I was able to run with a fantastic
buddy, Dean Matthew. In 2000 I met my wife-to-be, Terri-Lynn, and we motored
together to Cape Town in 2001 when I ran my ninth ultra and Terri-Lynn her
second Two Oceans Half Marathon. The following year was a special one, running
my tenth and receiving my permanent blue number (2197). Walking into the Blue
Number Club each year still feels rather weird, though, as I am younger than
the rest of the guys whose average age seems to be about 70, and yet their
permanent numbers are above 2197.
After marrying Terri-Lynn in 2003, I managed to twist her arm to run the
ultra. We stuck together the entire race, with me being the stronger one and
helping her along the way, and we ran just over six hours, thanks to the new
seven-hour cut-off. Years on and I’m unable to keep up with Terri-Lynn, as she
finishes around 30 minutes ahead of me these days!
FOOT IN IT
In December 2008, I was taking photographs at a marathon in Mthatha when
I stepped back into an uncovered manhole. The fall was about two metres, but with
one hefty pull I managed to lift myself out of the hole, jumped up and
pretended nothing had happened. That was, until I put pressure on my left foot
and realised I had damaged the ankle, but I was not sure how bad it was. I was
assisted to the nearby hotel and immediately put ice on the injured ankle, and
kept it iced during the long trip back to Grahamstown.
Once at Settlers Hospital, X-rays were taken and I was informed the
ankle was broken and would need to be operated on. My first question was
whether I’d be able to run the Two Oceans in April, a mere four months away. No
way, said the doctor. I subsequently asked a number of other doctors and medical
professionals, and all gave the same reply. However, I did not give up hope.
After the operation was performed in Port Elizabeth, the orthopaedic
surgeon was positive about the outcome and stated, much to my elation, that he
felt I would be able to run Oceans. With this positive news, I contacted a
physiotherapist at the Grahamstown hospital, Clint Henry, who became a good
friend – and in my opinion, the best physiotherapist the world has to offer!
Incidentally, this was the first injury affecting my running, so I had never
had cause to consult many sports injury professionals before.
To cut a long story short, Clint helped me to “walk again” after being
stuck on crutches for ages. I managed to get my first run in a few weeks before
Two Oceans and went on to finish the 2009 race on minimal training. This time,
Terri-Lynn stuck with me the entire way – maybe a good thing for her, as she
had completed the Ironman South Africa only a week earlier. That was definitely
the most emotional race for me, not only wondering whether I was doing the
right thing, but at times during the race thinking of quitting – not from the
ankle, but from being decidedly under-trained. Almost totally exhausted, I
crossed the finish line on the UCT campus. I had done it, conquered the adversity
thrown at me!
The following year I took off over 1 hour 40 minutes from my 2009 time. In
the meantime, Terri-Lynn had taken over 1 hour 20 minutes off since her first
Two Oceans ultra, and also made the Eastern Province marathon and half marathon
teams, as well as the EP teams for duathlon and triathlon. She was also
selected to represent South Africa at duathlon and triathlon, and that saw her
go to the World Age-group Triathlon Championships in Hungary in 2010. Coincidentally,
she suffered a hairline fracture to her ankle during a training run just eight
weeks before the World Champs, and was also told she would not be able to make
the event. Unfortunately, Clint had left Grahamstown, but Terri-Lynn was able
to hook up with another brilliant physiotherapist at Settlers Hospital, and she
went on to represent her country. She recently made the SA long-distance
triathlon team, but will not be able to compete overseas for financial reasons –
she has to cover the full cost of the trip and entry fee herself.
In 2010 and 2011 we were both privileged to run the race with new
clubmate Frith van der Merwe, the former Comrades Marathon winner. She had
moved to Grahamstown and joined the Run/Walk For Life Athletics Club managed by
Terri-Lynn and myself. And now 2012 saw me running my 20th consecutive Two
Oceans ultra at the age of 37, and on the way setting a record for the youngest
runner to complete 20 Oceans Ultras. While Terri-Lynn was chasing another
Sainsbury medal, I ran comfortably with clubmate Julie Walker for another
enjoyable Oceans, except for the hectic rain throughout the race. When I
finished, I was handed my permanent number with the double laurel by the first
woman’s winner at Two Oceans, Ulla Paul.
A few years after I ran my first Oceans, the minimum age for running the
56km was raised to 20 years, so my record should be there to stay. Looking
ahead, I will definitely be running the next two ultras, as Terri-Lynn is
currently on eight and will achieve her permanent number in 2014. Then she must
run at least one in her blue number, which will bring me close to 25… so I’ll
do the next two as well. And then, I must run at least one free run! (There’s
no entry fee for those with 25 or more to their name.) So we’ll see you in Cape
Town in March 2013!