01 Oct, 2013

I’ll hop if I have to!

 I’ll hop if I have to!

Dis-Chem Half Marathon, Central Gauteng, 13 January

I am a real race junkie and run just about every race on the running calendar. I wanted to give something back to running and decided to start pacing local Gauteng races. However, I soon realised that it is very hard to pace alone, so I roped in my club mate, Leon. Initially we started pacing 10km races, then moved up to 21km races, then 32km events, and eventually graduated to the marathon, annually pacing the sub-four-hour bus at the Wally Hayward marathon.


The Dis-Chem Half Marathon has, however, become our favourite race to pace, as it is early in the year and even my own fitness gets put under the spotlight. Fortunately, Leon is faster than me, so it has always given me confidence that no matter what, we will finish within our targeted time.


This year we set out to pace the sub-1:45 bus, and I thought it would be much easier this year, as I had been training hard and lost some weight. But in the week leading up to the event, I strained my calf during a time trial, which meant I had to focus on getting it repaired in time! I had to go for a few emergency physio sessions, as I didn’t want to tell Modern Athlete’s editor, Michelle Carnegie, that I had “retired hurt.” That would just be too embarrassing for words!


The physio seemed to have done her job, so I decided to run the Akasia 21km race the day before as a test of the now repaired calf. Unfortunately, it did not go to plan and I pulled up with a knot in the calf 2km into the run. This clearly was rather worrying! I spent the rest of Saturday icing and massaging it, and wearing compression socks to accelerate the healing by race day... but things were not looking good. As a last resort, I tried some ‘muti’ from a little Chinese red bottle spray, and it seemed to relieve the tightness just in time for bed.


I made back-up plans with Leon and another club mate, Vusi, as it would be rather obvious if the flag-carrier pulled out of the race! Then I sprayed the calf at the start of the race and we set off. We know the route very well from pacing in prior years and Leon also grew up in the Bedfordview area. The first 10km are quite easy, as most runners are strong and the course drops down to the river. We got to the 10km mark at 49 minutes, which was perfectly on pace. There I sprayed my calf again.


From the 10km mark the course becomes challenging as you climb past Eastgate and Bedfordview shopping centres. We dropped off pace a bit on some of the tougher climbs and reached the 15km mark in 1:13.46, which was slightly behind our target pace of 4:53, but we always give ourselves a slight buffer for possible inaccuracies in the GPS and also for the course, which might be slightly longer than the 21.1km. We kept pace at around 5min/km and got to the top of the hill at the 18km in Dawnview in 1:28. This meant we were left with 16 minutes to complete the last three-and-a-bit kilometres, which are relatively fast and downhill.


Last year we got to this point two minutes behind schedule and had to do a few sub-four-minute kilometres to break 1:45, but this year we cruised down the hills with our Breakthru team and finished in 1:44:25. Our GPS did show the distance as 21.3km, which shows we do need a bit of spare time to ensure we don’t miss the cut-off.


I would like to thank my Breakthru team who made the pacing so much easier. I am already looking forward to next year’s Dis-Chem Half Marathon. It is a fantastic race and I hope our pacing bus helps a few people achieve their targets on the day.