30 Oct, 2012

Regular Cape Peninsula Running Tourist

Regular Cape Peninsula Running Tourist

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!



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!