After a short morning at work on Friday we traveled to Waterval Boven for the long weekend and of course for me to run the Elands Valley Marathon. The road was busy as lots of people took the opportunity to get out of the city for the long weekend. We travelled safe and without any incidents and arrived at Waterval Boven at about 16:30. The peacefulness of the little town had a calming effect on me and I felt good to be there.
I was glad we decided on a camping weekend as I haven’t done that for a while. Elandskrans is a beautiful resort in Waterval Boven and also very close to the start of the marathon. The camp was full of runners. We had the option to collect our race numbers at the finish venue on Friday evening, but I decided to get it at the start Saturday morning instead. I was not in the mood to drive 42.2km to pick up the number and then all the way back in the dark.
I didn’t sleep very well, but I think I got about 4 hours of good sleep in somehow. The start was at 6:00 and we left the campsite at 5:20. The little town was crowded! Luckily we found parking in a small street close to the registration venue, the local primary school. One thing was certain; the organizers were not ready for the big field. This race is popular and usually has about 2000 runners. This year, with 2010 being a special Comrades year and the soccer world cup in South Africa, all the races have huge fields. This race was no exception. Finding one’s number was a nightmare. Envelopes with names were on tables, but in no particular order. Maybe they were earlier, but when I got there it was a huge mess. No proper queue, just a crowd of runners looking for their numbers. Luck was on my side! When I got to the table my number was right there on the corner, on its own! I grabbed it and went outside quickly to pin it to my vest.
I had about 10 minutes to relax before the start. I never heard the gun or whatever started the race. I just saw the runners moving forward and guessed the race has started. We slowly moved through the town towards the main road. Friendly faces were everywhere and I was in a good mood for the run ahead.
The road out of town is a steep climb up to about 3km. Then we turned right onto the N4 for the rest of the run, going downhill most of the time. I was worried at the first water point when there was no water. Another sign the organizers wasn’t ready for the big field. In the end the first 3 water points had no water left for the slower runners like me. This was really bad and I was lucky to have my family driving on the route and handing me and many others water.
The scenery made up for any negatives. It is beautiful here and this will be the reason I come back for this race again. The town in the early morning sun, with mountains surrounding us, looked fantastic! Spirits were high even though water was in short supply.
I kept an even pace and just enjoyed the scenery and the company of some very friendly runners. Things were great and I loved seeing my son cheering me and the others along the way. My son is probably the friendliest person on the planet!
After 25km I started feeling a bit tired for the first time. My legs were also starting to hurt from all the downhill running. I had to dig a bit deeper here and took a few walk breaks to relax myself. This was the normal long run tiredness and nothing serious or desperate. I just kept going like this and never felt too bad. After some time, at around 32km, I started feeling better again. My spirit lifted again and when I saw the 9km to go sign I was happy again. The last part of the race is still a bit downhill with some long flat stretches in between. You can see the finish with 7km to go and I knew I could now just carry on doing what I was doing and finish fairly comfortably.
On the down side…the last 12km had no water for us slow runners! If I didn’t have someone driving the route and handing me water and other drinks I would have died a slow death here. Many runners were in big trouble. It was warm now and the sun was burning down in the valley. We shared what we could and helped as many runners as possible with what we had. This cost me a lot of time, but I was not worried about that anymore. I knew I would finish and was glad we could help others to do the same. I saw many runners dropping out. Later on our way back, there were still people on the road, with no water, battling to get to the finish. This was after more than 6 hours already. I felt so sorry for them. We had nothing left to give them.
I finished with mixed feelings. It was great to finish a marathon again. The medal is beautiful. It was great to finish this beautiful race in this beautiful part of our country. It was sad that the organizers didn’t cater for the large field. There were pre-entries…why not be ready? I was disappointed with the almost “just don’t care” attitude from the race organizer's side. Families travelling with runners saved the day for many. Without my loving family I might not have finished this race. They are my heroes and I’m proud to say the heroes of many others.
Will I be back? Probably because I love this part of our country and it is a lovely race. Maybe not next year…maybe I’ll take a break from this race for a bit to forget the poor organization and then return. Maybe in a year that has nothing special attached that boost the number of runners participating in this wonderful sport.
All in all I’m happy. My legs are sore, but it’s that good sore…the sore from finishing a marathon.
View these photos and a few more here.