"I'd rather be seen on my bicycle than on a park run" - Quote from the dark side

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Elands Valley Marathon Report

As promised my race report with a few pics.

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.


Julie said...

Hi Johann,
Way to go!! You did very well for finishing that distance in the heat with little water. I have total respect for runners who are strong enough to run in high temps! It is too bad that the race organizers didn't have it all together. Bummer about the lack of water. I have never performed well in the heat...even when I was in high school track my performance suffered when the weather turned hot!

You posted some fantastic pictures with beautiful scenery:) I love how you little boy was cheering you on the entire way:) That is one nice looking medal too! Thanks for sharing this great race recap! Woo hoo, you did it:)

Anne said...

Thanks for your nice comment Johann...

Congrats on a great job getting through this hot and hilly marathon! You and your family seem like such nice people, trying to help as many runners as you can...and your son was a great fan! Beautiful pictures and a very interesting recap...thanks :)

Running Through Life said...

Congratulations on finishing a difficult race under some brutal conditions. How thankful you must be for your family and the support they gave you and others to help finish. It is awful to hear that it was so badly run and that too many had to suffer. I am glad that you finished and that is a beautiful medal.

Anonymous said...

Hi Johann,

Thanks for a very objective and honest review. I was fortunate enough to finish with a good time (in my books in any case - 04:10) and had enough water etc. at the tables. It did bother me to see how many sachets fellow runners would take and discard after just using a bit of the water, not thinking about the rest of the runners still to come. This should have been addressed by the organizers. The collection of numbers at the start on Friday evening was not much better - I searched for more than 30 minutes or my own :-(. Good luck for the rest of your races this year and keep the comments comming.

Giorgio said...

Hi Johann,
You posted an exhaustive report of your adventurous race and the photos give a wonderful picture of the scenery where you ran.
Although the organizers wasn’t ready you had had enaugh stenght. You crossed the finish line with little water. Maybe the beautiful landscape of your country, that you showed us, made you feel good. :) Congrats Johann.
I've read that the 3rd of April 2010 another interesting marathon starts in South Africa. It's the "Two Oceans Marathon".

Unknown said...

Hi Johann,

Thanks for the well documented run which I also took part in so it was great to see the pictures and the story. Yes it was a very challenging day to say the least and I am not sure why it was so disorganzed if the running mags rate the race so high.
1.no road marks to say where the race starts even on the N4 .
2.the start everyone had a different opion where it started
3.number, late entry like myself it was madness
4.no water for 20 km
5.km markings who knows what was correct.

If your family gave me water , I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart. Without the water I may have given up as it was hot and could not drink just the Pepsi . Altought I missed the 5 cut off for Comrades by 10 min I still finished like you, quite an achievement after 4 yrs off the road.

We have a beautiful country and this race may have lost a lot of runners due to the challangers faced. Is there a reason for it?

Anyway if you doing 2 Oceans, done 17 you will enjoy it and there will be no hitches . Have a good one.



Jameson said...

No water for 12K 7ish miles?, if the usa used metric life would be easier. But wow talk about lucky for having a driver to support you.

Cindy said...

Very nice photos...looks so pretty there. Nicely done especially with all the extra challenges on race day!

ajh said...

We did both do races that were not prepared but mine was only a 5K no big deal. Yours could have been dangerous without enough water for the runners. Congratulations on your finish! How wonderful your family was there to support you and others. I loved the picture of your son, the friendliest person on the planet!

misszippy said...

Congratulations! Sounds like you did a great job, in spite of the lack of race support. The scenery is amazing...what a beautiful country you have.

Sherri said...

Great job! I loved all the beautiful pictures!

Colin Hayes said...

Congrats on the marathon, Johann, and thanks for the great race report. That's unfortunate that there wasn't enough water for all runners, but glad to hear you had a support system! Enjoy your recovery!

Christina said...

Good job with the marathon. It sounds like you had your challenges. I've never run a race where they ran out of water and I don't know what I would have done. I love all the pictures.

Keep drinking your chocolate milk for recovery.

Miguel said...

Simply fabulous! Way to hang in there and get past all the race deficiencies. And what a great family you have for supporting you and some of the other runners. Rest up and get ready for the next race!

Unknown said...

Great race report + photos! Reading it makes me want to do a race in Africa :)

Oskar said...

Hi Johann,
As a Lowvelder and having run this marathon many times the organisation had much to be desired, in fact very poor.. There is a story behind it all, which will come out in the wash eventually, but the poor race organiser did what he could against all odds with not much help, did not sleep for 2 days, and the correct water quantity was not delivered to them. He tried to deliver what water he could salvage on the morning. I think next year will be different as we Lowvelders may have to step in and get the race back to where it was many years ago. I also ran with my wife and managed to survive the run as well.


Lordrick said...

u did well. nice pictures. are u coming this year? its gonna be on April 9th