Venue: Voortrekker Monument, Pretoria, South Africa
As you could see from my previous post I was really excited about this race on Friday. Well, the race lived up to everything it promised and much, much more. It was a fantastic race and experience!
Saturday morning was very cold and it was -3°C (26.6F) when we left home. Pretoria is always a bit warmer than Johannesburg and Saturday was no exception. It was 0°C (32F) when we arrived at the venue. I should say it was 0° minus whatever the wind chill factor was. An absolutely icy wind was blowing at the start.
They promised, a bagpipe player, trumpeter, helicopter and canon and they delivered. The race commemorates fallen war heroes from the army and police and every year they dedicate the race to the fallen heroes of a specific battle or incident. This year the race was dedicated to the soldiers and policemen lost when Puma 164 was shot down on 5 September 1979.
There were 5 bagpipe players and a trumpeter from the Police force.
Bagpiper playing in memory of the fallen heroes.
Police trumpeter playing the last call.
Four Harvard planes flew over followed by the last flying Puma of the SA air force. I missed a photo of the Harvards, but got one of the Puma.
There was a minute silence while runners waited for the start. This was followed by a huge blast from a WWII canon to signal the start of the race. Everyone jumped a few feet in the air when the canon was fired and some woke up again!
The start "gun".
Then we were off, running a race that was already very special. It was cold and I had my gloves on for the first 8km. The route is a combination of road and trail and I must say I really enjoyed this. The first part is fairly easy and I thought at some point the race was not as hard as advertised. There were a few climbs, but nothing serious at this stage.
Happy to be running another lovely race.
View to the North.
Runners were encouraged to keep the nature areas clean.
The first 18km were fairly easy with no technical trail and some tar road as well as lots of gravel road. The water points were well stocked and marshals as well as volunteers were very friendly and keen to help the runners.
On the gravel road.
Water point with friendly staff.
With 9km to go we ran underneath one of the main roads in a storm water way. Someone remarked that luckily no rain was forecast for the area.
9km to go, going under the road. This was an out and back section including a 2km loop.
Returning after completing the loop. Watch your head!
Then, with 7km to go, the race suddenly lives up to its reputation of being one of the harder races around. Once we passed under the road on our way back we started the first main climb. With 18km already behind us, I could feel the hills immediately. I think I might have still been a little weak from the stomach bug I had a week ago as well, but looking at the runners around me I think it is just a very tough race. Everyone was struggling up the hills.
With 7km to go the race shows its true colors.
Even the tar road wasn’t easy anymore.
The trail was now not so easy anymore, as we went up and up and up. Everyone around me was battling and getting very quiet.
We were going up Schanskop, a hill with an old fort, Fort Schanskop, at the top. The climb up here is well known by locals and some runners come here regularly for hill training. The fort is now a museum and I wondered if we would get to see it on our run. We joined the road for the final part of the climb and then my question was answered. We did not only see the fort, we ran right through it! I really enjoyed this, what a special race!
Final climb to the top.
Top of Schanskop.
Into the fort!
Running through Fort Schanskop, really great!
We then started our descent from the hill running on the road, back to the Voortrekker monument.
The descent on the road was steep in some places and I felt my quads complaining with a few other parts of my body also hurting. Yes, they were right; this is a very tough race, but a wonderful experience at the same time. With about 1.5km to go there was another sting in the tail, a last climb up a trail to make sure we didn’t forget the trail parts before we finish.
A final sting in the tail.
Then we were back on the hill of the Voortrekker monument. We ran past the South African Defence Force wall of remembrance and I took some time here, remembering some of my own friends who fell during battle when we were in the army. Indeed this race was special.
The next thing I saw...remember...1km to go!
But then, around the corner, a final surprise! “Up the stairs you go”, the marshal told me, “you get to run around the monument”. Stairs, with 24km behind me? Looking up at the monument I realized these stairs were nothing. Running around the monument was yet another fantastic experience. The stairs were part of the experience and I was happy to climb them (slowly) and ran into the monument wall of ox wagons. Fantastic!
Some stairs to climb after 24km.
Inside the ox wagon wall - fntastic!
Once around the monument it was down the stairs (slowly) and then downhill to the finish. I turned for my final approach towards the finish.
I finished in 03:17, tired, but very happy and feeling very good. I must have lost about 10 minutes taking photos. I don’t mind this as I was looking for time on the legs anyway. The race gave me everything I could ask for and much more. I received my medal and a lovely piece of fudge. Well, my son said it was lovely fudge…
Medal...the fudge was long gone.
This was one of the best races I’ve ever experienced and I’ll be back next year for sure!
These and more photos can be viewed here.