The week prior to the race the country had lots and lots of rain with floods and flash floods in various places. Nearly all the rivers in Kwazulu Natal were in flood and we were warned about this before the race. For safety reasons the race started at 4 AM instead of 3 AM and we ran on the road up to the first checkpoint. We were not to cross any rivers in the dark and only moved onto the beach once the sun was up.
3:50AM, ready to go!
Shortly after the start at Hibberdene Caravan Park.
I enjoyed the first few kilometers on the road with all the oxygen at sea level, although it was warm from the start and the humidity was extremely high.
I was feeling fantastic and before I knew it the sun was rising and it was a beautiful morning with some stunning views.
Just as I was starting to enjoy myself too much I was pulled back to reality when my foot caught a cat eye on the road and I went crashing onto the tar.
Knee bashed again…
Soon after this we turned down to the beach and also the first checkpoint.
1st Checkpoint at Umtentweni Beach.
The race medic cleaned my knee and I filled my hydration pack and then it was on to the beach. Running on sand is never easy and I wondered how much of this was ahead. I think it’s a good thing I didn’t know so early in the race. It was difficult to decide where to run…soft, dry sand or wet sand with a slope to the left.
Where to run…dry sand or wet sand with a slope…?
I soon found most of the time there was no choice and I just ran where it looked the best or easiest. It was fantastic to run next to the ocean and it was a really beautiful morning.
Dry shoes didn’t last long either as I reached a few small river crossings…small but still ankle deep and no way to keep your shoes dry. It didn’t take long before I just ignored the sand and water and just kept running as normal. There was just no point in bothering with this.
Lots of these small river crossings.
My first goal was to reach Port Shepstone feeling good. I reached Port Shepstone feeling fantastic! Just before I entered Port Shepstone I had to go up to the road again to cross the river there over the bridge. It is a large river and it was flowing strong after all the rain. I was warned the morning before the start not to go into the water here. There was a danger of sharks and even crocodiles here!
River at Port Shepstone to dangerous to swim through.
After Port Shepstone it was onto the beach again for another long slog on the sand. I was surprised at how good I was feeling. Things were looking good and my spirits were high. As I went along the rivers became more challenging and there were more and more rocks to negotiate.
Some rivers were getting deeper.
More and more rocks in places.
At some point I needed water and there was nothing but beach and rocks to be seen. I found a small path up to the road. I ran on the road for a few minutes and then I saw a small service station (gas station). I could not believe my eyes when I saw the tap where I needed to get water. How crazy is this…I found a joggers tap!
I took the first road down to the beach again. I was now nearing Shelley Beach where my family was waiting with PB sandwiches and Powerade, my breakfast. My feet was starting to feel the strain of all the sand and water a bit by now. The route was slowly becoming more and more challenging or was it my feet and legs slowly becoming more and more tired?
Shelley Beach in the distance…breakfast was waiting there!
I had to do rock hopping more often and progress was slow at times. I enjoyed my “breakfast” while continuing over some rocks. I was feeling so good I didn't stop completely for breakfast at all.
I finally reached Uvongo Beach and I was relieved that I was feeling much better than I thought I would at this stage. I saw some running friends of mine on the beach here, enjoying their vacation. This was a good spirit booster. Uvongo is another beautiful beach on the South Coast and there were quite a lot of people on the beach. I got a few very funny looks but also some words of encouragement.
The river crossing at Uvongo was deep enough for another swim and when I got out of the water here I found that most of the sand in my shoes had washed to my toes during the swim. I continued and was pondering to take off and clean my shoes or just carry on. In the end I decided to just carry on as any shoe cleaning or sand removing would only help for a few strides anyway.
My next goal was the next checkpoint at Margate. I wasn’t sure how far it was and could not see anything up ahead because of some huge rocks. These rocks were the largest of the day so far and really took a lot of concentration to get over. I was rock hopping and climbing for nearly an hour before I could see the beach at Margate at last. This was not the end of the rocks though, there were more and also some smaller stones and boulders to make my hurting feet hurt even more.
Big rocks for a few kilometers. Really tough and needed lots of concentration.
First glimpse of Margate.
These stones made it just that bit more challenging for my feet.
I was really relieved when I made it onto the sand at Margate. There were lots of holiday makers on the beach and I got a second wind. I ran across the beach feeling positive and with some new energy. I found the checkpoint at the end of the beach where they gave me some cold water. I was happy.
The beach at Margate.
After Margate I went to Ramsgate quite quickly. It was getting very warm. It was 12:00 noon and 30°C (86F). I took a bathroom break at Ramsgate and then sat in the shade for a few minutes to cool down and eat some jelly babies. I stood under the shower that bathers use to wash off the salt water and then I was on my way again. I could feel I’ve been going for 8 hours already.
There were more difficult rock hopping to do and I was really relieved when I found a trail above the rocks at some point.
Trail above some difficult rocks.
The next two hours were extremely hot. I ran where I could and walked and climbed the rest of the way. There were many more rivers and rocks. The sun was relentless and there was no shade anywhere…just open beaches and rocks. Mentally this was the most difficult part of the race. I dipped into the sea a few times to cool down. Most of the salt would wash off again at the next river crossing. My feet started taking a heavy beating and the sun was burning my whole body.
More rock hopping.
Nowhere to hide from the sun.
At some stage I could see running shoe prints in the sand. Was I catching up to another runner? I didn’t know where anyone else was at that stage. We all chose our own route and went looking for water at different beaches and roads.
Running shoe tracks…
This was definitely the lowest point of the race for me. Seeing no one else for hours and the temperature reaching 35°C (95F) with no shade anywhere. The positive for me…I’ve never been this strong in the heat! My feet were hurting and I was tired, but somehow I still had the energy and will to carry on strong.
About 60km done. My low point...hot and tired with sore feet.
Through the rocks I go!
After a few more beaches and more rocks I found a small trail in the foliage above the rocks again. I was still able to run here and again surprised at how well I felt in the heat. As I came round one more “corner” I was surprised and relieved to spot another runner up ahead.
A fellow crazy runner up ahead! (she’s on the top right)
I caught up with her after a while and she was very surprised to see me. She was trying to call the organizers with her cell phone to come and fetch her, she was done…literally and figuratively. She wasn’t able to reach anyone and besides that we had no idea where we were. I encouraged her to carry on to the next beach where we could see where we were exactly and then decide what to do.
Soon we reached Marina Beach and we actually received a call from the RD at that point. He ensured us it was only 5km to the next checkpoint.
The RD’s 5km turned out to be 15km of this…
We reached the next and final checkpoint 3 hours later. The RD said it would be a 1 hour journey. Way to go for the organizer not knowing the route at all…!
Final checkpoint, 5km from the finish.
During the 3 hour journey I encouraged and pep talked my fellow racer to tough it out. 5km to go and I would stay with her. That did the trick and we started the last push to the finish. I was very tired but feeling good and positive. This was in the bag!
After about an hour we finally made it to Port Edward. I was worried that the river here would be deep by now with the tide coming in, but luckily it was just above the knees. We crossed the last river for the day and then made our way over the beach to the finish.
Emerging from the last river.
To the finish at the end of the beach!
What a day! This was tough and I could feel it. The sand, salt and water took its toll on my feet. The heat and sun took a lot out of my body, but I made it! 13 hours 36 minutes of hardcore running. Yes, after this race I will call myself hardcore.
I’ll show off my Odyssey cap and towel with pride for sure! The 01 was my race number.