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

Monday, 14 February 2011

Pick 'n Pay Marathon Race Report

On Sunday morning I ran the Pick ‘n Pay Marathon in Bedfordview, Johannesburg. This is one of my favorite marathons because of good organization, a pleasant route and because it was my first marathon way back in 1985. This was the ninth time I ran the full marathon and I’ve also run the half seven times.

It was an overcast morning after some rain and thunder during the night. I arrived early and was glad I did as the field was rather big with about 5000 runners. This is South Africa so 5000 runners means at least 4700 cars traveling to the start, each with one runner on board.

Waiting at the start.

06:00 start...early for some...

The start was a bit congested but we moved quite well as the road was fairly wide. I ran this as a training run and it was my 6th run for the week. The plan was to make it a LSD run to help me with the transition from trails to road for my Comrades training. I had a comfortable 04:45 marathon in my mind.

First hill at 2km

Just after 7km, lots of runners way up front. 
I was taking it really easy and made sure that I conserved energy during the first half. It was still overcast and the weather was perfect for running. Just after the water table at 9km I was very happy to see Sandal Girl (Staci) from She Runs In Sandals ahead of me. If you’ve been reading my blog for some time you’ll know that I took photos of Staci in her sandals and posted them on my blog only to find that she has her own blog later.

Staci (Sandal Girl) just after 9km
This was the first time we formally met on the road. The marathon was a double lapper and Staci was planning to run to the 24km mark and then backtrack to the finish, giving her about 32km for the day. It was great to meet the very friendly Sandal Girl at last. We chatted about running and blogging and also about what we’ve learned about running in other countries via Blogland.

Getting some photos for her race report.

We ran the first half in 02:23 and I was pleased with that. Everything was good and I had no problems or anything that caused concern. I said goodbye to Staci as she reached the 24km mark, her turnaround point. The sun finally broke through the clouds at about 26km and it warmed up almost immediately.

26km done, getting a bit warmer now.
I carried on at the same pace and listened to the runners around me. There were quite a few trying to qualify for Comrades by running a sub 5 hour marathon. From 30km onwards we could feel the sun and the runners became quieter and quieter as we moved along. 

30km done, runners now quieter and looking more serious.
Between 35km and 37km I had a slight bad patch and also had to run into some bushes for a sudden and very unexpected pit stop. I’m still not sure what happened but I had no time to look for the best spot and just had to get to the nearest bush as fast as I could. The stomach was obviously the reason why I had a bad patch just before this as well. After the pit stop and bad patch I was way behind my 04:45 goal. I didn’t worry about this as it was a LSD run but I still wanted to finish in 5 hours if possible.

Just after 37km I passed the sad site of paramedics working on a runner that was lying on the road.

Paramedics working on a runner...never good to see.

We all thought the runner collapsed in the road but we heard later he was hit by a car. His injuries are very serious and he was airlifted to hospital with possible brain damage. I read in the news this morning he was hit by robbers that were making a getaway after robbing a local restaurant. The driver was arrested but the others ran away.

By the time I passed the accident scene and felt my bad patch and stomach problem were over, I realized I had to get a move on to make the 05:00 cutoff time. This is where the long hours on the trails and high mileage weeks come into their own. This is where I could get the strength to pick up the pace for the last 4km of the marathon. People always ask me why I train 6 days per week and why I put in such high weekly totals. Well, here I could show them why. I was able to run the last 4km at a much faster pace than the first 38km and recovered completely from the bad patch I had.

In the last 2km I tried to convince a first time marathoner to stay with me to qualify for Comrades but he just didn’t have it in the legs (or mind) to stay with me. I ran onto the field with about 2 minutes to go and finally crossed the finish line in 04:59:10. I was surprised and happy to see Staci and her husband waiting for me at the finish. I felt a bit embarrassed that they had to wait so long for me. Thanks for waiting Staci, I think that was just awesome!

With Sandal Girl (Staci) after the marathon.

All in all I am happy. I reached my goal of 80+ km for the week with 84.5km and I reached my goal of a sub 5 hour marathon with 04:59:10. Cutting it very fine towards the end but good for a long run and Comrades qualifier.

The swag…medal, long sleeve t-shirt, some breakfast bars, multi vitamins, arnica ice and a magazine.

Marathon number 124 in the bag! Have a great week everyone!


Amanda@runninghood said...

124?! Woah, and you have not fallen apart yet? Great job! :) Congrats on your goal! I felt like I was running with you with all your pictures. I will have to go check Stacy out. Hope you had the rest of the day to ice, read, and relax!

Christi said...


Sorry to hear about the injured runner. I hope they recover well and that the remaining robbers are captured!

Kate Geisen said...

Great job, Johann! You're a running machine. :) Very cool that you got to meet Staci on the road. How terrible about the runner hit by the car. Scary. You just never know what can happen. Congratulations on a strong finish. I imagine that runners problem was more his mind than his legs. I've definitely found that my legs can do more than my mind trusts them to do. Now if I can only keep that in mind during my marathon!

ajh said...

Wow! You have done a serious amount of marathons. Hope that runner is okay. That is tragic!

Jill said...

Nothing like cutting it just under the wire, makes it a little more exciting, eh? :)

Great job, Johann..I have used marathons to train for "the" marathon and absolutely LOVE IT! It's always so nice to go in with no pressure and to enjoy and have fun!

That's just crazy about the runner hit - I hope they recover quickly!!

I guess SA doesn't believe in mass transportation?

Thanks for your very nice words on my blog today, Johann! It will pass one day eventually...just a very rough place right now but one day, one way or another, it will just be a (bad) memory. :)

Happy Valentine's Day :)

Mike said...

Good job on your "LSD" marathon!
A runner hit by a robber. Just when I thought I've heard it all!

Unknown said...

I saw this on your schedule and figured it might just be a training run for you. =D How awesome that you could also qualify for comrades too!! Nice work!

As always, your photos and story telling are fantastic.

So sorry that happened to a runner. I heard about someone getting hit by a car recently in a Pacific NW relay - but i think it was a pacer on a bike, not a runner. Anyway, never a good thing :(. Glad the person had airlift!

Another great race report, Johann!

Julie @ HotlegsRunner said...

#124??? so that means I have 122 to go to be able to reach that number! haha! you are awesome!

Amy said...

wow! I really enjoyed reading your report and how cool you got to meet Staci.
Really terrible that a runner got hit by a car - it sounds pretty bad but let's keep our hopes up that he is okay.

GaryB said...

Well done. It must of taken real guts to come back after the bad patch and make your cut off time with the last 4km



Abby @ Have Dental Floss, Will Travel said...

Marathon 124? Amazing...

I'd love to hear how you first got into running. I imagine your dad had something to do with it, but it's always fun to hear those sorts of origins stories.

misszippy said...

So sad about the runner who was hit by the car. I would guess it would have been a bit hard to push on after that.

You did a great job, even with the obstacles thrown in! And wow--that's a LOT of marathons! Quite impressive.

Marlene said...

124!! My goodness, I didn't realize you had run that many marathons! Congratulations on sticking to your plan and making it in under 5.

That's terrible to hear about the runner who was hit by a car fleeing the scene of a crime. I hope he makes it.

Jennifer said...

Nice race report Johann and good job with your race. I really appreciate your matter-of-fact kind of easy going attitude and how when "issues" present themselves you take care of them, reassess your situation then move on and get it done. Thanks for sharing!

Teamarcia said...

OMG 124 marathons. I cannot imagine! Well done slipping in under the wire. So sad about the runner that was hit by the getaway car...what are the chances? Wishing them a speedy and full recovery.

Big Daddy Diesel said...

excuse me as I scrape my jaw off the desk after reading 124 marys, you are a legend!!!

And congrats on the race

Lauren said...

Congrats on making your sub five. I have not yet done that : ) (5:01). Really enjoyed reading your race report. Boy was I shocked to read about that poor runner who was hit by a car. Terrible.

On a happy note, what a joy to meet up with a fellow blogger in a race.

2 Slow 4 Boston said...

I didn't realize you were up to 125 marathons. Cutting your goal time a bit close there, but it's very rewarding to best it, even by less than a minute! Nice report!

Char said...

That poor runner! When you get up in the morning to race you don't expect you'll be involved in an accident. I hope he recovers okay.

Anne said...

I was thinking exactly what Char said...sorry to hear about that runner.

Congrats on your 124th marathon...you are quite an inspiration Johann!

Adrienne said...

Hopefully the runner that was hit will recover. Ughh. Not fun to see at all. 124 marathons.....what can I say to you that I haven't already.....you're amazing.

The Green Girl said...

Wow. That is so scary that they got hit while running a race. I hope they are okay.

Congratulations on completing another race and having such a big heart.

Laurie said...

Wow, 124 marathons? You rock!
Hope the injured runner is recovering well. Sounds like a serious situation.

Ewa said...

There is nothing better than meeting virtual friends in person, is it.
Scary about the runner hit by a car. Hope he is OK. If you ever find out if he recovered, will you post?
In case you have not noticed everyone, including is totally blown away by your running resume.

Unknown said...

Congrats man! You are the man and so inspiring! Congrats on the CQ (Comrades Qualifying?)!

Black Knight said...

A rich loot!!!!
Congrats, 124 marathons are a lot and also the sub 5 is a great result.
Indeed 06.00 a.m. is early!!!
Beautiful pictures.

Sherri said...

You never stop amazing me! Great job on another marathon!

Unknown said...

I am so sorry for that runner, it must have been hard for you to hear about what happened. Those things can really affect one's heart and mind during and after a race, I've been through that before as well.
Congrats on reaching your goals, you always do and you continue to have a great attitude.

HappyTrails said...

Sorry you had to see a traumatic experience doing something you love. Nice way to utilize the races for training Johann - have a great week!

Molly said...

congrats on making your goal! That is horrible about the runner who was hit by the car. And 124?!!? : )

ultra collie said...

great time johann. especially given your training volume!

Christina said...

How terrible for the runner being hit by a car and the others around that saw it happen. Those accidents always make me thankful I'm safe and healthy. You just never know what will happen.

That's funny about sandal girl. I'm glad that you've met her in person and not just her feet.

A Prelude To... said...

Great report for the Bling of It :D

I am so saddened by the story of the runner that was hit by the car. How awful for the people who had to witness it as well.

Anonymous said...

Marathon #124? This is beyond impressive! I am totally awed! It's so sad about that runner. Hit by ranning away robbers? Like how probable is that? :-(

Melissa said...

Great race! 124 marathons is AMAZING. I am very sad to hear about the runner who was hit...I hope he is able to recover.

Andrew Opala said...


Lucy said...

Congrats on your sub 5! Congrats on another marathon!

beachbody team said...

She survives running a marathon in sandals? Now that's too unique. Thanks for the link I'm gonna go check out her blog. Congrats on your success.

Andre said...

Nice one brother 124!wow
Keep going now that you have qualified for comrades!