I wrote in my online training log at Buckeyeoutdoors.com “another day, another marathon, another 04:59”. I suppose that pretty much sums up the Vaal marathon for me. It was another long training run for me in my Comrades buildup and I did what was needed.
The mornings are getting cooler and darker here in South Africa so with a 6AM start the sun was still hiding when we were waiting for the start.
The Vaal marathon is a very popular Comrades qualifier because it is a relatively flat marathon and many runners have run their best marathon times here. I find it a hard work marathon with not many hills but also not many downhills to relax on. Having said that it is certainly not flat all the way.
My race went well without any incidents up to about 24km when I started experiencing a stiff feeling in my upper back. This became quite severe at times and I was thinking it must be because I changed work sites and have been sitting at a different desk with a different chair the past two weeks. (I confirmed this on Monday morning as the spasm returned when I sat in a certain position at my desk)
At 27km my back was forcing me to walk at times and we also reached a water point with no water left. This was not great at all and I decided to take it very slow to the next water table at 30km to see if they had water and then decide on my plan. It was dry and warm by now and I was not looking forward to a tough run without water.
Dry and warm by now.
My progress was really slow between 27km and 30km and I kept stretching my back, trying to work out the spasm I was dealing with. There were quite a lot of runners taking some strain.
Staci (Sandal Girl) on her way to a 4:48 Comrades qualifier. Way to go Staci!
After this I just kept going and slowly got rid of the back spasm. I just relaxed and enjoyed running another marathon. The last 8km runs next to the Vaal River which forms the southern border of Gauteng, the province I live in.
During the last few kilometers I really experienced lots of incredible emotions from the runners around me. There was the woman running with her husband cycling next to her. At 40km she just stopped and burst into tears, she was close to her limit. I became aware of how desperate the runners around me were to qualify for Comrades. Emmotions were running high all around me.
This guy in yellow was pep talking the lady in pink from 30km onwards. He kept on repeating, "keep going, never quit, keep going, never quit". She did and finished in 04:59 to qualify.
There were also these two runners trying to help a totally finished runner to make the 5 hour qualifying cutoff. I don’t know if she made it.
In the last kilometer I passed 3 runners at different places standing next to the road vomiting. All of these things made me realize again how tough a marathon is and how much I should keep on appreciating the fact that I am able to do this.
My final time was 04:59:13, nearly the same as my 04:59:10 three weeks ago. (3 seconds difference!) It shows you it helps to have experience to pace you through to the end, even more so on a not 100% perfect day.
With my favorite recovery drink after the race...chocolate milk!
A good run overall with my Comrades training 100% on track. As I said to a friend afterwards, "I’m not training to run a good marathon time, I’m training to run a comfortable Comrades on 29 May".
Happy training everyone!