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

Thursday 28 March 2013

2013 Allan Ferguson Half Marathon Report

Last Sunday I ran the Allan Ferguson Half Marathon in Johannesburg. This is a local race with the start about 10km from home. I love to support this race as it runs through the neighborhood where I grew up and includes many hills I used to train on years ago.

Allan Ferguson, running legend.

The race was always known as the Jackie Gibson Marathon and Half Marathon and is hosted by Johannesburg Harriers Athletics Club. Allan Ferguson, one of South Africa’s true ultra running legends ran for JHAC and sadly passed away last year. He was one of my dad’s running buddies back in the day. I was really happy to see the club dedicated the half marathon to him this year. I was eager and pleased to support the race.

This was three days after my marathon at Standerton, but I decided some good hill training on marathon legs would be good for the months ahead. The plan was to just go and have fun while getting some valuable training in at the same time.

We left home early enough to miss the annual traffic jam for parking, the only negative about this race. I pre-entered and got my number easy enough. We even had time to relax in the car before I got ready to go to the start.

Ready for another race!

Walking to the start…fast guys doing sprint warm-ups.

The field was big as always. This is a very well known and popular race. The route is difficult but that doesn’t keep runner’s away.

Waiting for the start with my wife/best friend/supporter.

The race started right on time and we were off…straight into the hills. The first part of this race is really hard. There are some tough climbs and I could certainly feel my marathon legs right from the start. I always take about 7km to settle in and running over steep hills during those 7 kilometers can be hard.

On our way!

Tough hills right from the start.

The plan was simple…take it very easy on the hills and see how it goes on the downhills. My legs were tired from the marathon and I felt this on the hills. They were also a little sore going downhill so my progress was slow. At least I could feel they were getting better and better as I ran and this was encouraging. I was really glad I was doing only one lap of this race today.

I know the route like the back of my hand. I have literally run thousands of kilometers around here. The race also goes around the nature reserve where I do my trail training. This is my valley.  I was certainly in very good spirit for the race.

Another good water table with a local singer singing some Comrades and running songs.

More hills followed the first few hard ones. There were some good downhills in between but these were harder to run on my marathon legs than the uphills. The water tables were excellent with many friendly helpers.

Around halfway. Feeling better and better!

I reached halfway feeling much stronger than I did during the first 5km. I could feel my legs were getting warmed up and the down running was not hurting anymore. The second half of the race is much easier than the first, but there is a little sting at the end with the last 2km being uphill.

Another tough hill at 13km.

I kept something in reserve for that last hill because I remember suffering there in previous years. I was sure running this three days after a marathon would be painful.

Last water table with 3km to go.

I surpised myself as I felt really strong when I reached the last hill with 2km to go. I knew it was an up run to the finish but strangely enough this was the best I’ve ever felt here. I decided to put the hammer down and ran the last 2km faster than the rest of the race. I was really happy that I felt this good just after running a marathon. Anette cheered me on along the way and gave me an extra boost as well.

1km to go and VERY happy I was only doing one lap today!

Not long and I ran into the finish. Very happy and feeling awesome! Mission accomplished. This was a super training race for me.


We received a nice t-shirt and a lovely medal. The medal has a photo of the late Allan Ferguson on the front. Very special to me and I know my dad will love seeing his old running buddy being honored.

Great shirt! Born to run, forced to work…

Special medal in memory of a special person and running legend.

The hard training is now in full swing. So far I am extremely happy. I feel better than I have for a few years now. Next up is the Slow Mag Marathon on 14 April. But first I must get through a 35km training run this weekend.

Have a very special Easter everyone. May you all be blessed with happiness.

Monday 25 March 2013

2013 Standerton Marathon Report

21 March is a public holiday here in South Africa and that is also the date of the Standerton Marathon. Standerton is a commercial and agricultural town about 2 hours drive south east from Johannesburg. Anette and I decided this was a good marathon to travel to on our day off.

We left home some time after 3AM to be sure we would be in time for the 6AM start. When we were about 40km from Standerton we started driving in the mist and this became thicker and thicker as we got closer to the town. We arrived early enough to relax while entering for the races. Anette ran the 5km while waiting for me to complete the marathon.

It was still very misty and quite cool when we walked to the start. I felt good and positive. My training is going well and I’ve been feeling good progress on my runs. My legs were well rested for this race.

Walking to the start.

This was a small race. Unlike the races we are used to in Johannesburg there weren’t many runners at the start. My guess is about 300 runners for the marathon, half marathon and 10km combined. Of these 300 it seemed as if most ran the half marathon.

Waiting for the start. Look at the drops caused by the mist.

There was a quick prayer and then we were on our way. This was my first road marathon in more than two years. I was quite excited about this although I do miss the trails sooo much…J

On our way!

The first 8 to 9km was run through the town and then we ran out into the country. This was an out and back route and it was the same for the 10km and the half marathon. I enjoyed this as I could see all the fast people running back. I was just past 3km when the 10km leader came running back already!

First few kilometers in the town.

Out into the country. Misty and great weather!

The mist stayed with us for most of the race. It was perfect running weather although there was not much to see because of the mist. The route is apparently quite scenic but I did not see this at all. There were plenty of Kosmos flowers around and that was beautiful!

Kosmos flowers everywhere!

Not many people ran the marathon and the small field spread out very quickly. With this and the mist there were no other runners in sight at times. I ran the whole 42.2km on my own.

Not many runners (or anything) to see.

The half marathon runners soon started appearing out of the mist and this was great to keep me busy.

The first half went quickly and before I knew it I had to turn around and head back to the finish. I was feeling good and comfortable. My eating and drinking strategy seems to be sorted out well. I felt very positive overall.

The way out to the turnaround point looked and felt slightly uphill. The way back to the finish looked and felt slightly uphill!  This was strange and I decided it must be flat. J It was still misty and there was not much more to see during the second half.

Going back...road in the mist…the only view most of the way.

I was feeling strong and actually better and better as I approached 32km (20 miles). I felt comfortable and must say I am starting to feel all the Comrades training paying off. I am not a very good long distance runner on the road and any positives are very welcome. I think I was designed for the trails really.

Road is not my favorite running surface.

As I approached the town the mist started lifting a bit. With 8km to go I was still feeling very good. This made me very positive and I was able to keep my pace up. I was actually glad to get back into the town as there was at least a few things to see. A marathon out on a lonely road is a long way.

Back in town and the mist was lifting.

There were a few hills in the last 6km or so. The sun came out as well, just to make sure I didn’t feel finishing this marathon was easy. A marathon is never easy, but this was one of my best road marathons in a very long time. Not from a time perspective, but from a how I was feeling perspective.

Some sun and hills for the last few kilometers.

Soon I was back where we started and then into the finish. Not fast by all means, but feeling really very good. If this was a 50km I would have had a great run.

To the finish!

I met all my goals and probably a bit more because I felt so good when I finished. I was really not very tired. I know I am slow but finishing this marathon strong gave me hope for Comrades. I might just have a good up run this year.

Happy with a nice medal to show for it.

I’m glad I ran this marathon. Not much to see because of the mist, but it was a very well organized race. The water tables were fantastic with lots to eat and drink. I would recommend this race to anyone. I will be back again someday.

Have a great week everyone! I ran a half marathon yesterday and will post that report soon.

Friday 15 March 2013

Running and Weight Loss and Age

I think I can safely say that all runners watch their weight. There might be a few that are lucky enough that they don’t have to. I am not one of those few.

What I can say is that many years ago, in the 1990’s, I ran and could eat what I want and still lose weight.  Today, 2013, that is not the case. Age certainly changed that.

When I was 35 years old, if I ran 50km or more per week, I would lose weight regardless of how much of what I ate. Now I am almost 50 and I must run 75km or more per week before that applies. I must really make an effort now if I want to shed any extra weight.

January 1997 - I was 58kg for this marathon.

December 2012 - 16 years older and about 16kg heavier! And 16 x wiser! Having more fun also :)

I must also be careful of what I eat nowadays and running more only helps a little more. But running still helps. I must just run much more per week than was necessary in the 1990’s if I want to eat what I like.

At least I have  lovely wife now that reminds me to eat wisely.
I remember when I used to run 100km and more per week I ate all the time and my weight still dropped. I remember waking up at 2 AM to eat an extra meal, often eggs or bread with cheese. Now I won’t be able to do that, even if I run more than 100km in a week.

Losing weight helps your running a great lot. You run better times with the same effort if you weigh less. It is said that each kilogram you lose can give you 3 minutes on a marathon. That is a lot and certainly makes it worth putting in the effort to shed that extra weight.

I am currently doing exactly that and hope to shed at least another 7 – 10kg before the Comrades. I am really putting in the effort and it shows. Yes, I run quite a lot, but at my age the extra effort is required. So far it is going very well and I am sure I will achieve my target weight by Comrades.

Older, heavier, slower...but I still run and love it more than ever!

Do you battle with this or are you still young and lucky enough not to worry too much about it?

Run and eat well everyone!

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Happy Birthday Rohann

Our son Rohann is 12 years old today. How quickly do they grow up! At least he is growing into a very fine crew member of my ultra running support staff... ;)

Happy Birthday Rohann! We love you very much!

Ready to cut his cake...

Oh yes! Carbo loading time!

Some nice XBOX presents for me him!

Have a fantastic day everyone!

Friday 8 March 2013

Spotted during my race...

Do you pay attention to things and people next to the road while running a race? I do!

I spotted a local artist selling his artwork on a street corner while running the Striders 32km last weekend. This is very common here in South Africa. Some guys have more stock on the street corner than any studio can dream of!

Happy Friday everyone! Have a super weekend!

Tuesday 5 March 2013

2013 Striders 32km Race Report

This past weekend I ran the Striders 32km (20 mile) race in Springs, east of Johannesburg. This is always a very well organized race and I found it the same this year. Even though there was a very big marathon on the same day, the turnout for the race was good. There is a 15km race as well and I think this attracted quite a lot of people.

Anette...wife, supporter, motivator and best friend. Love her!!!

I entered early in the year so number pickup was quick and easy. Anette accompanied me for support and also to do the 5km run. I always appreciate her support and enthusiasm. She motivates me a great lot!

The start was at 6AM and it was one of the cooler mornings we've had for a while. This time of the year everyone is in great spirit at the races. All the talk is about Comrades, Comrades training and when/where will you qualifying?

Waiting for the start.

This was a long training run for me. I've done a few on my own in the past weeks and was ready to do this one in a race. I treated it as a sort of dress rehearsal for my marathon on 21 March. The start of the race was smooth and relaxed. In fact, standing at the start my heart rate was 65 and I thought that was quite good.

On our way! Autumn is in the air...

The race is a double lapper with the 15km runners splitting off just before the 15km mark. Springs is flat so the course is also flat and fast. The first 5km is mainly downhill and you need to be careful not to go out too fast or get sucked into the pace of the 15km runners. Luckily I’m a slow starter by nature and I just did my usual thing. Being an ultra runner certainly teaches you to pace yourself well.

1st water point

I ran very comfortably and enjoyed being in the race. The route was exactly the same as previous years so I knew what to expect. I did take longer than usual to find my groove though. Usually I start feeling my best after about 7km. This time it only happened after 12km. This wasn’t too bad as the first lap was almost done by then.

Cool weather on the first lap.

My first lap went very quickly and I was feeling really good as I went through halfway at 16km. I ran alone the whole way although many runners chatted to me along the way. One thing I love about running is that I am always joined by people with similar abilities to mine along the way. It is as if we all connect and relate without saying a word.

13km on the bridge. Only real hill on the route.

I went through the half marathon mark feeling very good and almost as if I’ve just started running. This made me very positive and gives me motivation to carry on training the way I am. There is progress for sure! Before I knew it I was counting down single digits and I knew by the way I was feeling I would carry on to finish feeling well. The cooler weather certainly helped a lot.

Sign at 18km - loved it!

At 27km I started feeling the running for the first time. Nothing serious, but I could feel I’ve been running for some time now. We tend to forget that running 32km (20miles) is no walk in the park. It might not be a marathon or ultra, but it is still a long way to run. I see myself as privileged to be able to do this distance with ease.

Lap 2 and about 27km done. 5k to go!

On the second lap I could see there were a lot less people at the race because of the big marathon on the same day. We were quite far apart in some places. The local school brass band was still playing on lap 2 and cheering us on and all the runners showed their appreciation.

Runners spread out quite far on lap 2.

Local school band still playing...awesome!

The last water point was at 29km and I was feeling good enough to just take some water, not feeling a need for coke or anything else. This was a confidence booster for sure!

Over the bridge one more time.

I remembered when I ran here 3 years ago it was very warm and I was feeling tired, sick and nauseous the last 7km. This year I was feeling great! I even stopped to look at the trains in the last kilometer. I’m a train and model train fanatic/geek and love seeing the real thing.

Train spotting with 1km to go.

Then it was time for the last kilometer to the finish. Anette was waiting for me where we turned into the sports grounds and she says I was looking strong and comfortable. That is what my goal was. To finish strong and comfortable. Adding 10km to this for my marathon on 21 March is very doable.

Over the finish for a good, solid run.

All in all a very good race. Well organized and no complaints from my side. A pity they shared the date with one of the most popular marathons (Vaal Marathon) in South Africa. The Striders 32km deservers huge numbers as they’ve had for many. many years. If possible I will always be back at the Striders.

Another finish, another medal.