By Amy Ebedes
I’ve never run a sub 2 half marathon. The first half marathon (and race, for that matter) that I ever ran, I came in comfortably at 2:00:30. I figured I would only get faster from there.
My time always sits between a cosy window of 2:00:30 and 2:05:00, regardless of my fitness level.
When I got invited to the PPC Riebeek Berg Marathon, I decided that this was it. Two weeks after The Big
Five Four in Knysna, I figured that a sub 2 would be an effortless time. Granted, I don’t run much (read: ever) on the road, but my trail fitness extends to regular 20+ km adventures on Table Mountain. I was convinced I was golden.
A quick drive from Cape Town to Riebeek West, I was prepared for an early dinner with race sponsors PPC cement, a quiet viewing of the Olympic opening ceremony and running a PB the next day. I was mistaken.
Dinner, despite it’s early start, had one flaw: the legend that is Mr. Bruce Fordyce. To put it in perspective, Bruce does a fair amount of work for Runner’s World, but him and I have an exclusively online and telephonic working relationship, and have never spoken face-to-face. After introducing myself, the wine started to flow… and one doesn’t pass up the opportunity to chat, in person, with the king of the Comrades.
Eventually, I politely excused myself to watch the Olympic ceremony. After what felt like the thirtieth country starting with “C” came out around 00h30, I realised it was going to be a long haul before seeing the SA team and the lighting of the Olympic flame, and resigned myself to getting a semi decent nights sleep.
The next morning, brain slightly foggy, I arrived at the PPC Cement factory as the sun was rising, and prepared to conquer the half marathon.
I had a race strategy: race the first half conservatively, and give it horns in the second half. Normally I accelerate from the start and regret it later. So I took it slowly. I actually put in effort to run slowly. I felt comfortable and started to soak up the beauty of Riebeek Kasteel. A quick glimpse at my watch showed I was running at 5.20min/km – a far cry from my usual 6min/km plod. Chuffed, I settled into the rhythm.
I ran past a field of massive Eland buck. I smiled as fruit in plastic bags were strung up along a barbed wire fence for the runners. I watched in awe as the front runners of both the marathon and half marathon came cruising past on the opposite side of the road (the beauty of out-and-back routes: you get to see the elites in full stride. A real thing of beauty). My chest filled with pride when I saw the Olympic support at a farm stall.
I hit the 11km mark in 58 minutes, and I figured sub-2 was well within my reach.
I ran the last 10km in 66 minutes.
Out-and-back routes are sneaky little bastards. Despite hilly appearance on the first half, the overall 11km profile was a gradual decline. The long “flats” I was comfortably cruising, flipped around, were gradual, quad-busting hills, and my pace got slower, slower, slower.
With the finish line in sight, I saw my watch hit 2:00:00 and knew this wasn’t my day. Slightly disappointed, I trudged towards the finish line. As I hit the grass, I heard the cry of “Go, Amy!” from the spectators. Confused (I was there alone), I looked left, to see Bruce Fordyce waving excitedly, encouraging me over the finish line.
I may not have run my PB, but PPC Riebeek Berg Half Marathon will forever be remembered as the day that a South African legend cheered me over the finish line.
After chatting to Bruce at the finish line, I was pleased to hear he had the same sentiments: “At half way, I thought I was going to run a sub 1:40!”
Thanks to all involved with the PPC Riebeek Berg Half Marathon. A spectacular event that I will most certainly be back for!