Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 127, February 2020 - Page 17

THE RUNNING MANN I noted that sometime during the last seven years, the road we start on had been tarred, but in less than 2km we turned off onto dirt road, and would only see the asphalt again with about 16km to go. However, there was enough time for several truckloads of exuberant half marathoners to cheer us on loudly as they passed us on their way to their start. Siya Bashe runs for the photo and shows the men how it’s done We would pass the half marathon start a short while later, about 10km into the race, and since they only start at 7:30am, it is a nice boost to get encouragement from them before we entered the business section of the Voet. Although the half is often seen as the ‘easy option’, I am told that pound for pound and step for step, the half marathon at Voet is even tougher than the full marathon. The marathon has just over 800m of elevation gain, whereas the half marathon gives you about 75% of that elevation gain within half that distance! have plenty of time to appreciate the stunning vistas, because the average pace drops as you slowly grind your way over the Overberg. One unfortunate change to the race is that we no longer run through the Grashoek farm. Sadly, despite polite requests, pleas and threats, runners kept throwing their water sachets all over the farm and the cows would eat them, so there is no longer the opportunity to show off ones hopping skills over the farm streams and brooks. However, while running through pristine countryside, it was good to see that most runners did #RunClean and I spotted very few sachets outside the demarcated areas. Each table had plenty of bins and the “End of Litter Zone” was clearly marked at each table. About 500m of the race’s total elevation gain of 800m occurs over the 2km crawl as you approach the summit of the Soetmuisberg, and it was near the top that I was able to bust the notoriously noxious gender stereotype that men have bigger running egos. I’ve found that running photos look much better when runners are actually running in them, so I challenged the group of walking runners just behind me with a chastising call of, “Who’s going to run for the photo?” Siya Bashe was the only lady in the group, and of course, she was the only one to take the bait... and put us men to shame with her athletic prowess! Fynbos Overload! This is a climb that keeps on giving. There are several occasions when you think, “This must be the top,” before a twist reveals still more elevation to conquer. Eventually the post office tower comes into view, and after a short trundle around it, one can look forward to 10km of glorious descent. During this mountain section you are engulfed by exquisite indigenous fynbos and the downhill gives one the opportunity to truly appreciate the beauty of your surroundings. This is one of my all-time favourite running segments, and it was great to get reacquainted. One of the unique aspects of this race is that you can see both South Africa’s national plant (King Protea) and national bird (Blue Crane) during the race – whilst the more ambitious (and those who like things in threes) can go fishing after the race and try to lure South Africa’s national fish, the Galjoen (black bream), for a land, sky and sea ménage à trois. I made sure I took a bit of time to stop and smell the Proteas during the descent. Unfortunately, like our cricket side that went to the World Cup, the bunch I tried to photograph was well past its prime, and it looks like it will be quite some time before they are in full bloom again. Similarly, some runners around me had wilted badly on the mountain climb, so it was pleasing to see that Angelo Adams and Esmund Van Wyk had revived themselves and looked a lot more comfortable on the downhills. Take some time to stop and smell the fynbos on the long descent to Napier The Mountain Awaits The first 13km are fairly gentle and your fresh legs should be able to easily handle the gentle undulations and odd hill during your tranquil farmland traverse. However, all the while the Soetmuisberg looms ominously in the distance, and your peaceful morning is rudely disturbed with a right-turn and the beginning of the trail section of the race. Those who fear ferocious hills should look at this as an opportunity for some quality bonding time with your fellow runners, as the conversation grows deeper and the gradient gets steeper. The good news is that the views just get better and better as you climb up the mountain track – and mortal runners like myself 17