Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 127, February 2020 - Page 18

THE RUNNING MANN always lose track once I run out of fingers. That said, one landmark I always keep a look out for is the local brickworks which marks 8km to go and is where the half marathoners rejoin the marathon route. From the brickworks you know it’s not long before Bredasdorp comes into sight and you can look forward to a long downhill all the way to the edge of town. There is one last sharp hill to negotiate as you reach Bredasdorp proper, but conveniently the last support table is at the foot of this hill, providing a good excuse for a walk before attacking the final 2km through the town. I’ve also noted a tendency that some events seem to be getting too big for their boots. Therefore, it’s a pleasure to return to the Boland and experience this down-to-earth race at the bottom of Africa that puts its participants first and provides a unique and authentic running experience. One Tough Challenge If the mountain hasn’t killed your legs, the drop down into Napier is by far the easiest section of the race. However, after 25km along farmland, gravel road, jeep tracks and mountain paths, being dumped onto the tar at Napier is a real shock to the system. The succinct and best route summary is, “The first half screws up your legs, and the second half screws up your mind.” With the most scenic part of the route complete and long-distance fatigue starting to set into the legs, the final section can pose too much of a challenge for the faint-hearted: In the past, I’ve seen several runners do a “planned bail” in Napier. Come to think of it, just before you hit the high street of Napier, you pass the local retirement village, so perhaps this subconsciously influences the weak-willed? Although I didn’t spot anyone succumbing to an early breakfast in one of the quaint Napier eateries this year, I did witness one strange case of altitude sickness. The bright yellow and blue strip of Strand Athletic Club runners was prominent during the race. Strand is the flattest place on the planet – it makes the Vaal Triangle look hilly – so Strand AC runners should be applauded for even attempting Voet. However, after a slow ascent followed by a rapid descent, I saw one Strand runner channelling his inner Michael Flatley for a quick Irish jig-jog. This is a real community event and the support tables are organised by everyone, from local businesses to the local police station. With the end in sight, it’s natural for the mind to start thinking ahead to post- race relaxation, which for a large chunk of the field would be a braai and a few beers. The Spar table was well-positioned to take advantage of this line of thinking, and whilst I sampled their wares, I overheard runners asking for butchery recommendations for the post-marathon braai. One of the big tourist draw-cards in the area is a visit to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa and the official meeting place of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. This is a particularly rugged and treacherous section of coastline and several ships have been wrecked along these perilous shores. Likewise, the terrain a little inland is no less torturous – and the Voet has wrecked many a fine pair of legs. Ship happens, but those who manage to successfully charter their way around this rocky route and navigate safe passage to harbour at the Bredasdorp Sports Grounds might want to pay respects to the less fortunate at the Shipwreck Museum one passes just a kilometre from the finish. Unwavering Commitment Whilst some races rebrand their catchphrase annually, the Voet has stuck with “The toughest race with the warmest heart” for as long as I can remember. Whilst marketing slogans are easy to dream up, actually living up to them is much more challenging, but the Voet actually pulls it off. This is a race where the whole community gets involved, and I’ve certainly felt the warmth of the local hospitality every time I’ve run. Counting the Climbs The road to Bredasdorp lived up to my recollections of being a relentless slog. Those who’ve counted the undulations to the finish at the Bredasdorp Sport Grounds claim there are 17 hills over the last 16 kilometres... I’ve tried counting them myself, but 18 Ship happens on the rugged, rocky terrain at the southernmost tip of Africa As an example of how they live up to their motto, in 2018 the one-legged amputee athlete, Xolani Luvuno, completed the route but missed the six-hour cut-off by just five minutes. Although he was not given an official finish, he was still awarded a medal and the organisers invited him back again in 2019 as the official race ambassador. Sadly the cut-off once again eluded Xolani, this time by just a couple of minutes, but I am sure he’ll be back for another attempt at becoming the first person with one foot to conquer the Voet! As for me, having scratched my seven-year itch, I’m pleased to report that the Voet is still one of the best marathons in South Africa (and the world). I’m often asked about my top 10 marathons, but am fairly non- committal with my responses, as I want to run every marathon in South Africa before making things official. However, I can confirm that the provisional list does have at least one entry written in ink... the Voet van Afrika Marathon. Signing out from the Voet ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stuart’s blogs usually focus on his adventures (and sometimes misadventures) while running marathons and ultra-marathons all over South Africa, and occasionally in other countries. He recently fulfilled a lifetime goal of securing a shoe sponsorship from The Sweatshop Broadacres and Asics South Africa (and a running kit sponsorship from Runderwear), thus allowing him to run more races and share their stories. You can read his original blogs at http://runningmann.co.za, and follow him on social media @runningmann100. ISSUE 127 FEBRUARY 2020 / www.modernathlete.co.za I had previously observed Angelo and Esmund spending plenty of quality time together as they slowly trudged up the mountain. They run for KENFAC – a running club combining the names of the two neighbouring Cape Town communities of KENsington and FACtreton. Fortuitously, the club’s founders decided on this conjunction order, although I definitely heard Angelo and Esmund use the word FACKEN several times on the uphills!