Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 143, July 2021 July 2020 | Page 30

Ismael Isaacs

Running There

And Back Again is no slouch when it comes to running . In a decade of road running , he has raced every distance from 10km to 100km , but with lockdown restrictions in place , he had to get creative with his running in order to tackle the Cape Town to Mossel Bay Challenge .

“ I did most of my short runs around my neighbourhood , but for the longer runs I went outside of my area as well . The majority of the time I had to run solo , because of the lockdown regulations and because I didn ’ t want to even run in smaller groups , as I was trying to social distance as best I could ,” says Ismael . “ Of course , with it being a virtual challenge , there were no aid stations and cheering crowds to keep you going , so some days were definitely harder .”

With the COVID-19 pandemic throwing the world on its collective side , and normality a distant memory , most races have been cancelled for the past 16 months , and those runners who want to participate in races have been forced to run what we now know as virtual races . Most runners then tackle these challenges solo , or in very small groups , in order conform to lockdown restrictions and practice social distancing , and usually on their regular training routes near home or work .

As a result , event organisers have had to come up with interesting race formats , limited edition race products or really special goodie-bags in order to keep enticing would-be participants to part with their money and enter these events . Thus we have seen all sorts of distances , team challenges and other interesting concepts , but the recent Cape to
Ismael did some of his Cape to Mossel Bay mileage on well known Cape Town roads
These are strange times to be a road runner , and thanks to virtual races , there are some really interesting running challenges being dreamt up , like the recent Cape to Mosselbay Virtual Challenge . At just under 400km , it was already one of the longest virtual races on the calendar , but when Ismail Isaacs won the event , being the first to ‘ run to Mossel Bay ,’ he did the natural thing and promptly started ‘ running back again !’ – BY PJ MOSES
Mossel Bay Virtual Challenge , organised by the Midas Spartans Athletic Club of Cape Town , was definitely something different .
The distance from Cape Town to Mossel Bay by road is 389km , and runners were given 60 days to cover that virtually , picking their own routes within their own areas , and also with the freedom to choose when and how long they would run on any particular day . The first runner to cover the 389km and ‘ get there ’ would be the winner , with the organisers relying on GPS and Strava technology to keep track of participants ’ progress . And one that really needed watching was
Ismael Isaacs of Ommiedraai Running Club .

Speed in the Legs

With a sub-3:20 marathon and having earned a Sainsbury medal in the Two Oceans and a Bill Rowan at Comrades , Ismael has proven many times that he
In spite of these challenges , he soon began eating up the distance , and he had good reason to push hard to get the distance under his belt . As a devout Muslim , Ismail had the added challenge of Ramadan coming up as he embarked on the challenge , giving him a limited window in which to get his run done and the 389km ticked off , so that he wouldn ’ t have to run long distances during the fast . “ My goal was just to finish the distance , and do it as fast as I could before we were fully into the fast , otherwise I would have to then run without water and supplements , which would make it much harder ,” he explains .
“ So , I started the race off with a bang and ticked off distances between 10km and 40km regularly , finding myself at the top of the leaderboard after the first week . From it just starting out as a challenge , I think by then it was definitely a race , and I was determined to give my absolute best , so I ended up completing
the distance in 13 days and taking the overall win .”

Second Helping , Please

Now , for most people , running a distance of nearly 400 kilometres in two weeks would be enough , and that ’ s where they would call it quits , but not Ismail , who promptly decided to set himself another challenge . “ Winning the race was an amazing feeling , but I still felt fresh and didn ’ t want it to stop there , so I decided to see if I could tackle it for a second time . I renamed it the Back2Cpt 389km , and set myself the personal goal of completing it again . I started on the 24th of March and decided to use the distance back as part of my training for the Comrades Virtual race , which was coming up in June .”
He soon found that the second bite at the cherry was much tougher than the first , because it fell within the month of Ramadan , and having to run without water and supplements took its toll on the body . “ My wife
Images : Courtesy Ismael Isaacs
30 ISSUE 143 JULY 2021 / www . modernathlete . co . za