Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 146, Nov 2021 November 2021 | Page 13

Wellington proudly displays his race number at Registration .
Ready to run , Wellington ’ s kit the night before the race .
there – he ran 3:15 and l did a 3:27 – we really enjoyed the atmosphere .
Images : Courtesy Wellington Mpofu & Wandisile Nkwalase

Runners are a unique and interesting brand of athletes , for the most part very friendly , though sometimes territorial and adrenalindriven . Very few people understand why a runner will travel the world just to go and participate in a marathon for a few hours , subjecting themselves to such colossal pain during the race , and to cap it all , spend so much money on flights and accommodation , and their valuable time , to get to these races . This is notwithstanding the long hours that are spent on training in the months preceding the race .

One of the overarching reasons for such ambitious engagements is the desire to conquer targets . There is nothing as widely celebrated in running than the phenomenon of a PB in a race . Beating one ’ s previous performance is the tonic that every runner is looking for , and this same principle applies to life in general , as humanity is always striving to outperform itself . As such , our journey to Paris to run the Schneider Electric Paris Marathon on 17 October was hugely motivated by the need to break barriers , and in this case , a sub-3 for a marathon and a Boston Marathon qualifier for 2022 .
Getting Into Running
I started running 22 years ago when l was in my late twenties . At the time , l would run mainly half marathons , but very infrequently . I still remember at one of the hotels l worked for , there used to be a yearly race to run from the airport to the hotel , which was a distance of 17km , and l would rarely train for it . Then in 2008 l ran my first marathon , the Old Mutual Joburg City , and finished in 4 hours 35 minutes . To say l was battered is an understatement …
l walked the last three kilometres , as l had started the race at a time trial pace . I did not know anything
about pacing then , nor did l have a running watch . Soon l started enjoying the idea of running marathons , but there was not much training done before them – I would traditionally do a long run on Sundays for 30km and a time trial on Tuesday and some Thursdays . In essence , my weekly mileage leading to any marathon was no more than 60km at the most . Talk about taking chances with marathons !
One day , while attending church – I am a Seventh-day Adventist – l heard one of my favourite preachers , Dr J Papu , talking about the Comrades Marathon . He said that every person should run the Comrades at least once in their lifetime , and he made this sound so interesting , an adventure not to be missed . Even when he spoke about the pain of running Comrades , it sounded glorious , and certainly made one desire to also earn that hero ’ s badge , a Comrades medal . So , in 2009 l did my first Comrades , and while l enjoyed it , I did not escape the pain that came with such a long distance . In 2018 I got my Comrades Green Number , and went on to run my 11th Comrades in 2019 .
Kindred Running Spirits
Four years ago , l met a young man , Wandisile Nkwalase , at the Adventists Athletics club , which we both run for . Wawa was equally crazy about running , but did so with no tactics at all … he would start too fast and then collapse before the race was over . We started running together and shared a few running tips , and in 2019 we set out together to run a sub-5 at the Two Oceans Marathon ( 56km ). With proper pacing we did it in 4:51 , which is my PB for that race .
Soon we began talking about running internationally . l had done the Dubai Marathon in 2018 and 2019 , and he had run London , Athens and a few others . We agreed to go to Berlin in 2019 , which was phenomenal , and while we did not do our best times
We then agreed that we wanted to complete the World Marathon Majors , which is a huge achievement in international running circles and consists of the Tokyo , London , New York , Boston , Chicago , Paris and Berlin marathons . ( The good news is that the Cape Town marathon may soon be a World Marathon Major , too .) We had registered for Chicago in 2020 , but could not run due to COVID , and in 2021 we could not get visas in time for that race , so we decided to train to qualify for Boston 2022 . To do that , we set our eyes on Paris , with the goal to run the required qualifiers for Boston – 3:05 for Wandisile ’ s age group and 3:20 for mine .
Wandisile had become such a disciplined runner , and had attempted to break the three-hour mark for the marathon a few times , but had not yet succeeded . We therefore set our targets in Paris as sub-3 for Wandisile and sub-3:15 for me , and we agreed on a pacing plan for the day . Although I was aiming for a sub-3:15 , I adopted the sub-3 training plan , so all marathon pace training runs were at 4:15min / km .
With about a month to go to the race , we felt we had trained hard enough , a delicate combination of long runs , hill repeats and track sprints , with an average weekly mileage of 110km . However , I suffered a serious bout of flu just four weeks before the race and thought l might struggle to keep the pace required for a sub-3:15 . l was off the road for two weeks , with no running at all , and l began to panic . I finally started running again two weeks before the race , and Wawa said on my last 20km long run , a week before the marathon , that l should do the first 10km easy and the last 10km at an average pace of 4:10min / km . I successfully did this , and he said we were ready . He had just done a blistering 17 minutes for a 5km , and l knew the game was on in Paris .
Race Day Finally Arrives
I arrived in Paris two days before the race , having flown in via Munich , and Wawa flew via Dubai .