I wasn’t scheduled on the last, shorter, 46km shift into Cape Town. My week ‘officially’ ended with our run into Ceres the evening before (Thursday).
Having passed my original 210km target for the week, and reset it to 250km, I needed an extra 20km to hit that mark and also wanted to spend a shift with Byron Hardy and Guy Baranyay, the only two Mad2Run folk I’d known before starting the adventure.
I was given the green light by Shaun 2 days earlier and headed out very early on Friday morning, up and over the beautiful Ceres pass to the changeover point, where we were greeted by a beautiful sunrise and the amusing site of Brad Nowikow running in a mankini ( the male beachwear made famous by Borat). Brad’s mates had made some element of an extra donation contingent on him running in a mankini, and so Brad was showing us his balls (quite literally) in making the ultimate commitment to the cause. Huge Kudos to you Brad.
The day, as I understood it, was supposed to take the form of a very relaxed 6min/km run in to the outskirts of Cape Town city centre, where we’d meet the rest of the team and complete the last 3-4 kilometres to the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), our finishing point, together.
Fortunately – because the alternative version ended up being an incredibly fun way to conclude the week – it didn’t quite end that way. With our team collectively about 24km’s into the 46, and me about 12 into my 20 for the day, someone in one of the two buses, made the startling discovery that we had to complete the remaining 22km’s in about an hour and 15 minutes.
After some quick consultation between our two buses and Shaun and Dayle (organisers) in the main bus, we realised we were going to have to increase the pace considerably. Having already upped the pace from 6min/km to 5min/km while this investigation was going on, Guy Baranyay (out on the road at that point) dropped the pace to about 4.20 and Brad Hall and I completed another 2-3 kms with him before leaving the fine specimen of Iron Man athlete gassing it along a slight downhill on Voortrekker Road at a very impressive 4min/km.
After further calculations yielded that we did indeed need to go even faster in order to make it, we came up with what we thought a decidedly spiffing plan. We’d rotate short fast solo all-out 1km shifts and see what that would yield. And so with Navy Seal team precision, we launched into our new plan. The bus would stick close to the runner ahead, who would measure the 1km with his watch and would indicate by hand signal when: 1. He was 200m off the end of the kilometer, and then again when he was just 50 meters off the end by counting down the final 50 on the fingers of one hand (open hand with five, four, three, two, one fingers – you get it?). This allowed the driver of the bus to slow just enough for the next runner to spring from the bus like an uncaged Cheetah and hit the tarmac running, while the retiring runner jumped into the bus as quickly as possible so we could speed back up behind the runner to protect him from traffic.
And with that, we managed to lower our average pace down to about 3.45min/km, while having a lot of fun doing the changes and letting the natural competitiveness of who was fastest, fuel the effort. I managed a solid 3.40 on my first effort and felt pretty good weaving between traffic at a traffic light and gunning it along the pavement and around a church march occupying half the road. While achieving the same time on my second effort, the tired legs of a week of running weren’t so certain about why the hell their operator was putting them through this torture and on a couple of heavier footfalls, the legs took a bit of a wobble that had me anxious a misplaced step might not hold me. In the end, Graeme Webb posted the fastest time of 3.33 with a beautiful languid style that looked surprisingly effortless and not as fast as other styles with quicker and shorter gaits.
The plan worked spectacularly, and after realizing we were going to be just 5 minutes odd late, everyone in the two buses climbed out and ran the last kilometer to the garage together at a much more sensible pace, where the rest of the runners, together with chefs, physios and medics greeted us warmly and emotionally, ready to run in the last 3 kilometres together.
That last section was very special with injured runners ignoring their injuries and battling through pain to ensure they each completed their individual journeys. This was beautifully evidenced in Bronson Friedman walking arm in arm with Devlin Tyack the whole way, to take enough weight off Dev’s injured knee – see pics in album. Hanging at the back, to video the whole scene, it was really moving to watch organisers Dayle and Shaun Raaff run in holding hands with their son Zach riding on Shaun’s shoulders. Feeling pretty emotional myself, I circled round the front of them to catch their expressions and in passing Dayle asked “do you still get teary each time you run in”. Her tear stained face immediately answered my question and we had a good chuckle.
We crossed the finish line to a hero’s welcome from family and friends with lots of tears, hugs and kisses being liberally enjoyed by all.
Gathering in front of the CTICC, we were treated to moving and motivational speeches by Amelia Beattie, the head of Liberty Two Degrees, and World Cup winning Springbok rugby captain and MAD Leadership Foundation founder Francois Pienaar, before Shaun and Dayle wrapped up the week by thanking sponsors, congratulating runners and cyclists and conducting medal ceremonies for all participants.
After grabbing our Two Oceans race packs and thanking a few sponsors at the expo we headed back to our final camp, a sports hall (yay – no tent setup) at Westerford School for a quick shower before heading to the Slug & Lettuce a few hundred metres away for some very much needed beer and food. I think I inhaled my pizza and first draught before relaxing in to some great story sharing with other runners.
There was a tangible buzz in that bar with tired heads and battered legs temporarily forgotten under a haze of cold beer, great food and special memories that will doubtless last a lifetime.
With the half-marathon starting at 06h00 on Saturday morning, I managed to escape just as things were starting to get a little rowdy and after readying my kit for the morning, must have taken all of about two seconds to fall asleep with a tired body and happy heart.
During Francois Pienaar’s speech, he called up a number of MAD Leadership foundation scholars, but highlighted the achievements of David Hatherall – who together with older brother Nick, ran with us during the week. If I remember the full details correctly, David has Honors in Actuarial Science, graduating cum laude as the top Actuarial Science student in the country and placing 9th in the world in an international competition. As a result of his achievements, he has been put on the exec of the MAD Leadership foundation and will have an influence on the future direction of it. Not only that, but David covered in excess of 300 kilometres for the week, to log one of the highest individual distances covered.
He is a shining example of what can be achieved when kids are given the resources and opportunity to shine.
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