The Surfers Half Marathon (Walk)

You may remember me shooting my mouth of on this blog a while back about the Surfers Half Marathon in East London. About how I was planning to run it. I think the rush of blood to the head lasted for about a month before the running training just fizzled out…

However, when I found out that there was also an official walkers’ race that followed the same route, I was newly motivated to take part. And so, about a week ago, The Princess, The Husband and I, boarded a flight to East London. Visiting my half-sister and Surfers’ walking partner and her family was really the main motivation behind the trek to the Eastern Cape. The Princess was an immediate hit with her 13 year old girl cousin and just as much of a hit with her 11 year old boy cousin. I really didn’t imagine that an 11 year old boy would be interested in a 10 month old baby, but boy, was I wrong. Very, very cute to watch them interact.

On the morning of the race, The Princess bellowed her good morning cry at 05:10 – an ungodly hour in anyone’s books but some days I have a cup of coffee and I feel like I can cope. Last Saturday just wasn’t one of those days. I woke up feeling so exhausted I just wanted to collapse in a heap and cry. But The Princess was well rested from her ten hours of slumber and she wasn’t interested in how I felt. I confess I even tried putting a cartoon on – something I am obviously trying to delay for as long as possible – but that didn’t impress her much.

Somehow, she and I made it through to 8:30am. Then, when The Husband left for the gym, I put the Princess down and crawled back into bed, still in my pj’s.

At 1pm, my half-sister and her support team (husband and son) arrived, and my support team (The Husband and The Princess) and I were ready to go.

By the time we had parked near the start of the race, The Husband confessed to intense feelings of jealousy. He explained that it was “unnatural” for him not to be participating in a sporting event. (For me, it’s unnatural to be participating). While I was to spend the next four hours waiting for the race to start and then racing, he’d be solely taking care of The Princess. As I kissed them goodbye and prepared to make my way down to the beach for the start, The Husband gripped my shoulder and looked at me with fear in his eyes.

“What if she poos?” he said.

And on that note, I bade farwell to my support team.

The runners went off at 14:30 and the walkers followed ten minutes later. The first 6km or so, I must say, were not the easiest. We were trying to walk as fast as we could and the sand was really soft – so much so that I felt as though I was walking hunched over to try and propel myself forward out of the “sinking sand” so as to maintain a reasonable pace. There were also a number of stretches where we were walking over beds of tightly packed, but movable, pebbles. Not the easiest to do quickly, I have to say.

Eventually, we reached our first river crossing. This is where you are literally submerged in water – running shoes, clothes and all – and you cross the river mouth by pulling yourself along on a rope. (There are strong-looking lifeguards on hand which is very reassuring). Although the river crossing is nice and refreshing, you don’t necessarily want to walk a further 12km with squelching shoes and socks. I was wearing my lightest lycra pants, purportedly of the “quick dry” variety, but before they had a chance to dry off, things went severely pear shaped. Basically, it felt as though someone had lit a fire between my butt cheeks. My sister had told me that I should put vaseline there, but I’d ignored her, never having experienced butt chafe in my life before.

The next 5km or so were on a tarred road, so it should have been plain sailing but with my squelching shoes and my burning backside, I was battling to see the funny side of life.

Just past Gonubie, at about the 8km mark, I couldn’t help perking up when my sister and I came across our support teams on the side of the road. The Husband got really into it and basically jogged alongside us with The Princess in her stroller. It was awesome to see them. Not a word was mentioned about poos, so I presumed everything was fine.

For the next several kilometres, I was really struggling to keep my sister’s pace. After a while though, the race turned back onto the beach where we would remain until the finish. On this beach stretch, though, the sand was much much harder and there were no rocks to contend with (or none to speak of) so I slowly got my mojo back and managed to step up my pace. We had started out quite near the back of the field when the race set off and it was impossible to overtake for the first several kilometres, because of the crowds and the fairly narrow paths above the beach. Now that things were far more spread out, you began to realise just who was “beating you”. For example: that old man pushing seventy in his teeny tiny jogging shorts. No way! That middle-aged woman carrying an extra 30kg. That teenager walking in a pair of drenched jeans with an arse the size of a Boeing. Hell no! It all served as inspiration for me to pick up the pace.

Finally, after yet another river crossing (fully immersed in water, Garmin placed on head, inside cap so as not to be destroyed), we reached the finish. According to my Garmin we had walked 18.3km and not the 17.5km the race advertises itself as.

My sister’s husband and son were waiting at the finish for us. Just as they dropped me off, I wondered out loud if The Princess had made a poo that afternoon.

“Thankfully not for your husband’s sake” my brother-in-law informed me, “he kept checking and he looked pretty stressed about it”.

Very strange for The Princess to go the whole afternoon without pooing. I was starting to wonder whether The Husband had managed to procure some baby Immodium and doused her with that…

All in all, the Surfers is a beautiful course to walk, or, if you’re really fit and talented, to run. I believe there is also a paddling race alongside the running/ walking course. I think if I did it again, I’d walk a bit slower, just ensuring I made it within the fairly generous cut off time and I’d take in the beautiful scenery. Oh, and I’d take a little backpack with a HUGE tub of vaseline to apply after the river crossings…

Besides catching up with family, the highlight of the weekend was The Princess taking her first steps! We definitely cannot say that she is walking – not at all. But it was so exciting to be in my sister’s living room with her two cousins, her aunt and uncle and us and trying to coax her into taking a step or two. Her record was three steps – very unstable, but three steps nonetheless. Watch this space for tales of her tearing around soon enough.

Hope everyone has a great week. The Husband is off to London tomorrow night (sniff, sniff). It’s his first trip in three month so The Princess and I have grown very accustomed to having him around. No prizes for guessing who he’s going to miss more! The Princess and I will be heading to Cape Town next week while The Husband is away. Can’t wait to see The Princess interacting with her three older boy cousins of four, six and eight and her little girl cousin of six months.