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Knysna Forest Half Marathon - 7 July 2018

7 July 2018

"Shosholoza
Kulezo ntaba
Stimela siphume South Africa
Kulezo ntaba
Stimela siphume South Africa
Wen' uyabaleka
Kulezo ntaba
Stimela siphume South Africa"

Around the crackling fire the words echoed in the crisp 4˚C morning air, the words we sang as people coming together. Red blankets everywhere. Some people seated on the ground, others standing, everyone just trying to get a bit of heat from the fires made for us to keep us from freezing.

We are all waiting for the start of the 35th Knysna Forest Marathon and Half Marathon.

Songs playing on the loud speakers while the sound engineer tries to sort out static in the audio. Commentary from the MC as more people arrive.

I fiddle, no, struggle with my race bib to transfer it from the back of my shirt onto my camelback as I've only noticed very late that the camelback covered my number on my back! Standing up was no good so I dropped just there on the spot to fix it! (bless those blankets!)

Around this time (07:00) the Marathon (42km) started and some of the late arrivers looted blankets from the 42km start area.

It slowly started becoming reality as I got rid of my old warm top and pants and found a tipper truck to hand it in at. It is custom to bring along old warm clothes to donate at the start or along the way to people from the community. The red blankets that were donated and handed out to the first 2000 people was also part of this contribution. What an inspiring sight to start seeing red blankets "hop" to the sides where they are piled up for easier collection later on.

It was a far while back from the start when I approached the starting line. However, a while later, when I turned around to have a peek, I was still more than halfway to the front! It was an amazing scene to take in. I met a fellow Spartan Harriers member and offered the other half of my blanket as he didn't have one.

Eventually 8:00 struck and the front athletes were on their way! Go go go...! Hm, or don't go. OK, just one foot in front of the other. That's it, come on! The first kilometer felt like it would never end! My pace was just under half of my average pace. I had to make my way to a less dense space. Pushing, hard, maybe too hard. It was one of my fastest KM's. Uphill. It was fairly easy to get past the people ahead, at a cost, of course :)

Once we were stretched out, it was a matter of keeping the pace up, navigating the gravel, sand and rocks. A puddle here and there. A helicopter audible in the distance... people still everywhere. I can only imagine the view from up there!

The sun's out and things get heated. By this time, most people got rid of any extra layers of clothing and just pushed forward.

I recall the disgust how bluntly people just ignored being asked in the comms beforehand to *not* throw their water sachets onto the ground or into the veld or forest, but rather the bins provided. Fucking Hell. Is it so much effort to keep a piece of plastic on you until you find a bin? Or at *least* aim properly. I wish everyone that discarded a sachet onto the ground a cramp in their next race.

The water tables were about 3 km apart and handed out water sachets and juice if I recall correctly. There were at a minimum about 6 bins per water table. I can only remember grabbing my water and pushing on! No time for stopping, I'm not dying yet!

The second-hardest part of the run was the last uphill that did not seem to end. I tried pushing on, not stopping, but my steam ran out. I was defeated. Everyone around took a break to walk that hill, no matter how fit they appeared. I guess it was only the runners in the front that maybe did not need to walk up there.
What goes up, must come down, and surely it did. The downhill was tough. Excruciating. You want to go faster, but you just can't. At some point I found the green sidewalk to help a little with extra cushioning.

Before this experience, I never ran downhill this far. I didn't know what everyone was talking about. I thought it would be different. How daft.

Along the downhill there was another refreshment point with some citrus fruit which was really nice and it took my mind off of the downhill hammering for a bit, and then just after that the road flattened out a bit and we pushed onwards!

The last 3 kilometers were tough. I mean really tough. The rush to get past people in the start caught up to me at this point and I could not push any harder. I managed to gather a second breath for the last 1.2km and my pace picked up nicely. I was giving it my all the last 200m. The feeling when you see the FINISH arch is really amazing. It's like when they press the NOS button in the Need For Speed movies!

Crossing the line was an accomplishment of note. I started training 8 weeks before the race. The (not so) funny thing is that I entered without even thinking of how much training I would need!

After many months of nudges to join the running club from JJ and Charmayne I finally went and tried to run with other runners. I then joined the Cape Town Marathon training group with Rudi and Giscard and started making new friends. It is still a mission to learn everyone's names, but that will come with time. By no means will I attempt to do a marathon just yet. I need some more training before I consider myself of a Marathon caliber.

In a bit more than a nut shell, this is a memoir on my experience of my first official Half Marathon!

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