A marathon story

Saturday I listened to cool sounds at the Oranjezicht City Farm Market , including “Oh Susannah” Sunday 05:15 I started a 42.2km marathon. Laid-back open air, beautiful.

1-DSCN2834Marathons are just marathons: I run enough and have the genes to run most inside the 5-hour limit. Except they always are special.

The thing is I have to pay for and run one each year. To run still longer means we (not the cheats) have to show we ran 42.2 km.

Of course running talk is cheap. Sweat, chafe, foot-slog get the medals, satisfaction, grins, and, what I like: marathon logic and magic.

Marathon logic. If you can’t, you can’t. The first half is easy, otherwise what are you doing there? If you get too cocky, Nemesis lurks.

Nemesis hangs out past 30 km unless you have a bad hangover, the aid-stations run out of water, you trip and whack your head.

At about 25 km the kerb tripped me as I jumped onto the pavement to bin a few plastic water sachets. I’ve learned to roll too; so got right up, a bit sandy.

Falling broke the monotony, started a I-km conversation. Spilled half my crunchie – sugar, oats, coconut – my spell against Nemesis.

Ah, a marathon life: wind in hair, a dash of adrenaline, camaraderie, even a bit of empathy, sometimes espresso at the Olympia Café.  

After 31 km I looked for signs of Nemesis in the headwind, sunburn, foot-grind, behind the distance markers, on the others’ backs.

1-DSCN2836-001By 35 km, I knew I had passed her. Maybe she’d had her fill. My legs trundled a lilting rhythm. I sprayed water on me, took electrolytes.

My run-beat evoked the swing-lullaby beat of Saturday morning’s song and its line “goin’ to run all night, goin’” to run all day”.

As I get older I can resist more temptations. The last to go will be the lingering songs of the gorgeous ultra-marathon Sirens.

1-DSCN2847-001Marathon Magic turns my Nemesis into

  • a couple of naughty Sirens
  • a beer
  • an ultra-entry form
  • a deeper resolve

and feeds the life-fire in me.

A marathon story of running, beer and more.

Philosophy of foot-flipping

“I never started running to answer questions about the meaning of life. Yet while running, that drumming, body-roving on trails and tracks. through time and space …”

1-DSCN2425-001That’s how Chapter 8 of Mystical Miles starts.

That’s how the writing of the book started.

I wanted to make sense of what had happened after I started running to stop myself decaying into beer-drinking and pontificating about life, politics and more.

There was no doubt I had changed. I’d started with the idea of just running and the fantasy of running the ~89km Comrades Marathon, a kind of standard here in South Africa. I then ran 11 of those marathons, and later more plus a whole lot of runs unimaginable when I was starting out.

But writing  did more too. I had no idea when I started writing how the book would turn out; that thinking and writing about running would impact my running. It did that too.

As I understood more of what I liked about running, what it did for me, I could focus my running, go deeper and get still more out of running – without taking anything from anyone else.

And still I run and still I get more.

Recovery running

I’m glad I don’t have to stop running when recovering from a few harder weeks. I like running and getting out there into the world too much to stop now. Running is the base of much of my life.

You learn the ru1-DSCN1589nning lessons over the years.  Recovery running doesn’t mean stopping. It just means not pushing time, hills or distance. It means running lightly, hardly panting, hardly sweating.  Running the bounce back into my legs. Running until I want to run more, harder, faster … but don’t. Because that’s when  the adaptation to the previous weeks harder running takes place.

This morning: The second day of recovery running: all ready the well-used, stiff feeling in my legs is going. Already the bounce is there.  My legs don’t want to run fast or harder yet – soon they will.

Setting an ultra-base

1-Castles ultraWith an 80 km ultra trail run in the mountains of Cyprus in mind  I set myself a target of ~50 km a week for four weeks –  to see how I coped and to set a base for increasing mileage, if I coped well enough.

I coped well. More than coped. Not that it’s a surprise.  I more or less know what I can do – but knowing is the mind is one thing; knowing in the legs, doing the miles out there is another.

The thing is I run every day which is always a good start. Also I’ve been getting a spring, literally, in my step from not really pushing hard.  My legs surge nicely, want to run faster, even on longer runs. I reckon the the last 80+ km ultra in June, my favourite Comrades Marathon, is out of my legs by now.

I am a runner. I run every day, mostly. I run marathons to prepare for ultra’s and run two or so ultra’s a year, if I can. Ultras keep my running honest.

Four weeks base running

I figured out over the years that for me  pushing my running in four weeks batches with a rest or easy week after, then pushing more miles and effort, is the best way of keeping run-robust and enjoying  running year in year out.

Sometimes it’s five weeks, never more than six – the longer batches are if there is a race to do, an extra long run a taper or so,  in sight.  I keep going, do the race then do the easier weeks.

So this week I started off with stiff legs from letting go, knowing a rest week is around the corner and ran the long run faster. Once they warmed up I got nicely bounding steps, gentle light, held back from surging on the hills, as I have been lately.

Got back home chirpy, ready for more, but not doing more. Just getting the best buzz from running;  the best from my legs.


Running Log 2014-11-20

Another morning body tired; not really feeling like running.

So it’s just1-1-DSCN2376  getting out, easing into the run, lots of water, get my systems flowing, run a few easy kilometres, eyes and mind wide for the sparkles in the dawn,  then easing the last couple back home to coffee and pineapple

It’s not a crisis. I know.  I’ve been here before. My body works harder, is keen to work more, because its getting stronger. It’s hard to hold back as my legs want to bolt faster than they have been.

Which is great except the extra effort accumulates then tires, so I need a rest week to consolidate.

One more longer runover the weekend, maybe even tomorrow, a couple or three hours to get through the planned four weeks of increased effort – then the easy week.

I am looking forward to the easier running, and looking forward after it to upping the effort a little more.

I’m sure  my body will recover, get eager again, like the insides of me are eager for the ultra I have set my sights on, and the longer one maybe after that.


Running log 2014-11-18

“How was your run?”


In that ‘fine’ is coffee and a grin; is a body that started tired because it runs faster now, and I have upped the weekly mileage a bit …

and a thumbs up1-DSCN2218 because all of me responded nicely further in which makes me happy because I have to up my running for the Crusader Castles Trail Ultra in  Cyprus next year …

and this is the 4th week of more running, so next week can be easier before pushing further still – not too much because I still want to enjoy the fruit smoothie I’m about to make, and the school lunches, and the breakfasts …

and I smile when I think of how much of this run-engorgeousness I can fit in because I know whatever it fits in will just expand to accommodate more …


Running log 2014-11-16

A quick easy run to ease out the longer run from Saturday. My body needs sleep but early rising routine is so well-entrenched that I wake at the right time and am more-or-less ready to go.

I did linger over coffee and a biscuit before I went out. Once my legs got going, happily charged along so I had to restrain them a little, the run-grin rose.

The cool clouded morning freshness after ran felt just right. I let my hands trail in the grass that lines the running track.  I checked for those little pepper ticks when I got back home to an orange and more coffee.

Running log: 2014-11-15

Saturday morning, out early, as it has been for so many Saturday – yet still exciting, still enriching, still running for more than just running.

1-DSCN2389Friends were running a marathon road race in the Winelands of Stellenbosch. I thought about the doing it. Finishing a formal marathon, chatting after, is always good.

But I stuck with my part-road, part-trail 3 hour run. Often enough I run for just being out there, in the views, but my running has an edge now

This is the third of a four week base-laying program, to check how I cope with around 50 km a week. I get an easy week after the 4th week before upping the weekly distance to around 60 km. As it stands  foresee no problems in getting through next week  – in fact am looking forward to it.

It’s all preparation building towards the 80 km  Crusader Castles Ultra in the mountains of Cyprus in May 2015. It has a 3000 m altitude gain so I know I will be heading up and down our mountain soon.