Friday, 28 November 2014

On running and golf

My dad used to be a pretty good golfer before an old rugby injury and an iffy back caused him to retire from the sport way too early.  We always used to wait in anticipation as he came back from the local golf club’s weekly competitions to see what prize he’s won; and, trust me, most of the prizes were good.  He used to drive (and still does) a tiny, red little 1984 Renault around town, and also to the golf course, and I remember him returning from a golfing competition one day with that little red car literally packed to the roof with all kinds of groceries that he’s won.  We couldn’t stop giggling.

Me and the golf meister.

Anyway, it was in these glory days of his golfing career that my dad frequently used to say that no-one is golf’s boss: One day you play like a champion, and the next day you play like a complete beginner.  And yesterday on my (ridiculously horrendous) run, I realised that running is pretty much the same:  You can be a runner for years and years and years – you’ll still have off days when your runs absolutely suck.  Like mine did yesterday.

Will and I headed out with both kids in the double stroller after work.  Miss K insisted on running alongside the stroller for the first 100 metres or so, and even while jogging next to her at our mama-daughter happy pace, my body protested loudly.  I could just feel that this was run going to hurt.  And it did.  After K got into the stroller, I lasted an entire 7 minutes and 20 seconds before I had to take a walk break.  Oh, the frustration.

I ended up walking the entire way home, feeling, as you can imagine, extremely disappointed.  My goal 10 km race is in less than two weeks’ time…  Was it the heat?  The time of day?  The fact that Will’s been working crazy hours and I’ve been on K & J duty pretty much 24/7 for the last couple of months?  I’m not sure.  But one thing I do know: Nobody is running’s boss.  There will always be off days.  Fingers crossed that next Saturday is not one of them for me!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

How an ostrich made me famous

I have some really exciting news to share with you!  

Even though our new home town, Kimberley, doesn't have a local parkrun (yet!), you probably know by now that I'm a big, big fan of the parkrun concept (see my previous posts on parkrun here, here, here and here).  Well, parkrun celebrated it's 10th international anniversary on 4 October this year with the following impressive stats: Nearly 1.2 million people worldwide are currently registered parkrun users, with 500+ official parkruns taking place in nine countries across the globe.  And that's not all: An estimated 10 000 new runners register for parkrun each and every week - wow!

Miss K and me doing the Green Point parkrun in Cape Town earlier this year.  [Photo by Run Cape Town.]

At the inaugural Naval Hill parkrun in Bloemfontein.

And this is where the exciting news that I wanted to share comes in: As part of parkrun's 10th anniversary celebrations, Debra Bourne wrote a book on all things parkrun.  In the book, Debra charts the rise of parkrun and takes an in-depth look at what it is that turned this simple idea into the biggest and friendliest running community in the world.  And guess what??  My parkrun ostrich story is included in the book!  Debra contacted me earlier in the year to ask for permission to include my story and picture in the book, and of course I said yes - what an honour!

Here it is!  [Source.]

The book has just been released and is available from parkrun's online shop (here), with a portion of the proceeds from the book being ploughed directly back into parkrun.  Can't wait to get our copy!

Monday, 24 November 2014

Red-tape Races

Tsk, tsk, tsk.  I adore them, but they're quite obviously not my strong suit: Red-tape races.  And by red-tape races I mean trail running races where the route is marked with teeny, tiny little ribbons of danger tape in bushes, on droppers and around trees at varying intervals along the course.  How on earth is it possible to love something that you stink at so much...?

But let me start at the beginning: On Saturday I took part in the De Beers Vulture Conservation Trail Run on De Beers' Benfontein game farm just outside of Kimberley.  There were 6 km and 12 km distance options, and I opted for the former, seeing that Will would be waiting for me to get back after the race before he could go for a bike ride.  It was a smallish race with a laid-back feel to it, and with the pre-race briefing including warnings for things like snakes, bees and antelope, I was in my element.  Until the announcer said the dreaded R word: Red tape.  I immediately had a flashback to my tiny torch run earlier in the year, where I unknowingly led a chunk of the field astray by getting lost, and I'm sure I uttered a nervous giggle.  Oi - me and red tape.   

The race briefing.  The gentleman in front of me was obviously equally saddened by the news that there'd be red tape.  [Photo by Kimberley Harriers (source).]

Anyway, this time my strategy was different: No more front running for this directionally challenged mama.  I stuck to the three guys in front of me like glue.  At one point in the race the lady behind me shouted that I was going in the wrong direction, but I didn't care.  The entire field in front of me was heading south (it could, of course, also have been north, for all I know), and I was following suit.  I've learnt my lesson.

It was a tough run.  I'm not sure if it was the heat (the race started at 07:00, which is quite late for our part of the world), the wind, or jumping over a gazillion bushes, but I was breathing inappropriately hard by Mile 2.  Which is slightly concerning, given the fact that my goal 10 km race for the year is in exactly two weeks' time.  Oops.

Anyway, there I was, all chuffed and happy to cross the finish line and receive my medal just a step or two behind the three guys who I religiously stuck to in order not to get lost, just to hear the following words from the finish-line marshal: "You guys missed the portion of the route going over the dam wall".  Damn.  I did it again.  Only this time I wasn't the (only) red-tape missing culprit, phew.  So, nerds that we are, we retraced our steps, finisher's medals already in hand,  and finished the portion of the course that we missed.  Sigh.

LOVE the medal!  See the vulture head?

I'm actually considering staying away from the red-tape scene for a while, fearing that I might be getting a reputation: "There goes that crazy marker missing lady!".  You know?  Perhaps I should let Will tie a few danger tape ribbons in trees around the neighbourhood and practise finding them on the run...?    

Nah, who am I kidding?  I'll never be able to stay away from the trails.  See you at the next race, but whatever you do, don't follow me!

Friday, 21 November 2014

Everyday Running Heroes: Johann from Run Tall, Walk Tall

Johann from Run Tall, Walk Tall is a fellow South African running blogger with a seriously impressive race record: Johann (51), who started running races at the age of 18, has completed 1 378 official races to date, including 389 half-marathons, 126 full marathons and 117 ultras...  That's some pretty impressive racing, y'all!  I had the privilege of chatting to Johann about all things running and am so excited to share his story with you.

RtR: Why do you run/love running?
Johann: Running is really in my blood.  I’m lucky that I grew up with a dad who loves running as well - it certainly rubbed off.  My dad ran since I can remember.  He ran for about 15 years, 6 days per week, before he ran his first race - he just loved it.  I’m the same: I’ll run the same as now even if I don’t train for or run a race ever again; I just love it.  I can’t think of my life without it.  I’ve been running for more than 33 years now - it is the lifestyle that I choose and live.

Johann (red shirt) racing with his dad (far left) and brother (second from the right).  [Photo courtesy of Johann.]

RtR: Are there any obstacles that you have had to overcome or that you are still overcoming in order to be able to run?  If yes, how do you overcome these obstacles?
Johann: My main obstacle, if I can call it that, is that I have zero natural ability.  I have a very low lung capacity because I was born with a mild case of Pectus Excavatum (hollow chest).  This means my chest bone is pressing inwards against my heart and lungs giving me very low lung capacity - it literally means that I need to train a great lot harder than others to get to a certain fitness level.  It also means that I will never run super fast times even if I am super fit.
I overcame this by changing my goals from time to distance: I decided very early on that instead of trying to run as fast as possible, I would rather run as far as possible or as much as possible.  Speed or race times don’t matter to me at all.  I do log my time after each run still, but that is only to give me an idea of my training and condition.

Johann and his lovely wife, Annette, at the Afriforum Springbok Vasbyt in 2014.  [Photo courtesy of Johann.]

RtR: When do you usually run (time of day) and why?
Johann: I always run early in the morning. That’s how I grew up and that’s what I do.  My dad used to flip my mattress over at 4:00 a.m. to get me out of bed for running when I still lived at home.  My dad was up at 3:30 a.m. during the week for his runs.  I do all my week runs between 4:00 and 6:00 a.m.  Weekends will be a bit later sometimes, but still as early as possible.  I am 100% a morning person.

RtR: Give a short summary of your current running routine.
Johann: I run 6 days per week, Monday to Saturday or Tuesday to Sunday, with either Sunday or Monday a rest day.  I follow a hard day, easy day routine, which means longer run, shorter run, longer run, shorter run, and so on.
Typically I want to run 70 to 90 km per week.  I like to always be in shape and able to do at least this without feeling tired or over-trained.  I actually like to always be ready to run a marathon or 50 km if I suddenly feel the urge.  I see that as my base and then build up from there for my longer races and goals.  I’m not quite there yet at the moment, but will be by December.  Then I push up the distance to 90 to 120 km per week as the race calendar requires.  I usually do 3 or 4 long weeks and then cut back to a 70 km week again.
I also do a bit of upper body and core work four times per week.  This really helps for the long runs and also for the trails.

Johann conquering the Num Num Trail Run.  [Photo courtesy of Johann.]

RtR: What are your current running goals/dreams?
Johann: I always have a few main races per year and use many others to train for these.  For 2015 I have the 60 km Forest Run in March, a Sky Marathon in April and the Cape Town Ultra in October as my main races so far.  Then there is the possibility of a 6-day circuit race in December.  If I do this, I will throw in a few more circuit races during the year as training.  If not I’ll do some stage race instead.
Dreams... I have many big running dreams.  I don’t make all of these known to everyone, but the Jungle Ultra in Peru, the Badwater Ultra in Death Valley and the Namib Desert Stage Race are high on the dream list.  More realistically, and closer to home, is the SA Sky Run and the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme.  Then there is also the run from the northern tip of South Africa down to Cape Town for some charity or cause...

Johann having fun at a local race.  [Photo courtesy of Johann.]

RtR: Any tips for men and women out there who want to start running, but feel that they are too slow/overweight/”unathletic”?
Johann: Anyone can be a runner and finish races and get medals.  Even if you do them very slowly, the satisfaction and achievement is indescribable.  You don’t have to be a natural runner or fast or built like a sports model to run.
Consistency is the key.  Train often and keep the routine going.  The results will come naturally if you put in the work regularly.  Run at least five times per week.
Set realistic goals.  Go for goals according to your ability: Don’t train for a sub-2 hour half-marathon if you struggle to run a sub-2:30 half marathon.  Baby steps...

Johann participating in the 2012 Mount aux Sources Challenge.  [Photo courtesy of Johann.] 

RtR: Any funny running stories/moments to share?
Johann: The start of my running career is quite funny.  I was at high school from 1977 – 1981.  Rugby was the sport and boys played rugby, no questions asked.  I was very small for my age and kept getting injured.  So I was very brave and decided in 1979 to run cross country and not play rugby in order to be injury free for a change.  However, in my first cross country race, about 1 km after the start, we crossed a stream and I slipped on a rock and broke my arm!
There are many stories...  I was chased and bitten by a donkey once.  I saw big men cry and I’ve cried with big men.  My best moments and laughs were all with incredible running friends.

Johann in his happy place.  [Photo courtesy of Johann.]

RtR: Would you care to list some of your PRs?
Johann: My PRs are very moderate, but I am very proud of them as I worked extremely hard for them all:
  • 5 km - I’ve never run a 5km race but my best 5k time trial was 21:14.
  • 10 km - 47:13.
  • 15 km – 01:11.
  • 21.1 km (half-marathon) – 01:41.
  • 32 km (20 miles) – 02:45.
  • 42.2 km (marathon) – 03:49.
  • 50 km – 04:54.
  • Comrades – 10:41.
  • 100 km – 11:34.
  • 24 hours – 173 km. 
  • 6-day – 689 km.

Johann clocking his marathon PR at the Johnson Crane Marathon in 1997.  [Photo courtesy of Johann.]

                                                                 *   *   *

Wow.  Johann, thanks so much for sharing your running story with us.  Wishing you many, many happy and injury-free miles and races in the years ahead - you're an inspiration!

Head over to Johann's blog, Run Tall, Walk Tall, to follow his running adventures, or follow him on Twitter here.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Sometimes all you need is a run and a bit of fun

I have a confession: After three-and-a-half months of living in our new town, I'm still kind of battling to settle in.  I just miss so many things about our "old life": Our dear old nanny's toothless grin; the daily driveway chats with our old neighbour; having to dodge the Naval Hill parkrun ostrich every Saturday morning; our peaceful neighbourhood strolls; and waxing lyrical over Woolies Cafe's bestest-estest, freshest juice you've ever tasted.  I really, really miss it all.

And yes, I know all about blooming where you're planted, and keeping sight of the bigger picture - I've just been feeling a bit off lately.  (I bumped into two local ladies on different occasions during the past few weeks, one of whom told me that she cried for seven years straight after moving to Kimberley before feeling at home, and the other for 20 years...  At least I know I'm in good company, right?)

Anyway, I suspect that a week-long hiatus from running also contributed to my new-town-blahs: I caught J Bear's coughing bug at Clarens, and have been coughing instead of running ever since.  Boo.  Until yesterday, that is: I was feeling better and just had to move.  Cue the one thing that never fails to make me feel better: A family run.  

But first, a jumping selfie.
It was good.  It always is.  And no, I'm not miraculously settled in and happy in our new town after a single good run, but you know what?  It sure helped.

Family stretching post-run.  Yip, we have a new little runner on our hands...

So for now, here's to staying healthy, to running and to family fun.  We'll get there...!