Wednesday, 1 February 2012

My worst race ever

Team Tough Chik question of the week (initiated by The Pawsitive Thinker and question by Team Tough Chik member Shannon): What was your best/worst race experience ever?

I actually have quite fond memories of my worst race ever.  Maybe it’s because it was my first ever half marathon.  Or maybe because the “bad” part of the race had absolutely nothing to do with race organisation, scenery or venue (all of which was perfect), but everything to do with some rookie mistakes I had no-one but myself to blame for.  Whatever the reason – I will always look back with a smile to those awful first 21.1 consecutive kilometres of my life.

The race was the Knysna Forest Half Marathon of 2009.  The “Knysna Half”, as it is commonly known, is a very popular race in South Africa and it is usually sold out months in advance.  One of the reasons for this may be the setting of this race: It couldn’t be more perfect.  The race starts right in the centre of the Knysna Forest, a beautiful, indigenous forest where a few wild forest elephants are rumoured to still roam; and ends in the quaint sea-side town of Knysna.  What makes training for this race tricky, though, is the fact that is held right in the middle of winter – getting to the starting line healthy and well trained is therefore never a given. 

Race registration.

2009 was actually the third time that I’d secured an entry for the race – the two previous times I’d end up with flu a week or two before the race and therefore had to withdraw.  Great was my joy therefore when I finally made it to the starting line healthy and ready to go in 2009 – so great, in fact, that I went completely overboard with my pre-race fuelling strategy…

Now, I’m a girl who likes all things fruity and healthy.  “What could be better then, than fuelling up on not one, but three pure fruit smoothies the day before the race?”, reasoned my rookie half marathon mind.  And I gulped those smoothies down. 

Pre-race fuelling at the Knysna Hollow.

The first indication that my fuelling strategy might have been less than ideal came at about 12 o’clock that night…  And I had very little chance to sleep after that.  By five o’clock on race day morning I mistakenly thought the coast was clear – just to be proved wrong while standing in line for a port-a-loo at the temporary mid-forest starting line “town” for what must have been the longest 45 minutes of my life.  To this day I am convinced that it is grace and grace alone that prevented me from having the most embarrassing moment of my life right there in that line.

I made it to the front of the port-a-loo line with literally minutes to spare before the starting gun fired, and once again I thought my woes were over.  Wrong.  About five kilometres into the race my sole focus became searching out a bush or tree large enough to allow me to, ahem, do my thing without the rest of the field watching.  I was mortified, but I had no choice.  And so, instead of chasing down the finish line, I spent the rest of the race darting from bush to bush, wishing I never had those darn fruit smoothies.

Finally dashing for the finish line.

I eventually made it to the finish line, where poor Will had been waiting in the pouring rain for nearly 40 minutes.  Man, was I relieved to cross that line!  And so I completed my very first half marathon, with plenty of lessons in the bag...!


  1. Oh my! I've had stomach cramps but nothing like that. Had some chaffing that made me go into a store to buy some cream while running the half in Vegas. Also ran an entire half with a migraine. Now that one I thought I was going to die! Thanks for sharing!

  2. omg!! I am glad you got through, but what an aweful experience!! I have never had bathroom issues during a half, but lets keep the fingers crossed!

  3. What an experience! I have been running since 1985 and I am learning again.

  4. Oh wow! That is rough. I actually have a 5k that's a black cloud over my racing. I have yet to finish it without an injury. THIS WILL BE THE YEAR!!!

  5. That is one of the worst things that can happen on any race. That is a hard way to learn lessons.


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