As hinted at in the first of this series, Nicky and I fully immersed ourselves in the tourist lifestyle in Cape Town. We’re normally the couple who avoid eye contact and park ourselves in the quietest spot and devour books.
Not on this trip. Hell, no!
We bought ourselves a 2 day ticket for the brilliant hop-on-hop-off busses and set about seeing every corner of this boisterous city.
We were fortunate that we chose to visit the Two Oceans Expo and sort our entries out and collect our numbers on the day it opened, leaving us free to explore the city on the 2 full days we had before the race. Apparently people queued for 3+ hours to register over the next couple of days.
Anyway, we giggled like children, sat in the poring rain ‘up top’. We went on the Blue Route, the Red Route, the Yellow Route and the Purple Route. We went on the Harbour Cruise and the Sunset Tour. We didn’t see the sunset though, through the thick rain and fog!
And it was brilliant.
I think I speak for both us when I say that one of the great things about our whirlwind romance was that we both just want some peace and quiet! Coastal winter walks are about as crowded as we normally like to encounter. And I know I speak for both of us when we say we surprised ourselves by how we immersed in the hustle of this city break.
I was torn between the incredible scenery, the mountains, the beaches, the magnificent stadium, the modern architecture, the wildlife and just looking at my beautiful wife….. Pinching myself regularly to check that I was indeed having this amazing time in this amazing place with this AMAZING lady.
We ate like kings, gawped at enormous sea life in the aquarium, held our noses and chuckled at the seals on the marina, and tempted ourselves with some beautiful original art.
Yes those first two and a half days were absolutely PACKED and we hunkered down Friday night wonderfully exhausted, with a stupid o’clock alarm set for race day.
I know these ‘Cape Town Chronicles’ aren’t following a chronological pattern, but hopefully they give a flavour of this incredible trip.
With about 400 meters to go (of the 56km Two Oceans Marathon) my shuffling gait had finally brought me into the ‘stadium’. After 35 miles surviving the hills and heat of Cape Town, the finish line was nearly in sight, there was what I can only describe as a roar, a joyous releasing of congratulatory happiness tunnelled into a 10 meter wide stretch of grass with (and I don’t exaggerate) thousands of people hanging over the barriers and in the temporary grandstands willing the competitors towards the line.
“Kevin! KEVIN!! KEEEVVVIIIIN!!!” amongst the thousands of voices…. the one I was desperate to hear….. my incredible lady wife, Nicky…. her voice transcended the cacophony and I managed to spot her in the crowd! I rushed over to the barrier, elated, and stole a most precious kiss, which brought a great cheer from the surrounding crowd.
“go Go GO!!” yelled the relentlessly enthusiastic water station crew about 2 kilometres previously, “you’re going to get a bronze!”. As I turned from that kiss in the stadium, a renewed buoyance in my step, I noticed the clock on the finish gantry …5h57m and became part of the jubilation around me as I pieced it all together, competitors achieving under 6 hours receive a ‘bronze’ medal. Those between 6 hours and the final cut off at 7 hours apparently receive a ‘blue’ medal. For the record, should you run under 5 hours it’s the Sainsbury medal, under 4 hours (!) it’s a silver and the top ten only receive a gold medal.
So, as the chap who finished alongside me grabbed me, tears in his eyes and screamed “YES!! after 5 attempts I got my bronze!”, there must have been something in my eye….
I greedily took my medal, an ice cold can of full fat, full sugar Coke and eagerly shuffled through the packed crowds in search of Nicky.
Regular readers (HELLO Regular Readers!) will already know that Nicky and I just love to share an adventure or ten. You will also know that injury curtailed her ambitions for this 56km Cape Town challenge. You will also know that the lovely people on the international desk at the Expo managed to arrange a Half Marathon place for Nicky at very late notice, in response to her plight.
So Nicky had experienced the finish line looooooong before me and stood on that barrier for HOURS waiting to cheer me in. Whilst she is pleased to have been a runner as well as the most vocal and enthusiastic spectator, the half course, hilly and challenging though it is, didn’t have the impact of those ocean views. She also found it absolutely rammed with runners from start to finish and witnessed a few nasty falls in the crowds.
But she did get to witness, at close quarters, the pain of the finish line closing (they literally run across and block the runners with a rope) after 3h10m for the Half Marathon competitors, I think she found it heart-breaking and surreal as runners, literally yards from the line just stop where they are.
After spending a while sat on the steps of the grandstand with my head between my knees trying to recover, we then shared the experience watching the same happen after 7 hours of the Ultra Marathon. Oh the noise, the pain, the emotion, the joy, the despair….
I couldn’t find much on the internet, but here’s a clip from a couple of years ago…
We ended up in South Africa after one of those “What’s your dream race?” type of conversations. Well, when I first took up running, aged 39 years and 11 months, some 16000 miles of running ago, I read about this iconic race, in this vibrant city and always imagined it was for ‘other’ people…… Since Nicky and I have been on this whirlwind of adventure, she has taught me that, well, why shouldn’t people like ‘US’ go on epic adventures.
So, we hit the plastic hard and headed for Cape Town….
With so much to report from this incredible trip, I think there’ll be a few blogs worth of material. As I sit here at the kitchen table, reflecting on the most exhilarating 10 days away, I still can’t quite believe we’ve been. We packed every minute, so our books came back barely touched and my notebook sparse, to say the least.
So look forward to more tales of mountains, beaches, sharks, buses, Ubers, reverse snobbery, penguins, buskers, rainy sunsets, townships and not a lot of reading or writing…