The Bucket List

Aisha and her husband after completing the Two Oceans half marathon.

Aisha and her husband after completing the Two Oceans half marathon.

My first experience on the Two Oceans race was when my sister participated a few years ago. I agreed to support her and my cousins who were running. We got there at the crack of dawn and along with my aunts and other cousins, I had a blast cheering on everyone who came along Rhodes Drive.

“You should sign up and do it”, said my sister. “I doubt I would have the time”, I thought, as a busy mom of three kids. My only physical activity at that point was the occasional gym session during lunch time at work. I started doing the Park Run at Rondebosch Common and enjoyed doing that, even though I walked/ran the distance – I couldn’t run the full 5km.

“Maybe it’s something I can try and do before I’m 40,” I thought, “something for my bucket list”.

Meanwhile, when there were races taking place, my sister would encourage me to go with her and if I could, I would join her for the occasional run. I starting enjoying the vibe at the start of the races, and the feeling of accomplishment of running (but still also walking) the distances.

In 2014 I turned 40 and realised I never got to do this race yet! “So much for trying to do it before turning 40,” I thought! I tried in 2014 to get an entry for the 2015 race but I was unlucky. In 2015 my sister reminded me when the entries were opening and I asked my husband Mohammed if he wanted to join me in trying to get an entry. By this time we were a bit more active, doing Park Runs on Saturdays and a race here and there. We logged onto our computers at exactly 9am when the OMTOM site opened (after completing our profiles before the time) and then after nearly 3 hours…

Success! I felt like we got “Golden Tickets” by getting an entry into the race.

Fast forward to January 2016 and panic struck! I hardly did anything in December and now I had three months to get fit for a 21.1km half marathon!

My friend Zarina told me to try Itheko as she was going to join as well and I saw that her cousins (the awesome Ebrahim sisters) were doing so well. So we went for the information session. “Don’t worry – there’s enough time,” said Coach Farouk Meyer. So I officially joined Itheko on the 13th January. I was happy to finally learn “how to run” and for the first time I actually ran for the full distance around Rondebosch Common – even though it was much slower than my normal pace!

Within a few weeks of joining, the OMTOM novice programme started and we got going. This was getting serious! We were diligent in our twice a week training and weekend LSD’s. Social life was put on a hold as the early LSD on a Saturday or Sunday morning meant no more late nights.

When I would come home after a training session my seven-year-old son would ask me how far I ran and when I told him the distance (usually 8 or 9 km’s) he would say “Mommy, that’s not enough, how are you ever going to manage 21km?!” My pace wasn’t fast either and I was a bit worried that I would not be able to make the cut-off but I just kept going and decided to get my legs used to running the longer distances. (“Get the time on the legs” as Coach Fatima says).

I did the Peninsula Half Marathon as training for the OMTOM and I struggled after 15km. I felt like I could no longer run after that point and walked and ran until the end. “This is hard,” I thought to myself, wondering what I was getting myself into. I kept thinking of what people said to me: “You are already so skinny – why do you need to run?” “Are you crazy, why do you want to run so far?”

“Don’t overdo it, you going to injure yourself!”

But I was determined; this was one item I had to tick off my bucket list! I completed my first half marathon in 3hrs08min. This was within the cut-off time for OMTOM and I then knew I could do it! I still had a month left for training and could use that time to improve.

Three weeks before the race I was on antibiotics for a sinus infection and felt awful – there was no training for eight days which felt like torture but I took the break and mentally prepared myself for the race.

On 26th March 2016 it was race day! I was privileged to finally be a participant and no longer a spectator in this beautiful race. I saw the spectators on the road that got out their warm beds to shout and say “You can do this! “You look great” and “Go Itheko!” “Thank you!” I shouted, I knew I was doing this race for myself and I had nothing to prove to anyone else.

I looked out for my family and I hugged my aunt when I got to her house on Rhodes Drive as she promised she would wait for me – and she did! I was nearly there!

At 18km at Chet’s Hill the tired feeling kicked in and I walked a bit and then my husband caught up with me (he had started ten minutes later as he was seeded in Group E and I was seeded in group D).

“Don’t look at the hill” he said, “just run!”

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I got my last burst of energy (must have been all the sachets of Powerade I drank!) and Mohammed and I ran into the UCT grounds together. I heard random strangers shouting my name as we ran in and I felt so proud. I did it! Finally the OMTOM Half challenge was complete and I could tick it off my bucket list! And my time was 17 minutes better than Pensinsula – a PB!

The question now of course is now that it’s all over … “what’s next?”

PS: A huge thank you to ALL the Itheko coaches, without whom I would not have completed my goal!

And to all my running buddies and friends I have made along the way, (I won’t mention names for fear of leaving anyone out!) thank you for being part of my Two Oceans journey!

By Aisha Abdulla.

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