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!”
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.