Two Oceans: No Ordinary 21

Two Oceans finisher Whagieda Samsodien.

Two Oceans finisher Whagieda Samsodien.

From the time I sat at my computer watching a little running man as I waited my turn in the queue to register for OMTOM 2015, I kept telling myself: “Don’t get caught up in all the hype. It’s just another race. What’s the big deal? It’s a 21k, so what.” Little did I know…

So on race day, I rock up early for a change. Along with Rasheeda, I get to the start and the noise level reaches us first. I duck under the Main Road to hand in my bag at Dean Street. That was quick and easy. I cross to the Main Road. Oh my word, look at all the people and its only 5.35am. To my left are the brave ones doing the 56k. Hats off to all y’all. I, on the hand, turn right. So I’m seeded in E. I look around for club mates, but find no-one in the throng of people. It would be great to run with my regular training buddies, but I see none of them. So I guess I’m on my own. Not intimidated, after all, I did the Tyger 21km pretty much on my own. And that wasn’t so bad.

A goose bump moment when I hear the national anthem for the first time before a race. The first gun goes off and you can feel the excitement. A whole 20 minutes to wait. So I patiently wait covered in my black bag (another first for me).

Soon the second group goes and then we move to the starting line. The gun goes and we’re off. Excitement and fresh legs propel us forward. I look down and am somewhat disgusted that runners have just discarded their black bags on the ground. I vow not to do the same.

Loads of spectators came out to cheer us. And we take the corner into Protea Road, oops we slow down. Ok that’s how it’s gonna be. No worries, who cares about time, it’s about the spirit of the Most Beautiful Race, right? Now I’m warm enough to get rid of this black bag, so I take it off and shove it in a bin.

The pace picks up until we get to the circle in Protea and the corner into Edinburgh Drive. Also known as Wynberg Hill. The chatter quiets down and people are huffing a little (some more than others) as we progress up the hill. Me? Oh no, of course not! We mos trained this hill, lol. I got this. Plus, the one person chatting away having long distance conversations all around him, is a fellow Ithekonian. Yes Ismail I’m talking about you, lol. Great energy.

I hear some people already complaining and some strategizing about the hills. I look up to the sky. Dus nog pik donker, wat besiel ons? Normal mense slaap nog. We get to the top and there is a silent sigh around me. Downhill to the first water point. Yeehaa. 3km’s done.

The longest water point I’ve ever seen, and so were all the others. Well done OMTOM. I grab some water as it’s too early for Coke, take a few sips and discard the empty sachet in a bin. And down we go, until the road eventually flattens out. I catch up with Shireen Abdulla, and she is looking strong.

We chat a bit and off I go (one notch, ok. It’s not like I sprinted off.) As I look ahead the road bends to the right and all you see ahead is runners. Beautiful, colourful t-shirts and vests. And when you look behind you, exactly the same scene greets you. The sun must be up cos its light, but it’s overcast and kinda misty. Oh wait is that raindrops? Ok mist drops then. Perfect running weather, but yucky for the spectators.

Another water point goes by. Some spectators along the way. As we get to Kendal Road turnoff I feel that my legs feel kinda heavy. Did I go too fast up Wynberg Hill? Hey don’t second guess yourself now. Just run… you’ll be fine. As we approach Kendal, more spectators. I glance through them, no-one I know, but the aunties all look vaguely familiar. And I soema forget about my heavy legs.

At the end of the road we turn right into Spaanschemat, and our fellow runners ahead of us are on our left. Oh crap, a loop. We hate those things, but wait… now I can see who is ahead of me. I scan for familiar faces. I see a few club mates, now I forget who it was. Anyway that takes too much effort, better look where you’re runnning. Don’t go and trip on something.

I take the turn and see all the runners still approaching. Up ahead are more spectators and music blaring Whitney Houston’s “I’m every woman.”

Now I feel like dancing not running. As we get closer you feel the energy of everyone there and the DJ’s voice is familiar, but I can’t place it. Wave at everyone and keep going right into Ladies Mile. One runner is telling his friend he used to think this running thing is madness. I couldn’t help but say: “And now you are a part of this madness, and now you see it isn’t so mad after all.” He agreed.

I meet up with Ian, my LOA 21k buddy. He is a bit injured, but the brave soul is still running though. And on I go. And eventually we hit the infamous Southern Cross. Someone around me asks whether this is Southern Cross and I respond: “It’s just another hill, name it once you’re over it, not before.” I don’t look up. Where are Nuri & Nadeam when I need them? Eish, I’m on my own now. All that training up Rhodes Drive and the Rose Garden. You better work now!!

I power up the hill and just about everyone is walking. When I say power it’s more like using electricity when there are outages. Some people are walking faster than I am running. I walk a few steps, but that feels worse than running. Oh well, I will do what coach Farouk taught all of us when we started. Go through the motion of running. And just when you think it’s done, you look up and there is more to go.

Some people are taking selfies. Vaguely I remember there being some banners and a stand, but that all faded into the background cos this hill was number one. Wait I think I got Yusra Abdulla along that point.

And finally the top! I heard someone saying: “I just made Southern Cross my bitch”. I read about the camber being quite bad, so clever me decides to run on the right shoulder of the road. Even on the little gravel its better. And now we’re on Rhodes Drive, as we wind our way down, I’m thinking conserve, conserve, there is more to come. Pick up, but hold back. Past Kirstenbosch top gate, then lower gate. Loadsa people came out to watch, and you feel like you should say thank you, but conserve energy, so you just keep going and hope they know the wave means thank you. Another DJ playing awesome tunes, calling out people’s names. I point to my number, he says my name and it gets a thumbs up from me. Laughter all around us. The energy is electrifying.

Finally we turn left onto Union Avenue, ah yes another hill. But Southern Cross makes everything else look small. So up we go, as fast as the tired legs will take us. Again loads of spectators along the way, all wrapped up warmly with coffee mugs in hand. As much as I would love some coffee, I’ve got this Two Oceans thing to finish, lol. And just as you see UCT up ahead, another hill. Ok, seriously its not even a hill, but this bump seems to get the better of me, and I walk. Then I see a man in a three-wheel wheelchair pushing himself up this thing. Come on really!! He only has 2 arms to get him up this. I got 2 arms and 2 legs to propel myself! Where is the excuse to walk? Shuffle again, and stay positive.

As I hit the grass of UCT sports field, I am smiling, the end is near. The place is packed, terrible weather and all. I try to look for people I know, sjoe too many faces. Keep going, it’s still 100m to the end. That last stretch is the best. You feel tired, but you speed up. I hear my name from the left. It’s Wageeda from Nantes. I’m smiling louder now. Thumbs up to my namesake. I look up and the clock says 3:09. Huh?? My watch doesn’t even say 3 yet. Oh yes that was the first gun’s time. Subtract 20 minutes. Not my fastest 21, but what an amazing race.

And now I understand!!!

I understand what all the hype is about. All those emails and sms’s pre-race, even on the day you collect your number. The race is tough, start to finish. It is also beautified by the gees of the runners, the spectators, the scenery, even on an overcast day. Well done to everyone who attempted it, both 21 & 56!! If you finished the race, you did it!!

I look forward to next year, to be a part of this awesome race once again, God willing.

By Whagieda Samsodien

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