A friend of mine is a big fan of things active. Running, cycling, mountain-biking – all those rather competitive activities that I love to watch, but am unlikely to get too involved in myself (I’m more of a walking/hiking, taking things slow, smelling-the-roses kinda gal).
This weekend, Active Girl ran her first full marathon, The ‘Voet Van Afrika’, out in Napier and Bredasdorp, and I decided to tag along and see what the hoohah is all about.
So, on Friday afternoon, three of us hopped in her trusty red Clio and made our way up the N2 towards Caledon, with a huge full moon like a beacon lighting the way.
It was starting to get dark by the time we reached Caledon and turned down the R316 towards Bredasdorp, but the scenery was nonetheless nothing short of spectacular.
Rolling hills stretch out on either side of the road, swathes of brilliant emerald green cosying up to golden wheatfields, mountains in the distance giving the scene a satisfying feeling of perspective.
It’s the kind of landscape that makes you want to pull off the beaten path and spend days lying in the fields staring blissfully up at the azure skies, nibbling distractedly on a piece of grass you’ve discovered and claimed for your own.
Anyway, about two hours after leaving Cape Town, we cruised down the main road of normally sleepy Bredasdorp, and made our way to the brightly lit sports stadium, where all the action would be taking place the next morning.
We set up camp in a municipal camping area within sight of the stadium, and then wandered down the hill to sort out registration and find something to eat.
Having achieved all of these great goals, it was time to retire (when you’re planning to wake up at the ungodly hour of 4am, your ideas of an ideal bedtime tend to shift somewhat) and rediscover the joys of sleeping (or trying to sleep) in a tent.
Apart from the fact that all the blood in my body had made its way to my head by morning (city girl hadn’t noticed that she was facing the wrong way on the downward slope, and fell asleep before she could remedy it), I coped quite well with my night under the stars, I thought.
At 4am alarms started going off around camp, and it was time to stagger up and out of there.
A quick breakfast for Active Girl (I don’t think my stomach would have known what food was, let alone how to deal with it, that early in the morning) and then we were off, driving her to the starting point, a few kilometres away.
Upon arrival at the start, it was still pitch dark, though with a full moon (now setting) and a thick fog had descended upon the scene. Groups of shivering runners were huddling around big spotlights (for the warmth) casting eerie shadows in all directions.
A generator was running, powering the lights and the thump thump of a sound system playing muffled dance tunes. Long queues snaked towards ‘toilet town‘, the row of portable toilets set up for the occasion.
My fuddled 5am brain thought it very likely that Active Girl was having me on, and had actually taken me to a secret outdoor trance party, complete with full moon, tiger balm (Deep Heat, as it turned out) and the impending onset of Dawn.
I have to say that I have never seen so much Vaseline applied in all my life… and in all sorts of places I would prefer not to have known that it could go. Chafing is a ‘bitch’, so I’m told. Yikes. Yet another reason for me not to take up jogging.
Just before 6am, as it was getting light, all the runners gathered behind the start line, the starting gun was fired, and off they jogged, with 42.2 km (and a rather steep mountain) to go.
I did the sensible thing, heading back to town, indulging in a good breakfast and relishing a satisfying (and entirely necessary) cappuccino.
Four hours and eighteen minutes later, Active Girl crossed the finish line, visited the friendly physios for a stint and then had herself a few beers in celebration.
We packed up, visited nearby Arniston for a quick swim to freshen up and cool off, and then made our way back home.
(Active Girl’s version of events posted here)