Sunday, February 13, 2011

My 2011 Surfers Marathon Experience

My 14th Surfers Marathon saw me finishing in my worst time ever.  Even if the 2011 Surfers Marathon did not have the extra 1 km detour added, it would have still been my worst Surfers Marathon time ever.

Not enough training is just one of the things to blame my poor result on.  I don't have much of an excuse and hopefully next year I'll do somewhat better in the 2012 Surfers Marathon. Even the same time with less pain afterwards would be a great improvement.

Ok, so the 2011 Surfers Marathon 17km was my 13 year old son Basti's first East London Surfers Marathon Coastal Challenge, and I'm very proud that he ran the race, not having run more than 5km before.  He beat me too, finishing in a time of 2.28.

The last time I ran the Surfers, prior to yesterday, was in 2008, accompanying Tony on his first Surfers Marathon.  We did the 2008 Surfers Marathon 16km in 2.11, and although feeling and being a bit more unfit than we were in 2008, we hoped to do the 2011 Surfers Marathon 17km in a time of about 2.24 or less.  Not so.  I finished in 2.45 and Tony finished in 2.53.

My long ago years of running the Surfers Marathon in under 1.50 are long gone (best time 1.41)

I'm proud that I've now done 14 though (11 runs and 3 race-walks)

I'm 41 now, so maybe I'll still manage a total of 20 or so within the cut off time.

New running shoes for both Tony and I would be a good idea next time round, as well as a lot more training beforehand.

It was hot at the start of the 2011 Surfers Marathon 17km, and even though we applied sunblock, Tony and I still got pretty sunburnt, then, and along the route.

I was really pleased to hear that there were strict rules about the walkers making sure to start only ten minutes after the runners, as I'd previously been denied a first position lady walker due to people having entered as walkers starting with the runners (and running and crossing the finish line ahead of the first few walkers.) 

I was running this year, but maybe I'll enter as a walker again in the future.

As we ran along the dirt road right after the start of the race, I felt lactic acid in my legs and I thought "Oh no, I haven't even got onto the sand yet!"  Luckily the fatigue in my legs vanished as I hit the little path down to the beach, and I plodded on quite happily.

Then the rocks got to me, the worst I've ever experienced.  I had already thought about the rocks near Rainbow Valley, and was concerned about them, even though I usually get across them quite quickly, but there was another short stretch of rocks before that where both my ankles turned over, all ways.  It felt like I had 6 twisted ankles.  The tight elastic band of the chip on my left ankle wasn't helping.

Note to self:  Use my own elastic band for the chip next time

Basti had left me on the path down to the beach, and for a while, I could see him ahead of me, before he picked up speed (or I lagged behind) and he sped out of view.  I could see Tony behind me for a while too.

Then it was across the rocks at Rainbow Valley.  I wanted to cry and even felt tears well up at one stage.  I tried stepping right on top of the small rounded rocks to help relieve the pain in my ankles as my feet twisted and slipped all over the rocks, but it wasn't always possible and I didn't want to walk.  I kept thinking about 2008 where Tony sucked on the soft sand, but made up nicely for lost time on rocks and tar. I wanted to try beat Tony, or at least get to German Bay before him (at the other end of the tar where Surfers runners return to the beach for the final third of the race.) I couldn't always place each foot exactly as I had intended as there were so many people all about me, and a place meant for my foot would suddenly be taken up by the foot of somebody else, and I'd have to suddenly twist not to put my foot on their foot.

The length of my feet along the outer top and sides were throbbing too.  My left arch had a blister already.

In the 14 years that I've taken part in the Surfers Marathon, it was the easiest Gonubie River crossing yet - I don't remember being able to have my feet on the ground and my head above water all the way through before (using the ropes.)

The Gonubie River was deliciously cold and I ducked under twice to refresh myself.

My feet felt like lead as I plunged out of the Gonubie River, but the heaviness soon wore off, and I was thankful for the chill of the water on my legs, as, besides the elastic band of the chip cutting into my left ankle, I could barely feel my sore ankles and legs - my ankles and legs felt strong, fresh, and ready to tackle the tar.

One of the first friendly spectator's hose spray or sprinklers I ran through was really cold and as it hit me I had to gasp for air.  I tried to avoid further hosepipes and sprinklers along the rest of the route, as best I could.

I looked back often and could see no sign of Tony.  I hoped he was okay.

Around the bend at the Gonubie Hotel and through and past many spectators.  Had to run.  This is the Surfers and these people are here to support the participants. Luckily I did still feel like running at that point.

Not far beyond the Gonubie Hotel bend, and I started to walk a bit.  Run. Walk.  Run. Walk. Run. Walk.  The rest of the way, to the finish.  I like to think more running than walking, but I'm not sure...

Before the main stretch of the tar of Ocean Way in Gonubie, I spotted my family supporting us on the side of the road!  My parents, my brother, my sister in law, my 2 nieces.  Thanks guys for supporting Basti, Tony and I during our gruelling ordeal. It was also good to hear that Basti was only 10 minutes ahead of me.  I wasn't doing too badly for an old unfit gal!

I usually seriously hit a mental block on the long stretch of tar, getting bored with seeing all that tar in front of me, and just wanting it to be over, but instead of speeding up to get it over with, I usually get disheartened and want to walk more!  This year was so much better. 

My ankles were starting to play up again, though, and at some of the water points I used some water on my ankles, hoping to repeat the relief that I'd found earlier after crossing the Gonubie River. Didn't help much, and now I had a niggle in my left calf too.

Cathy, an old inter-schools fellow athlete passed me shortly before we hit the grass to go down to German Bay back onto the sand for the last third of the race (Gonubie River being the end of the first third) and said she's passed Tony who was complaining about the sole of one of his running shoes.  I hoped he was okay and wondered if he would pull out as I still couldn't see him every time I looked back (often.)

Hopped across the little stream at German Bay and still felt relatively okay, but was still walking, running, walking, running.

The legs got tired, the ankles got sore, the blister stung, the left calf niggled more, the Nahoon Surf Lifesavers Shack didn't seem to get any closer, but eventually, somehow, I was at the Nahoon River, just to cross it now and get across the last 400 metres to the finish line of the 2011 Surfers Marathon.

I looked forward to the cold water of the Nahoon River, and was soooo upset to find it felt like lukewarm bathwater.  Nevertheless, I dipped under once in the hope of cooling my head a bit.  Didn't really work. I staggered along to the finish, looking forward to getting a half full paper cup of cold cola even more than I was looking forward to getting my Surfers Tshirt. There'd been no cola along the route.

My brother and family were off to the right as I neared the finish line, and Basti was there too, safe and sound.

Managed to pick up enough speed to pass three people in the last 20 metres, and... I was done! Now where's that cola?

No cola. A bottle of water instead. Was ok though, would buy lots of cola on the way home.

I like my tshirts big and baggy and asked for an extra extra large Surfers Marathon Tshirt.  The lady I'd handed my chip to didn't have extra extra large at her table and she tried to attract the attention of the lady at the next table who might have.  I helped her attract the attention of the lady and she immediately asked me for my chip which I had handed to the first lady, who was now busy with other finishers.  I just said I gave it to that other lady, and I got my tshirt it had 2XL on the label and I was happy.

I stood around trying to decide if I should walk "way down there" to get Basti and wait for Tony, or if I should just stay put and wait for Tony.  I started ambling "way down there" slowly, but when saw Tony come in, wobbled back a bit, to the tshirt area.  Tony also got an extra extra large Surfers tshirt, and we both wobbled off together in the direction of "way down there" but luckily Basti was on his way to us, and we wobbled all the way up to the car which was a very painful walk indeed.

Got to the car and got money. Tried on my Surfers Tshirt.  It was unusually small for an extra extra large, so I tried on Tony's which said XXL as compared to my 2XL, and it was big and baggy like I like it. 

Contemplated just going straight home, but it was Tony's birthday and a drink or two was in order, so we wobbled back down the hill to the Surfers Marathon finishing area. We were also hungry but the food was already sold out.

We had two drinks each (Basti had appletizer) and we wobbled back up to the car, and home, and asleep by 9.30 pm, an extremely rare occurrence for us.

And that was our 2011 Surfers Marathon, "klaar en gedaan." Just the odd size tshirts and sore legs and feet to show for it now, and an unbelievable urge to do it all again in 2012.

Well done to all who participated, and we'll see you again next year!

© copyright Teresa Schultz 2011


  1. I know why we wanna do it again. it's cos we're blonde, and also cos we're too stupid to remember the pain, agony, suffering, and torture of the run.

    The Cold Drinks at the end were good tho..

  2. Congrats on your achievement. As a runner myself may I suggest you only refer to this event as a race and not a marathon. only when you run 42,2km may you suggest that you have completed a marathon.

    No disrespect meant.

  3. Hi, Mr G, and thanks for the comment. No disrespect taken. My suggestion was that I've done 14 Surfers' Marathons, not 14 marathons. More than 30 Surfers' Marathons have taken place now, and everyone in the area refers to it as the Surfers' Marathon. A few months or weeks before the event birds flying over East London can hear everybody asking "Are you doing the Surfers' Marathon?, Are you doing the Surfers' Marathon?" Mr G, if you haven't yet run the Surfers' Marathon, I do hope you do someday. It's an amazing experience, and I think you too would then say "I've run the Surfers' Marathon." Once again apologies if it sounded like I meant it was 42,2 km - I have done two of those too some years back :) I think "marathon" is also sometimes just the term given to a tough race, and I hope people do not think that the Two Oceans Marathon or The Comrades Marathon are just 42,2 km.


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