Hitting Half Hillcrest’s Hills

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The time has come…to say fair’s fair…to pay the rent…to pay our share…da da de dum“…go the lyrics of Midnight Oil’s 80s one hit wonder. Eish! Those were the days of pink shirts for guys, oversized sunglasses and the Walkman! Hmmm…It seems that nothing’s changed…besides maybe the walkman (which was always politically incorrect – it should have been Walkperson). It’s now been replaced by iPod, iPhone, and iPad…which I can well imagine future generations will also be clambering to rename.

But the bottom line is the time had finally come to get out there and do a real race. One of those ones where not only do you awake before the proverbial birds, but where you register, and get things pinned to you and join hundreds of other crazy runners doing the same thing. Stealth training is great…and we do loads of it…only appearing now and then to let our running friends know we still exist. But sometimes you have to do the real thing.

So the sleep of the innocent was shattered by the shriek of the alarm at 3:45am heralding our first race of the year. Following my normal transition from coma to consciousness, I once more berated myself for deciding to do this, berated the race organizers for starting so early, berated the person who invented the clock for not increasing the number of hours in a day, and so on. Armed with the energy of this, I was soon leaping around doing the runner’s early morning dance…dress, toilet, snack…and espresso of course! We’ve got it to a fine art now, but as the brain only wakes up a few hours later it is vital that I refer to my master list to check its all done.

Dressed…shorts and top?…Check! Are you sure…both? Yep…Check!

Shoes on?….Check! (I’ve had dreams about leaving these…and after seeing people running without shoes the nightmare continues)

Socks on?…Yeah, should be if shoes are on but just be sure…Check!

Vaseline?down low where things rub and on the moobs (man boobs)…Check!…double check otherwise this will certainly come back to bite!

Sunglasses?…check.

Sweatband?…I need this or else I have to run with my eyes closed, which may be preferable sometimes…Check.

Garmin Running watch?…so I know we are actually moving forward when we are running…Check

Running Pouch for keys?….Check! But it feels tighter than last time I wore it. It must have shrunk over the Christmas period…probably from getting wet.

Cell Phone?…so I can take photos of other crazy runners and phone a friend if I get lost or bored or tired…Check

Before long we’re following the stream of runners’ cars…obviously they’re runners because who else is crazy enough to be driving around dressed like they’re going to the beach at 4:30am?

There is something electric about the start of a race. The familiar sound of the announcer’s voice, the music, the hundreds of runners with bleary eyes, the laughter, the smell of Deep heat and overburdened chemical toilets. It’s just awesome…even if it is 4:45am! After the usual hurried scramble to register, interspersed with the normal criticism of how it should be faster, better, shorter, earlier, later…we’re off to the start. to join the growing throng of tightly clustered runners all waiting excitedly And before we know it the gun sounds, and like a laxative released load, the runners spew forth.

It’s always amazing, how minutes later the tide of humanity seems to stretch off into the dark distance. How did I end up so far back? What did they have for breakfast? Do they have an urgent appointment? All these thoughts clamour for attention as we bob and weave like Mohammed Ali through runners, walkers…and seemingly some sleep walkers.

I always admire the bastions of courage who man/woman…the first table. The avalanche of carbo-loaded runners hits them in a surging rush. Runners grapple and lunge for water and coke as though they’ve run hundreds of kilometers or been deprived of moisture since childhood. Quickly we skirt the writhing mass knowing with firm resolve that we can make it…it’s only be 15 minutes…we will survive.

Finally the human snake starts to stretch out as you settle into the pace of those who run sensibly…like we do…slow and enjoying the smell of the roses…or sweat and gaseous deposits, as there were no roses Winding our way down from Hillcrest towards Winston Park we’re rewarded with smiling supporters, beautiful leaf covered roads, and incredible houses…obviously only affordable by government officials. The sun finally dragging its bulk above the distant ocean washes the roads in orange as it drips its golden light through the trees.

The kilometers seem to fall away as we are swept up in the amazing journey of running with so many people. Before long we are heading back up the gentle but long hill towards Hillcrest. “21 turn, 42 straight” shouts the marshall…”Aah, it’s half this time…” I think to myself, as we turn into the stadium “Half the distance but twice the fun.”

Driving home I lean out the window and shout encouraging words to some family who’re just heading around for their second lap…words that every runner loves to hear…”You’re looking good…You’re nearly there”… And then we’re off towards home and the welcome embrace of a cool pool and another espresso. But in the back of my mind is the thought…”We will be doing our marathon in 2 weeks time.”

Oh well, that time has not yet come!

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Online Editor for Runner's World magazine

2 Responses to Hitting Half Hillcrest’s Hills

  1. Shaun Wewege February 17, 2011 at 10:53 am #

    I’m an insomniac and even I hate getting out of bed so early!

    • Craig Blewett February 19, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

      Hey Shaun, I’m dreading the Maritzburg marathon next week. It’s going to need a 2 something alarm. But it’s all worth it…I think :-)

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