Training for a Half Marathon, with no chance of chickening out

When I decided I would like to run the Two Oceans Half Marathon for the Sakhikamva Foundation, I immediately started worrying about if I could actually do it. I hadn’t run that far before, the cut off time for this run is 3 hours and 10 minutes, and if you can’t reach the 18km mark by a certain time you are not allowed to continue.

Committing to run 21.1km is one thing, committing to it and then raising money for a charity is another. There is no hiding, you are asking people for donations, and with that you set up an expectation: the expectation that you will get up, get going and, most importantly, get to the finish line. 

So when I made this decision, I figured I had better run some form of race to gauge my chances of success. It was the beginning of January, and Bay2Bay was coming up. There are 2 versions, 30km from Camps Bay to Houtbay and back, or 15km starting at Houtbay. I looked at some race predictions and figured if I could complete the 15km in 2 hours and 10 minutes, I should be fine when it came to Oceans, with the 3 more months of training. It took me 2 hours and 2 minutes. I felt positive. 

I downloaded a sub-3-hour training programme from the Two Oceans website, to get a feel for what I needed to do. In the first month I nearly doubled my weekly distance from before I signed up for “the Half”. My long runs on weekends were based on the Two Oceans programme and were between 12 and 18km each. My week schedule was based on info my running partner gave me, endurance and hills on Tuesdays (about 12km) and speed/interval training on Thursdays (about 6km). At some point I added walking 6km on Mondays, which turned into jogging 7km. 

I was hearing all this talk about the Two Oceans Half and Southern Cross Drive, and what an awful hill it is. I got nervous. After a chat with my running buddy we decided to go check it out for ourselves. We couldn’t do the exact route, since some of it is on the freeway. Instead we did 18km of reasonable approximation, starting at the race start, and ending at Kirstenbosch, via Southern Cross of course. And no, it’s not my favourite, but I survived. I was feeling a little better. 

But, not much later, I became nervous again, and the idea of 15 000 runners made me worry about getting over the start in time. The race is “gun-to-mat” which means the timer starts as the gun fires, and if you are at the back of the group it can take minutes just to reach the official starting line. What if I take so long to start that even running it in 3 hours, leaving me with a 10 minute buffer, is not enough?

So I spoke to my running buddy, and we decided on a test-half, and chose the Tyger Run in March. Admittedly without nearly as many runners, it took me 1 minute 30 seconds to get over the start line and I completed it in just under 2 hours and 43 minutes. That leaves me with a 27 minute buffer, and my nerves calmed again. 

As you probably guessed by now, even armed with a half marathon under the belt, it didn’t take long for me to get nervous again. I know I am prepared, but there is a little, silly voice in the back of my head, trying to spread some doubt. And now, just a few days before THE run, I am fluctuating between extreme excitement, nagging nervousness and pure panic on a near hourly cycle. 

The one thing however that has changed for me is the fear of “what people will think.” I’ve been so worried about people’s expectations and about me being left ashamed if I cannot complete the run for some reason. But I have learned that I have many people in my life that care for me more than I had realised, and they will be supportive even if disaster strikes. They will let me lick my wounds, and then ask when the next one is…

And on the day, my Hubbie, my kids and my running partner will be there. At the start, along the way, at the finish line, there will be support for me and the other runners. At the Two Oceans Expo I met some of the other Sakhikamva runners, and we will support each other too. 

At worst, I would have given it a shot, but I have put in the work, and I am looking forward to having a medal to show for it. 

Taking one step at a time – every time – until it is done.