This past weekend at the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon one of the athletes I coach ran her first Ultra Marathon...In fact, she literally went from 0 to Ultra in 110 days! I am extremely proud of her and how far she has come this year! Read her light-hearted, motivational story below on the insight she gained from running an Ultra.
With the big 40 on the horizon and an apocalypse of 2018, I decided to make “Running my first marathon” my no. 1 new-years resolution in 2019. I am still unsure as to why I decided to choose such a tough goal instead of the usual “be kinder to myself” or “have more fun” gobbledygook, but the clues may be in the lessons I have learned from the past 110 days.
In a nutshell: Being a novice with only two half-marathons under my belt, I decided to tackle the Bay2Bay 30 km challenge and the 36.2 km Red Hill challenge in preparation for the Peninsula marathon with the date circled and pinned to the blackboard for 17 February 2019! Needless to say, the last 6 k’s of the B2B were the hardest with almost collapsing at the finish line, to the last 6 k’s of the Red Hill also feeling just that tiny bit too far, to the “big day” with the last 5 k’s battling through a potent cocktail of Muizenberg sand and a blistering South Easter in the “Deep South” – well at least that was what it felt like to me YES! #newyearsresolution1done!
It wasn’t easy, but I made it.
The BIG ONE: Ok so now I have done it and "got the ticket", I was content with my 21 km Two Oceans entry. My new acquainted running gang kept on talking about either the ultra or the Comrades and when the opportunity arose via a club member (whom unfortunately could no longer participate) I grabbed it with both hands. (A special thanks to Clement Whittle who gave me his ticket.)
I will never forget the day I phone my coach and told her the news...
Silence on the other side...
"I nearly fell off my chair. I reached for my calendar and started counting the weeks. Less than 8-weeks until the start of the race. I knew it was going to be tough and a lot of hard work, but knowing Jana with her determined and hardworking attitude I knew we would make it. I wrote in big bold letters: TWO OCEANS ULTRA MARATHON on the 19th of April. So the journey began..."
In order to avoid boring you with long and soppy stories, I herewith reflect on lessons learned /wisdom gained and experience for anyone out there who are having wild and crazy thoughts about running as a “newbie”
1. “Only the disciplined ones are free in life. If you are undisciplined, you are a slave to your moods. You are a slave to your passions.” – Eliud Kipchoge. There are no short cuts. On my first morning of joining the Tuesday 04:55 am running group, a running mate, Julia who became a trusted advisor and mentor looked me straight in the eyes and said “make sure you pitch up” – there is no replacement for the gruelling long hours at least 6 days a week, early mornings, exhaustion, pain and ‘semi-heart attack-like’ feelings you will endure. This, of course, excludes the endless training sessions on, either Tafelberg road with the wind screaming in your ears like some demon character from a horror/fantasy movie or Kloofnek/Camps Bay drive hill.
2. For a start, I would recommend getting a pro to help – someone who knows their stuff. I was fortunate enough to get into contact with my coach, Annie Bothma, who is a professional runner herself. Not only will you know how many mileage to do but strengthening exercises are crucial, as well as a couple of yoga session just to keep me zen.
3. Don’t think that you know because you don’t know – LISTEN and soak up every ounce of advice you can get from burning feet, to what to eat, to running pace – all of it matters.
4. Find your crowd whether it be the “morning glories”, “the crew” or the “slow your long roll” – herewith a special shout out to the lovely ladies of Tuesday mornings under the caring and motherly love of Lara Kaplan and the Atlantic Athletics Club who made me feel right at home. It is the motivation and encouragement, the quick check-ins, the coffee afterwards, the chattering and laughing that makes all of the difference. O and let me not forget the snack breaks in between long runs!
5. Surround yourself with like-minded people whilst training for a big race – I thought I was just entering a weird phase of hitting my bed any time from 7 pm and becoming a recluse whilst training, but I found a running partner in crime, Marissa whom one morning told me that she got so angry at a party because dinner was only served at 08:30 pm!! Well needless to say we got on like a house of fire! Another lesson I have learned is to take it easy at least 2 – 3 weeks before a big race. In future, I will not travel or say yes to any socials for the simple reason of resting and limiting your fatigue levels.
6. When the going gets tough, the tough get going! Like life, this is what running is about - whether it is dealing with a curveball or a disappointment, you have to keep going. Case in point was the change of the route 2 days before the big day - not having any experience with the new route, race day became quite daunting, however, the only way over it is to get through it - finish en klaar. Unlike our world today where it is easier to blame someone else or having an excuse for everything, or popping pills to fix something, you only have your thoughts to deal with - running breaks down mental walls and enhances your resilience towards the curveballs and teaching you to hit them for a six.
7. You get to know yourself really really really well. It basically boils down to me, myself and I whether it is for a 10, 21, a 42 or 56 km. You read about it and everyone tells you that "it is all in the mind" but it really is!
A very special thank you to Annie for your exceptional passion for running, for always being enthusiastic, properly preparing me from programs to glute tightening exercises to making coffee and going through the route to all the love and support! To all my friends and fam - thanks for sticking it out through the tantrums of an ultra runner - the ups and the lows. AND LASTLY, in honour of my late father, this saying always comes up when the struggle is real: "Believe in your God, believe in yourself and fight until the bitter end."
If I can do it, so can you! This is only the beginning.
- Jana le Roux
If you need help and guidance preparing for a race, please feel free to contact me for more information regarding coaching.