In April 2012, I had the opportunity to run the London Marathon with my Dad. What a privilege! We started doing some running together in about 2007 and did a few 10km races (a first for my Dad). Quite soon it was obvious that a greater challenge was required and we entered the 2008 Knysna Half Marathon. It was unbelievable! I have had the privilege of participating in a number of running, canoeing, surf ski and mountain bike events but I think that being at the start of that race up in the forest stands out as my absolute highlight. We did quite a few half marathons over the next few years.
Late in 2011, we found out the one of my cousins was getting married in London in April 2012. It just happened that the wedding was planned for the weekend before the London Marathon....coincidence?.....we decided not! Having missed the ballot entry, we decided to run for a charity and the logical choice was Save The Rhino International (www.savetherhino.org). And so the training began. We had the major benefit of training through summer. I simply don’t know how people train in the UK in winter. Serious respect.
The training went well and we had really enjoyed our pre races - Skukuza Half, a 32km in a nature reserve in Bloemfontein and lots of Pretoria races. We also did some very memorable “solo” long runs which were fantastic - great time to chat and solve the world’s problems.
Our morning runs were helped by two things:
Finally it was time to head north. It was my first time in London in 15 years and I loved it! The wedding was amazing - fantastic to catch up with family that I hadn’t seen for years.
We did our last few runs in Regents Park. I must mention that for those runs, I wore all the running gear I had packed - I think I had 4 top layers on, a beanie and gloves. We ran past people wearing shorts and vests. We were, at that stage, a little worried about our acclimatisation!
Unfortunately my Dad got a bit sick a few days before the race (probably do to the cold conditions in so called “spring” in London!). We were a bit concerned but, he is an “Yster” and we decided to go slowly and see how it went. We got all our race admin done and went to bed early - although I am not sure either of us slept at all.
Getting to the start is quite an achievement in itself. We walked to the Bond Street Station, meeting a very friendly fellow runner on the way. This was the first person that greeted me back since arriving - general greetings are not common. The morning of the Marathon was different. It was amazing - everyone chatting and laughing - such a wonderful vibe. We changed stations and got onto the overground. The train was completely packed so we had to stand all the way. From the station we walked about a km and a half to the Save The Rhino Tent. So, by the time we got there we had walked about 3km and been on our feet for about 2,5 hours. Not the ideal build up to your first marathon! It was great to meet the other rhino runners.
We finally lined up, about 1 km from the start! Starting was amazing. Just thousands and thousands of people. Our main aim was to stay together! The run itself was an experience. We spent longer on the road as we went slowly to make sure we stayed in a good heart rate zone for Dad so our legs got tired. It got extremely hot at one stage and then started raining. But, every step of the way, people shouted encouragement. We had been advised to sew our names onto our shirts and it had sounded a bit silly but we took the advice and it was amazing - the stretch between 35km and 42.2km was literally made possible by hearing “go jo, go gordon, save the rhinos”!
My Mom, Carol, Tam, Uncle Gra, Sarah, Toby, Uncle Ian, Aunty Heather, Jordan and Liz all found us along the way which was great. We knew more or less where they would be and it was ridiculously exciting getting close to those spots.
The end was emotional. Definitely one for the memory bank.
Possible the most ironic part of the day was that the finish line was not actually the end of our journey. We had to walk a further 1 km to the Save The Rhino tent to find Mom, Ian, Gra and Sarah. Then we had to walk to the tube station, down the stairs, stand on the tube because it was full, walk up the stairs at Baker Street Station and then walk home from there as there were no cabs around. So, on my reckoning, we covered closer to 50km on that day.
Uncle Ian and Aunty Heath made us boerewors for supper and that night we did sleep!
I was privileged to spend a lot of time exploring wilderness areas in southern Africa from a very young age. I got my first camera when I was 6 years old and I have been passionate about wildlife and landscape photography ever since.