A Great Reason to Run in Cape Town

Tackling the Gun Run Half Marathon in Cape Town is a runners high

At 05:45 in the morning I was already hovering nervously around the start line for Cape Town's Gun Run Half Marathon whilst sipping on a fluorescent orange drink because my boyfriend told me it was a good idea. All preconceptions of a half marathon being a glamorous affair went out of the window the moment I saw a group of middle-aged men wearing bin bags over their running gear and huddling together under a bus shelter to keep warm. On Green Point’s Beach Road there was nothing to separate me and my little running shorts from the howling wind and the generator for the coffee machine was broken.

Why was I doing this again?

I've been running for four years and I wanted to find out why. Instead of continuing to run by myself I decided to enter an organised half marathon with lots of other people who like to put one foot in front of the other. I was curious to see how much my body could endure and if I was good enough to compete against other runners. What better way to find out than on one of the most stunning coastal half marathons in the world?

I stood on the start line amongst thousands of runners as our commentator counted down to the sound of the gun. Everybody seemed nervous or was it excitement, adrenaline or even pneumonia?

At 07:00 the gun sounded and the crowd began to surge forward along Beach Road – there was no going back. It was a little slow at first as everyone found their pace but as we doubled back and ran along the promenade towards the V&A Waterfront, the howling wind became a welcome breeze and I felt so elated to be running with others. Consequently, I found myself running faster than my usual pace.

Exploding Powerade and cheerleaders

After six kilometres we approached a stand where Gun Run staff was holding out sachets of Powerade and water to passing runners. Some emptied water over their heads to keep cool and others giggled when they accidentally ran over a sachet and it exploded.

As we passed through the city centre and onto Green Point's Main Road, supporters lined the streets shouting words of encouragement and high-fiving. There were even cheerleaders shaking pom poms in my face and a guy in a tutu and leopard print tights ran past and told me I looked composed.

I found myself thinking of new ways to motivate myself and set my sights on runners in front of me in a bid to overtake them (particularly another female runner whose physique I was completely envious of). When I reached 12 kilometres I looked down at my watch and realised only one hour had passed. The realisation that I might complete the race in less than two hours began to set in.

'I don't care what you've been told'

As we turned off the Sea Point promenade the steep incline of Kloof Road loomed ahead. The pace slowed as my calves felt the burn of a hill and my breath became short. What motivated me? The old saying that what goes up must come down, that I could never have suffered the embarrassment of walking and that I was itching to cross the finish line. The guy in the tutu was chanting army songs and other runners were spouting motivational speeches against the steady trudge of feet.

The route flattened at the top before a downhill meander to Camps Bay. Our trudge became a sprint and it started to rain in big cool splashes. 'Thank you, God!' one of the runners laughed, hurtling down the hill with his arms outstretched.

The home stretch

At 16 kilometres, we reached Camps Bay where women were holding out spray cans containing fluid for aching joints (somewhere in the middle of more exploding Powerade capsules). I hadn't even thought about whether or not my body was about to give up hope because I was so full of adrenaline. I wondered how much of running is physical and how much is mental.

As I reached Bantry Bay the wind had picked up and I found myself battling against it but I only had to glance at other runners soldiering on for inspiration. As we turned back onto the promenade for the final kilometre the huge inflatable finish line and a cheering crowd came into view. Despite how far I had ran I managed to talk to a fellow runner and we decided to sprint to the finish line.

Would I do it again?

The Gun Run was such a terrific way of realising my own potential and has raised the bar for future training sessions. Running alongside so many like-minded people was nothing short of inspirational and I've come away with a real sense achievement. Why stop at the half marathon?

By Lisa Nevitt

If you're reaching for your trainers already, be sure to check out our Sports Section for inspiration.

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