OMTOM2017 Success !

IMG_7702Old Mutual Two Oceans Ultra-Marathon is without doubt one of my favorite event on the running calendar. I just love this race, not only because it is definitely the most beautiful marathon in the world, not only because it is in Cape Town, not only because it is well organized, not only because it was my first ultra-marathon and not only because it gives us a chance to take a short break, but also because of the unique challenge of this race.

This year I arrived here in Cape Town with one goal for OMTOM2017, to just run my race and decided that I will be happy with a comfortable sub 6, but most importantly I wanted finish without issues, without injury and feeling good. Race day offered me that and more. My unofficial plan was to try and get a PB in the bag, with a possible 05:47 (previous personal best was 05:50 in 2014 ).

As race day unfolded along this amazing breathtaking OMTOM route, I realized that I was on track to make it happen. At 17 km I had to stop because of severe nausea, but once I’ve taken care of that, it was back to the road pushing towards the finish line. When I got to the bottom of Chapmans Peak I was still on track and felt great. I maneuvered my way up ‘Chappies’ with caution, worked in three proper stops, with about three minutes of walking and then made up some time down the other side. I knew ‘fly now pay later’ will soon be a reality if I was not cautious. Getting into Hout Bay I felt great. I passed the 42km mark and almost fell over when I noticed it was 04:11 into the race. This where I got little positive booster, realizing the plan for the day was busy playing out really well. I planned ahead for Constantia Nek and I once again wondered, can one really be prepared for Constantia? Anyway, I continued and knew every step was a step closer to the finish.

The plan changed slightly when I caught up with Melinda Smal and Esti Kemp from Magnolia about 7 km from the end. Drill Sergeant Smal was not interested in excuses whatsoever so Esti and I just had latch on and run. There was no mercy whatsoever. But it was all good, at this stage I knew the PB was in the bag it was just a matter of what time it was going to be. Turning into the UCT grounds is always a joy, this time round, even more so.

I crossed the finish line with Melinda and Esti at 05:42:54.

#OMTOM2017 mission accomplished !

18057001_10150802279204946_8391414820810149647_nIt is in moments like this that one can appreciate the progress made, when you see the results of hard work and commitment, many early mornings, endless kilometers in the road and hours in the gym. It all comes together on days like this. Hard work pays off, that is for sure. Fact is, good runs like this don’t just happen, you train for it, you work hard for it, but the reward is great when you reach your goals and that is when you move those boundaries a little further.

I want to thank everyone who supported me, all the messages, following me on the app and the calls, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

It is now a short week of taking it easy and then this coming weekend we will take on the Loskop 50km Ultra Marathon, now that is going to be interesting, to say the least. But we will be there and take it as it comes.

[ …more photos here ]


Be Inspired

As we build up to the three big races coming up, Old Mutual Two Oceans Ultra Marathon, Loskop Ultra and then Comrades Marathon, I am sharing various inspirational images on my Twitter and Instagram account. Follow me on @myownjourney_sa and enjoy these.

If you have a special short quote you like to share, please comment below and I can maybe include it in the collection.

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Athens Authentic Marathon : DONE !


Here is a quick look back to my 2016 Athens Authentic Marathon. Funny I use the word “quick” in a post about a marathon I did. Ha ha ha.

Anyway, running this race was such a blessing, a trip back into history, 120 years back into history to be precise. Sometimes during the build up to Athens 2016 I sometimes could not believe I was actually going to run it.

According to organizers interest in “Athens Marathon. The Authentic” was again high this year with around 50,000 runners expected to participate in all of the events’ races over a range of distances. But my focus, and the focus of around 17,000 other runners, was on the premier event, the international officially measured marathon (42.195 km) scheduled for Sunday morning, the 13th of November at 09.00am when all of us were going to follow the footsteps of the legendary Pheidippides from the town of Marathon to the finish line at the 1896 Olympic Stadium, also known as the Panathenaic Stadium also known as Kallimarmaro. Like I mentioned, this year marked , celebrated, 120 years since the first Modern Olympic Games of 1896 and the first ever Olympic marathon finished in the same stadium where we were going to finish and we were going to be part of it.

First thing Pieter and I did after checking at the YES! New Hotel in Athens was to find our way to the Athens Marathon EXPO & Registration Centre, which is hosted in the Faliro Indoor Hall & Exhibition Centre of Athens. We found other runners on the tram and together we found our way to the registration centre. Picking up our bib numbers, timing chips, and race packages was quick and efficient and the expo was really huge. We decided to make the most of it and walked through the whole expo, twice. I had to go back to by the 120 year souvenir and limited edition t-shirt. I only decided I wanted it when we were already at the exit.


Saturday was just a day of lying low, we did some exploring close to the hotel and the rest of the day was really just focusing on the task at hand, to get the most out of this amazing opportunity to run one of the most sought after marathons in the world, and not only that, also the only “authentic” marathon in the world, measured at 42.195km. Well, I managed to do it in 42.74km. Ha ha ha. They just never work out quite right so they ?

Race day. 13 November 2016. Our hotel was located literally just around the corner from one of the bus pick up points at Syntagma Metro Station, line 2 & 3. Getting there took us minutes by foot and the whole process there was so well organised and handled to the point, the best I have seen actually at any race. About an hour later we arrived in the village of Marathon and had ample of time to soak in the whole vibe of this iconic event. We were able to also take some great pictures before the race and one specific highlight is the pictures we took at the Marathon Flame Tower and another with our South African flag that was also hoisted along with the flags of all other participating countries.


Just to interrupt myself for a minute. You guys might know that I have decided to sit out on the Kaapsehoop marathon on the 5th of November, just before we left for Athens. That was a really tough decision for me because I love Kaapsehoop and it was also my first marathon ever, but when I stood there at the starting line of the Athens Authentic, I knew that that was the right decision. The rib injury I suffered two weeks before we left was still very present and the pain was still there, intense but bearable. I was still worried about the marathon and how the day was going to play out, but I was determined to ride this wave to the very end, no matter what. I was determined to start and finish this race, no matter what.


We started in batches and the first group of elite runners started at 09.00, sharp. After them the groups were moved forward and started in groups one after the other. I have to say what really stood out for me was that there was no pushing of shuffling or people trying to push in because they were late – the typical South African race start scene was not present. Everyone waited, patiently, for their turn. Maybe it is because the race was a mat to mat and not gun to gun event, but still. It is really nice to start like this where everyone is just calm and disciplined, enjoying the moment.

From the village of Marathon the route replicated the route followed by Pheidippides to announce the victory of Athens in the Battle of Marathon.

From the start we headed south for around 17 kilometers, offering a rather flat profile with little graduate climbing here and there, and then we turned in a western direction where the serious climbing started – not too steep but steep enough to test and try the legs. The first descent only starts at around between 32km and 35km and then we entered the valley where the city of Athens is located in front of us.From there the run was easy and rather effortless.


The spectators along the route were amazing. We passed through various small villages and eventually suburbs of Athens until we reached the city of Athens, and one word echoed through the air all the time, “Bravo”. It is my guess that Phinnepeades carried an olive branch with him when he did this route because the locals came out in their numbers to hand out olive branches to the runners to carry with them to Athens. It was a lovely touch and yes, I carried mine all the way to the end and I am glad I did. It even shows on my pictures.

Along the route water stations were very frequent but boy, did they waste water. Unlike at the races we do where they hand out cachets, we were given bottled water and one can only drink so much water, so the rest goes to waste. Obviously they do not have problems with water like we do and every time I had to throw a bottle of water away I thought of SA and how much we need that water. Anyway, when in Rome do as the Romans do I guess ( in this case, when in Greece… ) so I had to make peace with that. I have to add to this though that I have read that they were going to recycle an estimate of around 25,000 kg of plastic, so not all that dim and grim I guess.

Friends, the whole race was amazing, from beginning to end, but nothing could prepare me for the moment when I made that left turn towards the Panathenaic Stadium and saw the banner that said, “250m to go!” and then the full view of the stadium was suddenly in front of me and I knew, “Athens Marathon – The Authentic was done and dusted! I crossed the finish line at 04.34.01. Happy. No, ecstatic, grateful and really blessed ! When I threw my arms in the air I saw the olive branch I carried all the way with me and this is when I welled up. Yah I am a softy, sucker for “a moment”. I suddenly missed my mom and wondered what she would think of me, doing all this; me changing my life, losing all the weight, started to run, marathons, ultra-marathons, Comrades, international marathons ( this was my third one ) and now, the one and only authentic marathon in the world where it all started 120 years ago, the Athens Marathon. I think she would be proud of me.


The moment I’ve been waiting for, entering The Panathenaic Stadium, Athens

Looking at that medal in my hand, the medal I have been dreaming of since I started to plan this trip, was suddenly lying in the palm of my hand. Mission accomplished.


Pieter and I both had good runs ( he did 04.14.39 ) We were 44 South Africans on the starting list, 32 finished the race. Pieter finished in 13th place out of the group and grabbed the 17th spot. This was definitely not about racing, but rather to have and enjoy the experience. Both of us were going to have better times, but we took a lot of pictures, so that definitely wasted time, but with this event not time was wasted. It was just plain awesome.


We also extended our time in Greece for another ten days, and believe when I say, the experience was magical. We have seen and done so much and got to be around the most amazing people; they are friendly, helpful and so respectful. Greece is a stunning country, disciplined, clean and despite of the challenges they face as a people and as a country, things are still working in so many ways and when I say that I immediately wonder, “What is South Africa’s excuse?”

It will not be fair for me to boast about this wonderful even without thanking the people who made this possible. I want to give a BIG shout out and thank you to Discovery Vitality for making this trip to Athens possible. If it was not for me winning the #MyVitalityPB competition, none of this was going to be possible. I had six months in which to make use of the prize, and when I saw that the Athens Marathon was on, that instantly convinced me not to let this opportunity pass, and we entered, and then booked the trip around those dates. To Discovery Vitality, “Efcharistó polý” ( Thank you very much )

Everyone ask me, “Will you go back?” The answer to that question is easy, “…next year this time you will ten to one be reading my review on my second Athens Authentic Marathon” So YES, I want to go back and not only that, I intend to take a few friends ( specially running friends ) with. This is a MUST RUN marathon !


When Life Happens


I always tell people that life will go on regardless; regardless of what happens today, regardless of who said what, regardless of whatever plans you had or may have, life just happens. Life does not stop and wait for you, or me.

When life happens we are often hurt and scared and we ask all kinds of questions to try and make sense of it all. Well, let me say this first, nothing wrong with that, it is okay to try and make sense of life, to try and figure out why certain things happen to us, but be warned, life happens and it will continue to happen for as long as we are here.

One of the life lessons I have learned in recent years is that pain is part of life and ultimately it is part of growing and evolving. The sooner we realise this the better. Sometimes it is life itself that closes doors on us, but we have to see past that, see the bigger picture, see it as an opportunity to move forward. Sometimes that slammed door is all we need to get us exploring new opportunities and move forward. It is important to move on from what hurts you but never forget what you’ve learned from it. There is always a lesson there.

One more lesson, when life happens, remember that everything in life is temporary. After night there is day. After getting hurt there is healing. After the storm there is sunshine and often a rainbow. Unfortunately this cuts both ways, into the positive and negative side of life. If life is good to you right now I encourage you to enjoy it, make the most of it, because also that won’t last. There will be times of trials and tribulations, but that also will pass. See life’s moments for what it is and never seize to live your life to the fullest. Grab every moment and make the most of it knowing that it will also pass. Lost opportunities cannot be relived, so make the most of it.

I spoke with a friend a while ago and we were talking about people always complaining and worrying about things. In December the suicide rate is also sky-high and this is because people do not know how to cope anymore and people worry themselves into a dark hole of depression and that is where they just don’t see a way out anymore. Complaining about things won’t help either because what we say today will not change what happened yesterday and chances are good that it will also not change the course of tomorrow. Instead, practice learning from the past and figure out how you can use that knowledge to shape a better tomorrow.

Another reality of the fact that life happens is that we often get hurt and these bad moments often leave us with scars. That too is part of the reality of the lives we live. Smooth sailing is not always possible, but friends, remember, a scar in fact is a closed wound. Looking at our scars should remind us that we’ve moved on and we have chosen to move on. Healing has begun! When you look at your scars, most of the times you can say, “I made it. I moved on.”

Last year when I did the Comrades Marathon up-run I constantly reminded myself of the words of Comrades coach, Lindsey Parry, “Whatever you do, make sure every step you take is forward.” People, this is also a life lesson for life. When life happens, when you face a challenge or go through a difficult time or maybe are left with a scar, whatever you do, make sure the steps you take away from that are forward, small steps forward. Just say to yourself, “All I need to do is take one small step forward.” Life is not about waiting; it is about living and moving forward. Small steps.

One last life lesson I want to share with you is this. Other people’s negativity towards you, towards your situation, towards life, towards anything or anyone, is not your problem. It is easy to fall in that dark pit where people try to drag us down to, but we have to be vigilant and aware of this very danger and stay away from that as far as we can. When people treat you poorly, keep on being you. I always say, “I am here to stand out, not to fit in.” Do not allow people to drag you down and become who they want you to be. In short, do not change to please or impress people. Only change when you know it will make you a better person, when you know it will make you stronger and happier human being. People become destructive when they are bitter and hurt and they will do anything to drag others down with them – do not conform to this. Believe me, in the past year I have learned this lesson and be warned, it will often come from those you expect it from the least. Do not let a pretty face or a fake smile trick you into compromising who you are or who you are destined to be.

Here at the beginning of a new year where we all have some idea of what we want to do and achieve it is important to share this message. Live your life to the fullest, live your best possible life and let the good and the bad times guide your steps to a better future.

I close with the words of Mae West who said, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”