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 ]


Naomi : From Novice Runner to Comrades Finisher

naomi finihs

Let me introduce you to Naomi Janse Van Rensburg, not the runner we met on the inspiration section on The Marathon Club web page, but now a Comrades finisher. But, before we get to Comrades, let us quickly recap.

Naomi started running in 2003, and only did 5km and 10km races. She quickly started to climb the runner’s ladder and in 2016, 13 years after she started to run, she found herself at the starting line of her first marathon.

Asking her about her family, if she comes from an active family, this is what Naomi had to say:

“My in-laws also started to run in 2003 and always told us it is the cheapest way to get fit. I guess I believed them and followed in their footsteps, however, they did not really motivate me to do more. I only started to become more of a runner when my husband and I joined a running club for the first time in 2014. We did this with the hope to start doing a little more than just the occasional runs.

“I always had a desire to do more than just the average runs and I wanted to see if I am strong and focussed enough to challenge myself to go further. The only way I could do this was to set a definite goal for myself and then see if I can realise it. I knew very little about Comrades, in fact my own personal knowledge of Comrades was basically limited to the final few minutes before the final cut off I watched on TV. The more I trained and the more I started to mingle with runners, the more I learned about this iconic race and I guess it is against that backdrop and watching the final moments of the 2015 Comrades that I decided to challenge myself and I decided to do Comrades.” Naomi said.

“Last year I started focusing on half marathons and in October 2015 I joined a training group and this is when I really started to become more focussed.”

Naomi says that doing Comrades was initially not a dream, but rather a challenge, but later, as her training progressed the challenge changed into a dream. “With the support of my running friends, Comrades became more and more of a reality, and soon I realised, there was no turning back.”

“I was determined and ready for Comrades when I arrived at the starting line.”

I wanted to know how Naomi experienced the whole idea  of and build up to Comrades. This is what she had to say. 

“Comrades became to me more than just a race. It became more than just a single day of running. It became a journey, a process. I knew if I do my part, if I arrive there prepared, physically and mentally, that my chances were good to actually make it. Of course there were moments of doubt, every morning when I laced up for a race during the build up to Comrades; I knew that everything I did, every race and every training run, was aimed at one goal, Comrades 2016.”

“When I lined up at the start in Pietermaritzburg I knew I did everything I possibly could to be ready. I was there and I knew it was going to be long and challenging day, but I knew that I had a good shot at making it to Durban, in time. On the one side there was confidence and believe which weighed up against also a fair share of worry. My main concerns on race day were that my ITB and shin splints will hinder me from having a good run and I was also concerned about not eating enough or even eating wrong on race day. I was a novice runner, so really relied on what I read and what people told me. Come race day, I was on my own and had to make my own decisions.”

naomi medalAsking Naomi how her actual run was, her reply was filled with pride.

“The day went exactly according to plan. I would have not done anything different. By His grace did I make it to Durban. The day was tough and my main challenge came at around 33km because I had to deal with the emotional aspect of Comrades and the sudden realisation that I was actually there, already on my way to Durban and then the sudden reality check that I still have 56.3km to go. I had to calm myself down and reminded myself that I was there with one goal and one goal only, to finish. I was able to carry on because I knew I was not alone and I knew that there were people not just out there, at home, but on the road with me, who believed in me.”

“When I crossed the finish line at Kingsmead Stadium in Durban at 11:43:22, I was confronted with various mixed feelings. I was stunned, relieved and happy, oh and tired and sore. I could not even cry, I was just too tired and too happy that I actually made it. I also felt an intense feeling of gratitude, grateful for every step I was able to complete, from beginning to end. I realised that this was finally full circle, months and months of training got tied together in one great moment. This year the Comrades slogan was, “It will humble you” and believe me, I was humbled. Now that I have gone from runner to Comrades finisher, I am humbled by the whole experience and I know that all this is only possible because of grace.”

Naomi took off a few days, 17 days to be exact, and is back on the road, slowly getting back into the swing of things.

My next, obvious question, “Next year is the up run – will you run again?”

“Yes, definitely. I’ll be there. I have to go back to collect my back to back medal. I am planning to qualify at Kaapsehoop marathon in November” she said.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start running but doesn’t know where to start ? 

“Just start and keep on moving, don’t stop. Inspiration is everywhere. Look for it and make it your own. Get inspirited by peoples story’s, read inspirational quotes. My friend Douw Prinsloo told me that Comrades will change your whole view of running and it will redefine who you thought you were as a runner and as a person. This is so true.”

My Forever Loskop 50km Ultra Marathon


On the 16th of April, 43 days till Comrades, a massive field of runners lined up for the 30th edition of the Forever Resorts Loskop 50km Ultra Marathon, one of the most loved inland ultra-marathons on the running calendar. This race, presented by the Middelburg Marathon Club, once again proofed to be one of the best organised events.

The first part of the race takes runners through some quiet streets of Middelburg before turning onto the main road towards Loskop Dam. This is a steady and continuous climb to about 22km where runners pass one of the well-known beacons on the route, the Post Office Tower. This is the highest point of the race but do not be fooled, the climbing is not over, yet. Although the decent to the end of this 50km ultra-marathon starts here, it sure offers some deceptive challenges to those not familiar with the route.

For approximately ten kilometres we enjoyed the forgiving run towards Bugger’s Hill waiting for us at around 46km. In this stretch of the road, at around 30km, my lower back and hip started to hurt and I knew this is for me where the challenge will start. Bugger’s Hill was tough. The climb to the top of this unforgiving uphill forced me to dig deep and push forward with determination to reach the top. I kept the bigger picture in mind, Comrades 2016.

The reward waiting at the other side of this notorious hill was worth the hard work indeed as this is where we started to decent again into The Kranspoort Pass. This to me remains one of the most beautiful parts the race and for a moment the sheer beauty of nature just outweighed the pain and discomfort I felt.

On this part of the race, because it offers quiet a great opportunity to make up for some lost time suffered earlier in the race, I have seen a lot of runners who have clearly pushed too hard and this always shows later in the race. The decent is welcome but you have to exercise control and pace properly. If you don’t, it will come back and bite you in the behind sooner or later. On this day I witnessed it again.

When Loskop Dam is finally in sight I was filled with mixed feelings, I knew the end was near but I knew what was lying ahead too, one more challenge; Varady’s Hill, better known amongst runners as “Heartbreak Hill”. This final test awaited us at 47km and offered a steep and continuous and most definitely an unforgiving two kilometre climb placed only three kilometres from the finish. The only way I was going to get to the top of this last hill was to go back to the very basics of the run walk combination. This is where many of those who motored down The Kranspoort Pass paid the price unfortunately. Many of those who flew past me earlier on in the poort area were reduced to walking here.

I must say, that last stretch from the top of Varady’s Hill towards the end of the race felt never-ending. I said to a fellow runner, “I am sure they keep on moving that entrance to the resort further and further away as we approach.” He felt so too ! I finally made it to the left turn into the resort and this is where I felt a lift and was able to finish strong at 05:20:25.


The Medal

This finish time and the effort that went into this day just had to suffice for the day given the challenges I faced after my fall at OMTOM2016. I am happy and think I am still heading in the right direction as we mark today 42 days until Comrades 2016.


I just want to pause for a moment here and congratulate all my friends and fellow runners who have been part of the Loskop series, whether you did the half marathon or the ultra, “Well done!”. Your effort and hard work paid off and the medal around your neck is proof of that. If your run did not go according to plan, that is part of being a runner too. It is what we all take away from each run that really counts, lessons learned. They are an invaluable part of our learning experience. Cherish it. Save it. Use it. Share it.

As a last thought, last but definitely not the least. We made use of the private bus service offered by Willie Hall from At Your Service Trips and Tours and what a great experience. Our Loskop experience started at Faery Glen PnP where we boarded the very comfortable coach just before 3am. We left on time and the ride to Middleburg was stress-free and quiet. Our bus driver was the perfect driver. We arrived in Middleburg with ample of time to get our race numbers and to spend time with fellow runners before the start of the big race. I will definitely make use of this service again next year.

See you guys on the road, soon !

[ Some Pictures Here ]

Get up and go ! Twice.

Finally I have some time to sit down and reflect on OMTOM 2016.

This year I was ready for OMTOM and was aiming for a 05:50 finish. During the build up to Two Oceans I started to run the times I was used to run before I was stopped in my tracks last year with plantar fasciitis; which was a real pain. Excuse the pun !

A major part of the Two Oceans hype is without doubt the expo, receiving your race pack and especially that first glance at your very important race number. When I received mine this year I was immediately reminded of last year’s bad experience because the number of ultras completed indicated two and not three. I actually did complete the third one, but came in seven minutes after the seven hour cut-off. But I have said this before, if it was not for that really bad Two Oceans Ultra last year I am almost 100% confident that I was not going to have a successful Comrades because it took a bad run at Two Oceans to change my game plan for Comrades and that allowed me to finish Comrades and secure my back to back medal.

Back to OMTOM 2016.

Saturday morning it was an early “Get up and go” We arrived to a chilly and rather wet start, but like always there was a clear spirit of excitement amongst runners. The half-marathon athletes started first and soon after that it was out turn to take on the 56km ultra run. We were started off with a slight drizzle still raining on us but soon after that and early in the race conditions changed to what most athletes described as “perfect racing conditions”; and it was.

I started my run that day with a friend Henri with whom I stuck for quite a while until I lost him in the crowds and was on my own. I was on time and stuck to my pacing plan for the day which was going to secure me a definite sub six hour finish.

As we got to the 38km marker a runner from the back I think changed direction and just tipped the back of my right foot and at that time of the race it was enough to take me down. That is where Humpty Dumpty had his great fall. At 38km I went down with a bang and hit the ground really hard, knee first and then landed solidly on my left hip. It happened in a split second and I have to say, the minute I hit the ground fellow runners grabbed me on both arms and helped me up. This was to me just another gesture of “WE RUN AS ONE”.

This was my second “Get up and go” moment of the day. There was only 18km to go and I was determined to finish this race and after all, I was chasing my sub six hour finish.

A mere five hundred meters from where I fell I found a medical tent where I quickly had my hip checked out. I was given an all-clear and there was no time to waste on patching up my busted knee so I just decided to deal with it later. I was back on the road and pushing on to the finish.

I managed to make up for some lost time as we neared Hout Bay but unfortunately when I reached the marathon mark pain and real discomfort started to set in and this slowed me down. I really tried to limit stopping but then came our good old friend Constantia Nek. The camber and steep and endless climb did not help me timing wise either. So when we got to the top I thought I will try and make up some time again but I just couldn’t; not enough anyway.

The last seven kilometres were really hard and I was running in agonising pain and with blood running down my leg. Looked like I returned from a battle field, but I was determined to finish this race with my head held high and I did. I crossed the finish line at UCT in a time of 06:10 and was filled with a mix of fatigue, pride and relieve.

At OMTOM2016 I again experienced the amazing spirit and oneness there is amongst runners, how strangers become friends and how someone you do not know from a bar of soap become that helping hand to pick you up when you fall. It is that pat on the back followed by a “Come on buddy, let’s go…” or a strangers coming from behind shouting. “Come Team Vitality, let’s do this…” The awesome spectators spend their whole day lining the route to support runners from all walks of life because when you stand shoulder to shoulder with strangers in the rain waiting for the race to start we all melt together in a potpourri of awesomeness and determination with one goal in mind, to start and finish the 56km of The Two Oceans, the world’s most beautiful marathon.

Update :

After we got home from Cape Town I had some x-rays done and thank goodness, no fracture. The fall however was worse than I initially thought and this forced me into some serious chiropractor and physio sessions for the past two weeks. I am much better and this weekend I hope to be well enough to take on the Forever Resorts Loskop Ultra Marathon, a 50km run between Middelburg and Loskom Dam in Mpumalanga.