Extreme October through to a relaxed December …

2015 has been an interesting year of running, with October being the month that will stick in my mind the most. I was introduced to the good folk at EL Bateman and invited to take part in an Extreme Challenge which they were staging for the second time. The event is held to raise funds for the St Vincent School for the Deaf and involves teams of runners and cyclists racing against each other from Villiers in the Free State to my home town, Pietermaritzburg. The 8 teams of runners, comprising of 5 runners in each team, have it a lot tougher than the cyclists who get to overnight in a comfortable bed & breakfast, eat hot meals and start each day feeling fresh and well rested, or alternatively with a slight hangover from the party the night before.

We started running a day after the cyclists on Thursday 15th October at 15h00 and ran relay fashion, non-stop until we reached the Tsogo Sun Hotel in Scottsville Pietermaritzburg at 8:45 on Saturday morning. Our strategy was initially to run half hour stints until 21h00 on the Thursday evening, after which we split into 2 “teams”, with Team 1 continuing with the half hour splits for 4 hours allowing Team 2 to rest for 4 hours.

On Friday we reverted to being one team and continued with the half hour stints, even reducing the splits to 20 minutes as our bodies got more fatigued. The toughest part of this challenge was the lack of sleep, and having to start running each leg from a “cold” start, stiffness setting in properly from sitting or lying in the mini bus for such a long time.

Our team was made up of some reputable runners with me being the “old” man and trying to lead by example. Linda Doke, Andrew Kelehe, Surprise Makofane and Willie Mtolo were to make up the ELB Superstars Team. Unfortunately Willie picked up an injury beforehand so he brought along Philip Shezi who proved to be a more than capable substitute, Willie still took part as a member of our support team, who were absolutely crucial in ensuring our safe and successful journey along the way.

This was really one of the toughest events I have ever taken part in, but our team never complained once; we stuck together and fed off the support of our crew, always remembering that this was an event for the benefit of someone else and not about us at all – we were there to support and share the importance of what we were trying to achieve, raising funds for St Vincent School.

We did finish 4th in the running event, gaining some insight along the way on how to tackle such an event, so maybe next year we will be back to perform better and also raise more funds that the R280,000 that was raised from this years event. A huge congratulations to Stephen Meijers and all his support staff at EL Bateman as well as the sponsors that made this event such a success.

I had taken part in the Swift AC 21km on the 11th October just before the EL Bateman Challenge and managed to run 81:52, missing the Master age category win by 2 seconds, so I felt pretty sure I was in decent shape to manage the 123 km of the 504 km that lay ahead from the 15th October. What I didn’t realise was that I would feel really buggered for the whole month after the event! I rested really well, only doing 75 km for the remainder of October and only returned to feeling “normal” around the 16th of November when I was able to get back to 85 km a week for the last 2 weeks of November.

I have managed to get up to 100 km per week in December and also felt a bit of bounce coming back into my stride. Our family arrived in Ballito last week for a break before Christmas and it just so happened that the local club, Dolphin Coast Striders, were staging a 21,1 km race which was incorporated into the KZN Half Marathon Champs. My eldest son, Luke, and I entered and I went out hard, determined to finish the year on a high and set matters straight with Willie Majombozi who had pipped me at the Swift AC 21 km in October. The first half was tough; the race was aptly named “The Big Hill Challenge”, and at the turn to come back I was a tad nervous to see Willie only about 20 seconds behind me. I ran as hard as I could back down to the finish, mostly downhill now, with no uphill to assert any authority. I didn’t want to look back, not a good sign and often spurs the chasing pack on as it gives the impression that you are struggling. I wasn’t struggling, I just expected my opposition to be stronger than me on the downhills, which never happened, and I managed to win the Masters Category and KZN title with a time of 86:48 with a cushion of over 2 minutes on my nearest challenger, Willie!!

A well earned rest day on Monday was enjoyed, especially by my family and quads! This morning I went out for a recovery run of 16 km in a light drizzle, the cooler conditions most welcome after 5 days of extreme heat, excellent beach conditions but tough to run in unless you get a very early start. Today’s run brought my 2015 mileage up to exactly 4,000 km with a few days of running still to come.

I hope you all had a rewarding year of running, have an awesome festive season, be safe, have fun with the family, run when you can, and all the very best for 2016.

Shaun