A little before 2am, as I entered the home straight basking in the knowledge that I had successfully completed my dream race, I asked myself: Why have I never attempted a 100km race before? I love trail running challenges and I adore the awesomely beautiful Drakensberg. So, what had been holding me back?
Over several days after Ultra Trail Drakensberg (UTD) I came to realise that the reason was, quite simply, fear. Fear of the distance, the possibility of a DNF, night running, and everything else that could go wrong in a mountain ultra, including a long list of things I wasn’t even aware of!
In overcoming this fear and my own ignorance, two factors played a major role.
Firstly, there was the role of my coach. I was very fortunate to work with Pierre Jordaan, who taught me so much about proper nutrition, the technicalities of night running and how to train for the elevation of a mountainous race. Even more importantly, he helped me to prepare my mind to overcome the inevitable lows that strike after hours of solitude and time on your feet. “Remember that when you hit a bad patch it won’t last forever. Then, when you are running well, remember that this too won’t last forever,” he said. Pierre’s tough but supportive coaching gave me the confidence to line up for the most emotional race start of my life to an appropriately epic Ennio Morricone soundtrack.
Secondly, there was the incredible and ongoing support of my family. If Pierre got me to the start, they kept me going to the end. We were all in this adventure together from the start, through the months of seemingly endless training, right to the finish line. During the event they volunteered in the early hours of the morning at 12 Apostles aid station, and then seconded me until well past sunset. A very special kind of support came from my 15-year-old son, Cillié, who paced me on a 17km section of the trail. Being able to share these highs and lows along the way with my family, knowing that they were waiting at the finish line, proved to be the most empowering driving force to keep me moving forward - one step at a time.
Finally running down that little hill towards my family, my journey from fear to finish was complete. I felt overwhelmed that I had pushed myself beyond what I had believed was possible. Beyond my uncertainties, beyond my limits, both mental and physical, but most importantly, way beyond my fears.
These are some of the most rewarding realisations I discovered on my first 100km journey, and I will cherish them forever...
Confidence - Completing a race like the UTD 100 is extremely tough and in overcoming this challenge on my own two feet I have a new confidence in me - a confidence beyond imagination.
Identity - A completely new identity! I’m not only a mother of four anymore, but also a hardcore ultra-trail and mountain runner.
Respect – An ultra is a spiritual experience and once you have endured and know what it takes to complete a tough mountain ultra, you think of your body in a different way. Completing an ultra trail race requires your body, mind and soul to find one another, connect and work together in order to achieve success. Experiencing how this trio becomes so powerful when working in unison has instilled new respect for my mind, body and soul.
Addiction – I didn’t believe I could finish until I crossed that finish line. Now I can’t stop chasing that feeling of making it to the line – that incredible combination of pride, jubilation and relief which I will crave for the rest of my life.
Discovery - Forever leaving my fears behind and entering this wonderful new world of ultra trail running. And what an amazing world this is turning out to be!
Memories - Such special moments with my family in the nature that we love and respect so much. These memories will undoubtedly last a lifetime.
As the 160km athletes rang their cow bells on Sunday morning, signaling the end of an unforgettable and world-class event that was UTD 2021, I knew this would definitely not be the once-off event I had planned… I have overcome my fear, but I am not yet finished. I can’t wait for 2022 and I am already dreaming of ringing my own bell.