Last year I wrote a blog called Bravery and a Little Dermabrasion. It was the story of a few brave fools who took on the annual Kenton to Port Alfred run in 80 to 90km an hour tail wind. I was one of those fools. The route is a small piece of magic, predominantly firm sand with nothing but wild sea on one side, and untouched bush beyond some sand dunes on the other. But when you are being tossed along the beach like a hapless tumble weed, sand lashing your legs and any other exposed skin, you can’t help but question your life choices.
This year, as we arrived for our usual Kenton break, the Whatsapp group began to buzz again. With the promise of far milder conditions, the run would take place in the reverse, between Port Alfred and Kenton, on 30 December. With Q on crutches, in recovery after a torn meniscus surgery (probably a blog all on its own), I would be joining without my wingman. There were some familiar names on the list from the 2016 edition, and I was looking forward to a catch up, some laughs and a leg stretch. After months of mostly mountain missions, some flatish and fastish was appealing.
The day prior to the run, I was driving with my friend Kerry over the bridge in to Bushman’s and a woman with a familiar running form came in to view. None other than Comrades champ, Caroline Wostmann! Absolutely no secret that I’m a massive fan. Her inspiring story has touched so many runners, bringing a sense of realism to elite road running in South Africa. Caroline has been quite candid about the injuries that have plagued her over the past year, and has indicated a return to the great road ultra that is Comrades in 2018. After watching the heart-breaking TV footage of her 2016 race, where she was hit by a media bike and then had to settle for second place after painful cramps thwarted her lead, many of us are waiting anxiously to witness her return. I kinda wanted to stop the car and have a chat! Instead, I asked my coach, Nic de Beer, if he had her number, and then sent her an invitation to join our beach trot. She agreed immediately, and it was quite fun to drop a “Caroline Wostmann is joining us tomorrow” on the group.
In the car on the way to the start, Caroline said she was worried she would hold us up in terms of pace. Ha! In my wildest dreams I didn’t think I would live to hear Wostmann worried about holding me up on a run! Of course she did nothing of the sort, and pretty much set the pace while I regularly fell off the back. The group welcomed her warmly, and the 8 of us fell in to various groupings on the first 4.5km of soft sand. Eek, very soft sand and not what I had remembered from the previous year! I saw a major sense of humour failure coming my way, and had to work hard to dodge it as I stumbled around like a newborn giraffe.
We really did have perfect weather this year. Misty drizzle, the usual Kenton humidity, and very little wind. Once we hit the hard sand, everyone found their feet. Caroline patiently answered all of our questions about her 2018 calendar, where Comrades is once again her primary focus. But as talented and focussed as she is, Caroline is very much a woman and mother first. At one point Brenda, Caroline and I were running in our own little click in the middle. As we did the usual dance, running between approaching waves and avoiding the soft sand, we spoke about childbirth, weight gain, weight loss and raising children in South Africa.
The humidity got to all of us by the end of our 22km run, and a swim through the Kariega river was the perfect way to end it all. Caroline made us feel like heroes when she said, “Guys, best run EVER”. And then we did what runners simply must do, and went to Doug’s house for a few beers. 10am is beer o’clock in Kenton.
I can’t wait to see what Caroline does at Comrades 2018.
I can’t wait to line up for Comrades 2018.
And I can’t wait to see what the 2018 edition of this classic Eastern Cape beach run will bring!
Cheers to a 2017 that was packed with adventure. I maxed my mountain time, had good races and bad, and running once again brought some of the best humans in to my world.