The Ultra Marathon 2007. The Worlds Most Beautiful Marathon
Captain Ian Bligh RLC
Training to get rid of the excesses of Christmas bulge has consisted of lunch time runs and perhaps entering into the Fleet Half Marathon, if we felt up to it. However after a phone call from a friend in South Africa, WO2 Rob Barnett and myself (right) thought we would be more adventurous and enter into The Two Oceans Ultra Marathon; a 56 km road race around the Cape, starting and ending in Newlands, Cape Town. “This was bound to move the flab”.
We looked up various training programmes on the internet and found some interesting but jaw dropping training schedules. They were surely designed for Olympic athletes, not two casual runners who had never been past 21 km, but there was no turning back now as the challenge was set. We set our sights on two goals, firstly, to finish in a respectable time and secondly, not embarrass ourselves in the process. Our training programme was a gradual build up over 13 weeks, running up to 60 - 70 km some weeks. After the first couple of weeks the 7th April seemed a long way away.
With training complete and sponsorship from various associations, and the Army Sports Lottery, we flew out to Cape Town on the 2 April 07 which allowed a couple of days to acclimatize and soak up the unbelievable atmosphere. The organization behind this event was on a scale that neither of us had ever seen before; the whole of Cape Town had embraced the event and it was the talk of the town. On the Friday before the main event we took part in an International Friendship Run through Cape Town . This gave us the opportunity to meet other runners from all over the world, including some Signaler's from Blandford who were shaking off the previous evenings social on the Albert and Victoria water front.
Our Admin support (Andy Thomas, a friend from Johannesburg who gave us the idea) had arrived, so now we were set and ready for the big day itself. The alarm clock rang at 0400 for an early breakfast and at 0610 we were at the starting line raring to get on with it. 10,000 runners lined up, we were right at the very back, 2 minutes away from the starting line itself. After the first 10km and comfortably in to our stride, we watched the sun rise over the Indian Ocean, even at this early hour the local population were out supporting and encouraging the runners. Heading south down to Fishhook was the easy part; some 18km of flattish easy running, one long straight road with water stops at every km.
Once in Fishhook we turned west, the dreaded leg over Chapman’s peak was just ahead. 6km of uphill climb was going to test our training programme, and sure enough, as expected, the longest hill in NATO. But training on the hills around Lyneham paid off and we made good time to the top. Going down the other side into Houts Bay was a different story, just as long as the climb up, our legs took a pounding on the way down and now we knew we were in the most challenging situation of our lives and still 25 km to go. The full Marathon distance marker at 42 km was not far away and at this stage we were hitting our target of 4 hrs 20 min to that point. The encouragement from the roadside was constant with cheers of, “come on Rob and Ian”, this kept our heads up and focused.
Heading north now and at the 42 km point we encountered Constantina Weg, another hill of death, this was tabbing material at this point, so it was heads down, best foot forward, and then another hammering on the legs on the downhill leg back into Newlands. This stretch was a nightmare; the camber on the road was constantly turning our ankles making running even harder. I'm sure gravity and momentum played its part running down this hill. Finally the last leg, the finish line was within ear shot. We could hear the crowds at the University cheering in the runners ahead of us, but the last few km's seemed to take forever.
We both finished in 5hrs and 56mins, absolutely shattered, it was not long before our admin support found us with a welcome tin of Castle Lager which soon refreshed the parts other drinks cannot reach. The mind and body was now back on track, plus knowing that we were off to watch Super 14 Rugby that afternoon, and wine tasting the following day was enough to get us up and mobile again.
This is the first time either of us had ever done something like this, and the experience was well worth the pain and agony. In addition we managed to raise approx £500 for ABF in the process, so thank you to our sponsors and here’s to next years Challenge.