There are worse places to be stuck than in the highest pub in Africa, but I am well and truly stuck. I’m in Lesotho — the highest Kingdom in the world — and was feeling great yesterday after slipping and sliding my way up the Sani Pass on the big GS but then the wind picked up overnight and it’s now too risky to make the descent.
Could be worse though. There’s a well stocked bar, a roaring fire and some great company to share a few stories with. But what I should really be doing is getting ready for this weekend’s Mandela Day Marathon in Pietermaritzburg.
The truth is that I’m a bit worried about this one. I’d like to say that I chose it for its historical context (It starts where Nelson Mandela made his last public speech and finishes at the capture site where he was arrested on 5 August 1962) but the reality is that this African race fitted my schedule perfectly, nestling nicely between last month’s Australian Outback marathon and September’s biggie — Berlin. But I didn’t read the small print, and it makes for very interesting reading.
From what I can work out so far, this is going to be my toughest marathon yet. Naively, I expected it to meander around the streets of Maritzburg but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It starts uphill and then just keeps on going uphill. Check out the graphic below. That’s a whole lot of elevation gain (over 800 metres) without too much descent. Yikes!
I took a drive along some of the course with my cousin the other day. One of the hills is brutal and continues for around 12 kilometres before a brief respite, before the next one starts. On the course map it’s called Struggle Hill. I thought that referred to Mandela’s personal ‘struggle’ but it’s going to be all mine come Sunday.
I guess it’s appropriate that this tough, unyielding uphill marathon is a fitting reflection on the difficulties Mandela faced during his lifetime. My strategy for when the going gets tough in the rolling hills of Kwa-Zulu Natal this weekend is to thank my lucky stars that I’m not doing the ‘Comrades’ marathon — the world’s largest and oldest ‘ultra’ that winds its way through the same province, but over 89 kilometres! Now that’s a race I’m certain I’ll never do, but never say never, eh?!