Ten days on, I’m still waiting for my legs to come back to me but I think I left them halfway up ‘Struggle Hill’, outside Pietermaritzburg. Without any shadow of doubt it was the toughest 42km race I’ve ever done, but the Mandela Day Marathon was worth every tortuous, gruelling, sweaty hour of physical and mental anguish, just to have been there.
For sure, I was never in contention for anything, not after straining a calf muscle riding my motorcycle up a mountain pass in Lesotho six days before the race. But on race day, a shed-load of painkillers and a pair of compression socks did the trick, and I crossed the finish line 17 minutes before my target of five hours. Would I ever do that marathon again? Not a chance, although my 4:43.01 finishing time does qualify me for next year’s ‘Comrades’ — an 89km ‘ultra’ from Maritzburg to Durban that is top of most marathoners’ bucket-lists — so who knows, perhaps time will be the best healer of all?
But for now, my focus has shifted from Africa to Europe, where I’ll be lining up in Berlin on 24 September with over 40,000 other hopefuls to take part in one of the best ‘majors’ in the world. It’s also sponsored by BMW, which has also generously supported my efforts throughout The Marathon Ride, so I want to put on a good show. In fact, the aim is unchartered territory for me: to crack a sub-4 hour time, which is probably a bit foolhardy given the fact that there’s just over two weeks until the start and my legs still feel as if they belong to someone else.
Only about 25 per cent of marathoners ever achieve this milestone; I’ve not yet managed it and at the ripe old age of 47 have probably left it a bit late. But who knows — get my head in the right place on the day and anything’s possible. If I fail, it’s not the end of the world, because I’ve got another chance in Las Vegas in November, but it’ll be hard to go sub-4 in the desert heat and on The Strip in an Elvis suit and platform heels…
Right, time to get the lazy-arse dog out of her bed to rack up a few miles with me. Achtung Berlin, I’m coming for you.