Race day: Tough vs. Triumph
Saturday 26 March 2016 is a day I shall NEVER forget… my date with destiny had finally dawned. #OMTOM2016 was here… the day I had longed for, trained for and sacrificed for.
I awoke to the sound of rain falling, but that was no cause for alarm and was a better option than energy-sapping heat. So, along with thousands of other runners, I donned my black rubbish bin bag like a cloak of honour and lined up in my pen. It was no surprise that I cried when we sang the national anthem and when the strains of Chariots of Fire broke through the dark, I literally thought that my heart would burst. I was truly blessed to be one of 16,000 other Half Marathon runners embarking on “the world’s most beautiful marathon”.
It wasn’t long before Edinburgh Drive appeared and it was then that I could no longer ignore what would be the first of two very unexpected challenges… this was definitely not a case of pre-race “excitement nausea” but rather the kind of nausea where you know something bad is brewing.
Nevertheless I conquered Edinburgh Drive and found myself settling into a steady rhythm as I entered what would be my favourite part of the race, the stretch along the M3. As we made our way along the freeway, the pre-dawn light began to pierce the darkness and I was struck by the silence. No-one was talking and the air was still except for the symphony of thousands of takkies on tar. Way off in the distance, I could see Muizenburg and the sea and suddenly I felt absolutely free and extraordinarily peaceful. That was my moment, the one which would be mine forever, the one I knew I would cherish always.
Spaanschemat Road was where both the nausea tightened it’s grip and where a fellow Edgemead Runner’s friend found me and began to run with me. If ever there was a time for mind over matter, she told me, this was it!
Southern Cross arrived, along with the second horribly unexpected challenge… leg cramps!! At first it was just a twinge but later, as we progressed along Rhodes Drive, they became excruciatingly severe and painful. By then another Edgemead Runner friend found us and became my second guardian angel. Together, Cindy & Mandy encouraged me, helped me, iced my legs, kept me hydrated, kept me moving, pleaded with me and eventually pierced through my overwhelming pain, fear and fatigue with a very necessary stern word of “Come now Juliet, you have come too far and trained way too hard to let this dream slip away”.
They must have known that the transition from the road onto the grass of the UCT rugby field would be more than either me, or my severely cramping and tired legs would be able to stand; so just as we stepped onto the grass, they each took me by the hand and
literally propped me up. Only once they were sure that I would be able to continue running on my own, did they let me go. But they stayed with me, right to the end, as we crossed over the finish line together, with only four minutes to spare to cut-off! They had sacrificed their race, their potentially good times and almost their medals to help me fulfil my dream and reach my goal. They were the epitomy of the race theme, Run As One and thank you is hopelessly inadequate at times such as these.
I was devastated that my body had chosen this day of all days to throw all of its toys out of the cot. I had not experienced nausea or cramping during all the months of my training and despite doing nothing different pre-race, everything went wrong on the day I had dreamed it would go so perfectly.
My race was not what I wanted it to be, but it was everything it needed to be and ended up being the perfect metaphor for my breast cancer journey. On any given day, you don’t know what your body or life will throw at you, but it is what it is; you have to look it square in the eye and tuck into your faith and pray, fight, persevere and conquer. The OMTOM 2016 half-marathon was exceedingly tough, but it was filled with love, encouragement, beauty, inspiration, caring, perseverance and triumph. I am grateful to have survived, blessed to have conquered and I will cherish my medal as well as this incredible journey and all it represents, forever!