The Dis-Chem Half Marathon is the first half marathon in Johannesburg for the year, and it is a large event that easily reaches its 6000 entrant limit. With a 100-km race planned for the first weekend of the year I had marked off a 2-week rest period on my training plan for recovery, and therefore had not entered the race. However with my race at Narrabeen turning into a 50-km run (as per my race report here) I was back into training just 4 days later. I was interested in running at the Dis-Chem Half Marathon since it has a big field and a great vibe at the end but entries were well and truly sold out.
My initial thought was to drive to the race and run my own training run along a different course so that I could join in the festivities after the race. But on the Friday before the race I was able to arrange an entry from a friend at another running club as they knew someone who was unable to run. As part of the entry process you provide a target time that is used to seed all entrants. As a result I ended up standing behind the start line of the Dis-Chem Half Marathon with thousands of people in front of me from my position as an E-seeded entrant (with only F-seeded runners further back), and my race bib contained my race number and name in clear bold capital letters. My name for this particular race happened to be SUSAN.
The race started and we stood still for a while. Then eventually we started to walk. Then we started to run. Then we slowed to a walk. Then we started to run. Then we slowed to a walk. And then we finally managed to run all the way across the start line and only 21.1 km remained. I was unsure how my legs had recovered from the race the previous week so I planned to set out on pace to run a 1:40 and then speed up if my legs were feeling good.
I ran onto the sidewalk and then onto the grass beside the road and started running past people. I weaved between people, veering across the road, sidewalk and grass. As I spotted fellow club members I would run past and greet them before continuing on, and completed the first kilometre in over 6.5 minutes. The pedestrian traffic thinned out and I started building up towards a comfortable pace, completing the second kilometre in 4:40. From there I found myself comfortably running at better than 4:30 min/km pace, which was faster than planned but I decided to stick with it as my legs were feeling very good. The temperature was quite cool, which had been a bit unpleasant before starting the race but was perfect for running.
The first half of the race was fairly flat before the work started in the second half. After passing halfway I started up the first notable climb of the race and caught up with Cliff, a running mate from the Wanderers running club. We had a brief chat and he pointed out that Lindsey and Campbell were just a few metres ahead. Lindsey and Campbell had started off with A-seeding and were surprised to see me based on the pace I had stated that I would be running. I told them that my legs were feeling very good so they told me to continue on, and I pushed on up the hill.
The course continued to gradually climb until after the 15 km marker, with varying gradients and a few short downhill sections. Then, after a sharper descent the course featured a straight, flat section for almost 2 kilometres. Reaching the end of the straight, the route turned ninety degrees left and immediately commenced a steep climb to the highest point on the course. As I continued to push a firm pace up the hill I passed a large number of other runners, and then after cresting at the top I had a fast downhill run to the finish. The downhill was extremely steep and I picked up the pace to under 3:40 min/km. After 2 kilometres of down the course flattened out for the last stretch to the stadium. I kept up the pace and turned into the stadium, where there were many supporters and volunteers. As I ran my lap of the stadium a number of people noted the name on my race bib and it drew some comments. Susan crossed the finish line in 1:32:42.
I had completed my first race in South Africa for the year, and was then able to relax and enjoy a few drinks with the large contingent of runners from the running club. The sun came out from behind the clouds and it turned into a gorgeous day, but the details of the festivities belong on a social blog rather than a running blog.