For the past few years the Bronkhorstspruit 32 km has been Campbell’s birthday run. Falling within the week of his birthday, it is a social event where we go down to run the 32 km race, and then stay around at the sports ground where the race finishes to enjoy some drinks and a braai (barbecue for the non-South Africans). This year was no exception.
After arriving at Campbell’s so that we could drive to the race together, when Kirsten (who is very punctual) hadn’t arrived a few minutes after the agreed time I called him up only to wake him. He had set his alarm with more than enough time to get ready, and had therefore decided that he could hit the snooze button. The next thing he knew I was calling him to find out where he was. We decided to travel in two cars and would meet at the start. Campbell and I travelled down together, drove onto the field and set up our gazebo on the corner of the finishing straight.
When Kirsten arrived we headed down to the start line, and very shortly after that the race started. Kirsten, Campbell and I started from the middle of the pack and slowly made our way through the crowd. A couple of times Kirsten looked back at me and Campbell as if we were dawdling, but my watch was showing respectable paces just over 4:30 min/km. The early kilometres took us out of town and went past quickly. Around 6 km into the race I noticed my watch automatically lap for the kilometre when we were still a few hundred metres from the kilometre marker. We all checked our watches at the marker and all watches agreed that the marker was approximately 300-400 metres far. It is not uncommon for individual markers in a race to be put down in the wrong, or even for a series of markers to be incorrect before correcting later so we weren’t too fussed.
We continued along maintaining a pace between 4:30-4:40 min/km, and on one of the climbs I noticed that Campbell was breathing quite heavily beside me. I jokingly asked Kirsten whether we should get Campbell to tell us a joke. The early part of the route featured some gentle but relatively long climbs followed by gentle descents rather than featuring any steep hills. At around 12 km as we climbed a hill Campbell suggested that if we took it easy to the top he would join us for the descent, and then let us go ahead at the next climb.
Approximately 14 km into the race we reached the next climb, Kirsten and I said farewell to Campbell and slowly started to pull ahead. At around 16 km we passed a runner walking up a very slight hill, sparking a common discussion topic about the terrible pacing of most runners (which is definitely worthy of a post at some point). We had picked up the pace very slightly, and as we approached a T-junction at around 20 km where we would turn left towards town Kirsten pointed out that we were about to pass a string of runners. As soon as we turned the corner we started to climb a hill, and started making our way past runners. That climb was the toughest of the race and we overtook a number of runners before cresting and continuing down the other side. Then at around 25 km into the race we faced another climb, and we discussed its relative merits in comparison to the earlier climb. Kirsten had memories from last year of it being a difficult climb, but we agreed it was not as difficult as the earlier climb. Kirsten then looked down at his watch and noted that while less difficult than he remember, it didn’t mean that we had to be running up it at 4:15 min/km. But we did keep up our pace, reached the top of the climb, and were then faced with a downhill run to the finish.
We set off down the hill and were soon cruising along at just over 4:00 min/km. Then Kirsten looked ahead of us, saw a group of four runners around 100 metres ahead of us, turned to me and stated “I want those four”. His meaning was that he wanted to pass the four runners ahead of us, and since we were gaining on them I responded that we would catch them soon. We ran along for another couple hundred metres and then Kirsten stated “I wanted those four now”. I thought “why not?” and we picked up the pace under 4:00 min/km. We soon caught and passed the four runners, and maintained our pace as we approached town and turned into the surrounding neighbourhoods for the last few kilometres. We continued to overtake other runners, and occasionally Kirsten would utter “I want those two” or “I want that one”. As we approached one of the water tables I heard an announcer mentioned that the lead lady had just passed through.
We took a right turn onto the street where we would enter the sports ground, and reached 1 km to go. We picked up the pace further and were soon at 3:45 min/km. We continued to overtake runners and Kirsten kept saying “one more”. Our pace continued to pick and we entered the stadium at around 3:30 min/km pace. It was grassy and a bit uneven as we descended from the gate onto the field, and just before reaching the field we zoomed past the leading lady as if she was a back marker. The race finished by running three quarters of the field, and I saw a runner approaching the end of the back straight. I decided that he would be the final person we past and picked up the pace even further. We completed the lap of the field at a sprint, overtook one more person, and crossed the finish line in 2:21:13.
The distance markers had remaining out for the entire race, and everyone with a watch agreed that the course was approximately 300 metres long. It turns out that they only remeasure the course every five years, and the next remeasure will occur before next year’s race. I guess they will need to find somewhere to shorten it by 300 metres.
We made our way to our gazebo, enjoyed some drinks to celebrate Campbell’s birthday, and cooked a braai before being kicked out of the sports ground at 1PM. It was a great day all around, with a nice race followed by good company and some wonderful weather.