When security concerns in Mozambique forced me to change my travel plans, I headed through to South Africa a couple of weeks earlier than I had planned and decided to arrange my time around some good running.
It turned out that I would arrive in Johannesburg a couple of days prior to the Mielie Marathon, which I had run and reported on last year. In my race report last year I provided a glimpse on the social aspect of our trip, mentioning the group that travelled down, as well as the beers enjoyed the night prior to the race. I didn’t however touch on the larger celebrations enjoyed the following night, which helped to make the thought of a return trip most welcome.
This year Campbell was unable to join for the trip to Welkom for the race, but Lindsey, Kirsten, Justin and I were back for a repeat. Lindsey was targeting a PB, Justin was targeting a sub-3:00 to secure his A-seed for Comrades, Kirsten was starting out with Justin, and I would pace another member of our running club from Fourways named Peter, who was targeting a sub-3:30.
When the gun went off I pulled alongside Peter, and set forward a pacing plan. I explained that we would set out at a pace of 5:00 min/km, then run the middle section at 5:00 min/km, and then finish up at 5:00 min/km. Since that would actually result in a 3:31 we did need to scrape off one minute over the 42 km. Then we started executing on that plan.
The parents of Lindsey, one of my training mates, live in the city of Welkom in the Free State. Every year Lindsey heads out to visit his parents and run the local Mielie Marathon in mid-January. This year our training group all decided to travel out there with Lindsey to check out a new race and enjoy a weekend away. In addition to the four regular members of our training group we were also travelling with Justin, an American who also runs at our club, who has started joining us for some training runs and was targeting a sub-3:00 marathon to secure an A-seed for this year’s Comrades Marathon.
So on Friday 18th January three cars left Joburg for the 2.5 hour drive to Welkom. The first car to arrive in Welkom contained Campbell, his wife Jolene and their 2-month old son Daniel. The second car contained the three single men for the weekend: myself, Kirsten and Justin (whose wife and 2 children stayed in Joburg). The final car contained Lindsey, Hayley and their 6-month old daughter Ella. All nine visitors were staying together at the house of Lindsey’s parents, so the weekend was planned to be cosy but festive. Upon arriving in Welkom we divided and conquered, with one car heading to buy some alcohol for the weekend while my car went to arrange race entries. As a small city race only involving approximately 100 runners, we decided that the inclusion of an Australian and an American promoted it to an international event and promptly decided to rename the race to the Corn Marathon (since mielie is a local term for corn).