It really is!

Having completed the London Marathon at the beginning of October, I set off for Cape Town (CT) less than two weeks later. Whilst on the face face of it this might seem somewhat rash, the International Council of our association had scheduled their first face-to-face meeting since before COVID to take place in Cape Town starting the day immediately after the Cape Town Marathon, and so I thought it was simply too good an opportunity to miss!

I had sought advice about how best to promote recovery in the short interval between the events, and the general consensus seemed to be that it should be possible but I'd need to take care: good rest and nutrition were the key components, with some gentle exercise to keep moving. Unfortunately I picked up a niggle in my knee a few weeks before London and that came back to plague me in the first marathon. In the following days, I had some aches in my left leg so I had a session with a local physio to get that looked at: her opinion was that I had probably had a small bleed at the top of my hamstring and a slight bursitis, stemming from an under-developed quad muscle that was causing my knee to twist when running. The longer distances of training runs and the race itself had simply aggravated that, causing the other issues. After a good massage, I was given a few exercises and stretches and assured that it was probably still safe to proceed - with caution.

I tend not to sleep on overnight flights and the trip to Cape Town was no exception; I certainly did rest and managed to doze a little, but wouldn't consider it a 'good night's sleep' by any stretch. I arrived on Friday morning and made my way to the hotel where I freshened up before heading to the Expo at CT's impressive DHL Stadium to complete my registration and collect my race number. Although on a smaller scale, the general Expo setup was very similar to the London equivalent at Excel two weeks prior: lots of exhibitors selling a wide array of running-related goodies.

However you look at it, 42km or 26 miles is a long way on a map! It's quite daunting really, but it's reassuring to be around plenty of other people who share similar concerns - coupled with the knowledge that although my experience is decidedly limited, I have at least covered it before.

In the final few days leading up to the marathon, I was back on the carbohydrate loading regime. I took some supplies with me from the UK but also had access to local supermarkets once in CT, and I knew in advance that there would be a small kitchenette facility with microwave and fridge in the hotel room. It was also important to ensure that I drank plenty, as the temperature in CT was considerably higher than at home: the weather forecast suggested that a high of 28°C was expected on race day. Dehydration and the associated salt depletion can be a real problem during any endurance event, and I was keen to avoid that if I possibly could.

Having sorted everything I needed to do at Expo, I was back at the hotel by late Friday afternoon. After an early dinner (- pasta at a nearby Italian) came an earlyish night, in an effort to make up some of the lost sleep from the flight. Saturday was essentially a clear day and provided opportunity make final preparations to running kit, including pinning on my race number and packing up the food I'd be carrying. I had anticipated having to prepare my own breakfast for a very early start on Sunday morning, but the hotel had very kindly laid on not only a 'Runners' Dinner' on Saturday (more pasta) but also an early breakfast buffet at 4.00am, which would enable us to leave at 5.00am and get to the stadium in readiness for a start time of 6.30am. The prospect of such an early start - especially after such a recent flight - was not something I relished, but would far rather that than be running in the hottest part of the day.

After tea, juice, porridge and sun cream, I made sure I had everything else that I needed and then took a shared taxi with five other runners I had met at the hotel for the 5km ride to the start area. It was still dark when I dropped my bag to be loaded into the lorry, and then it was time for the long queue for a final toilet trip before assembling in our starting pens.

In light of the issues I'd had with my leg, and the limited recovery time since London, my goal was to complete Cape Town and enjoy it - as best I could! In truth, I had in mind to keep close to the London time if possible (4:40), and within five hours to give myself some limited leeway. I was viewing Cape Town as a 'bonus run' given that it was incidental due to my work visit, but still wanted to give my all as part of the dual marathon sponsorship challenge I had set myself (- perhaps unwisely...). It was obviously going to be very different from London in various respects, but one big plus for Cape Town is the stunning scenery: the views did not disappoint as we made our way out of the city on the closed highway.

The crowds of supporters lining London's streets on marathon day are legendary. There were far fewer in Cape Town, but some of the musical entertainment was great fun and a number of residents had gone to considerable trouble to provide some tasty looking snacks; the sponsors had also laid on some well-stocked refreshment stations.

It was hot! I managed to run the first 26km at a reasonable pace, but then - as the temperature seemed to creep up to an uncomfortable level - we approached the hilly section of road. I can honestly say that the vast majority of people around me decided to walk at this point and with good reason: with 15km still to go, and with the temperature likely to rise even further, it was no time to fight the fatigue and exhaust oneself unnecessarily or prematurely. The inevitable impact of a decision to walk, however, is that target pace and finishing times can very quickly go out of the window. It was therefore good to be reminded of the extraordinary setting we were privileged to be running in.

The centre of town was fun with some street entertainers to distract us from the discomfort/pain we were experiencing. I had really good chats with a few fellow runners which also helped spur us along.

We passed the stadium (- which was tough, as we all knew that was where the finish line was located) before heading west along the coast road. There was a very welcome pleasant light breeze, but these last few kilometres were hard work: my left leg was not right and I was very aware of my hip and knee in particular, and I was generally tired. The camaraderie at this stage in a long running event makes a huge difference. Spotting my colleagues from Pakistan (in town for the conference) on the pavement was unexpected and very kind! Once again, the remarkable views helped lift the spirits too.

And then it was done! In the end, my finish time was 5:09:58. It was a bit of shame to miss the five hour mark, but I'd managed to keep things within thirty minutes of my London result just a fortnight earlier. I can tell you that I was very relieved to get over the line! A can of Coke and and two bottles of water were consumed fairly quickly, and then after some stretching it was time to find food. I made my way to a pizza restaurant, where I connected with several other runners refuelling in a similar fashion. It was good to be able to share stories with people who understood what we'd each been through that morning.

Back at the hotel in the afternoon, I had a ten minute soak in a cold outdoor pool which soothed the leg muscles a bit. I then found myself shivering - which persisted even after a hot shower, so I wrapped up (despite the warm temperatures outside) and had a cup of tea and flapjack to set things straight; it did the trick! I sorted my running kit, drafted this blog, spoke with family, and then it was time for an early dinner with colleagues before getting to bed.

The original plan was just to run the 40th London Marathon in the year in which I would turn 50, as a way of marking Feba's 60th Anniversary. COVID obviously scuppered that but I did complete the two virtual events in April and October 2020 instead, with the 'real' marathon place rolled over to this year; running in Cape Town was always going to be a bonus, but - importantly - having two marathons in close succession presented even more of a challenge that warranted fundraising. The long and short of it is that I am delighted to have been able to complete not one but four marathons! The encouragement I have received from family, friends, colleagues, and a wider group of Feba supporters has been extraordinary. I am so very grateful for people's prayers, kind words and generous donations - all of which have helped spur me on the through the long hours of training on my own and pressing-on when feeling utterly exhausted. I am delighted to have been able to raise over £8,000 for Feba whilst accomplishing something I never thought I'd be able to do. Thank you all so very much for being part of this journey with me.

Could I please just give the fundraising one final push?! If you would possibly be able and willing to make some sort of contribution in respect of my running endeavours over the past few years then it would mean so much. Thank you.

Time to hang up my running shoes? I don't think so - but I have no plans to run another marathon anytime soon! Job done. 😊

P.S. Feeling tempted to have a go at a sponsored challenge yourself? Please click here to get in touch to see how we could support you.

To sponsor Bob's double Marathon efforts, please click here

To read more blog posts about his preparations, please click here

Banner image: Cape Town