How an unathletic person came to do the RB Africa Wild Coast Challenge and loved it
I am not a naturally athletic person. I have less than 1% chance of catching a ball and over 99% chance of any ball in my proximity hitting me in the face. No sport has ever come easy for me and as a result I have seldom enjoyed it. Until I was hit full-on-in-the-face, in a similar fashion to every ball I have ever not caught, with a running addiction that warms my whole heart. This is the story of how a very unathletic person came to sign up for the RB Africa WCC 110km stage race and has now done it four times.
I started running Park Runs on the recommendation of my boss, who I was desperate to connect with on a “human” level. Park Runs created the perfect platform to discuss our weekends. Consequently, every Monday morning we exchanged stories of our personal best, personal worsts, war stories of being too hungover to run or the fateful and very unnecessary collision with a mountain bike. We both loved the Park Run because we got an email telling us whether or not we had beaten no one else but ourselves. As running became a part of our lives we started getting more ambitious, entering the Merrell Hobbit 16 km, which is absolutely no joke. We then proceeded to enter our first marathon, not on the road but in Addo Elephant Park. We completed the 44 km and no one was more shocked than the two of us that we did it without having to be rescued by a helicopter nor did we come stone last- we loved it.
With this love for running deeply entrenched there was no stopping us. The next step after a trail marathon had to be a stage race- what better race than the RB Africa WCC 110km that took place along my favourite coast lines of South Africa. We argued a bit about the entry into this race. I personally didn’t feel like it would be possible being quite certain that those who are not athletically inclined should not be doing stage races. In my mind, stage races were for people who were born with little six packs and grew up LOVING exercise and their love for exercise grew with their strong legs that moved them forward in a graceful motion. Stage races, in my mind were not for those who trip whilst standing still or see running as a legitimate and necessary way to eat more every day.
Part of our preparation for the first WCC was making a list of every possible scenario that could go wrong and absolutely every possible scenario that we imagined did go wrong for me, yet it is still the greatest accomplishment and one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
Disaster Scenario 1: We would come stone last and at every water point the support crew would have to wait for us.
Reality: The support crew were unbelievable supportive. When I came in last to some of the water points I never felt like a loser.
Disaster Scenario 2: On day 2 The Herd race from Seagulls to the Kei River and we all cross together on the pont. My fear was that everyone would have to wait for us.
Reality: On day 2 “My not so athletic legs” refused to work. I asked them to run and they didn’t. They were confused because they had run 36km the day before and they were prepared for a rest. Nothing in my training or history had prepared them to run on soft sand before my breakfast had digested. I was last to the pont and it just didn’t matter. The team smiled for the iconic picture and low and behold my legs started working and the second day turned into an absolute treat.
Disaster Scenario 3: We would get lost.
Reality: I never fully believed that I would get lost. After all, you keep the sea on your left. These are not complicated directions, there is only one direction, what could possibly go wrong? I got lost every single day. The beautiful Wild Coast has impassable mazes which are casually discussed as beautiful little beach jungles with banana trees and birds chirping. Once you are in them you can not get out. Every time I was trapped in a jungle I refused to turn back because I was moving 110km and that was enough- no back tracking for me. Though I got lost every single day I am still here, taking a detour is necessary and important part of the self- reflection process.
Disaster scenarios aside, the element that convinced me to do the WCC which I am not certain I have ever admitted out loud is that if the 110kms is along the beach, there are obviously no up hills. Without any up hills how hard could it really be? This is not factual, it was a naïve delusion and my ultimate pro turned into Disaster Scenario 4.
My list was futile and the pros were beyond what I ever thought possible:
The WCC takes every participant back to what running is really about. You just keep going at whatever pace is possible. Keep the sea on your left and don’t go too far into a beach jungle. There is no formal time, no one is recording who is first or last in. It’s a personal challenge and overcoming your own demons makes you a winner. You also get to spend the greater part of a day on the beach.
After doing the WCC I have an internal happiness that can not be shook by anything. It is really genuine joy that makes the world a better place and me a better person. Another marvellous side effect is that I become more productive. After running 110km you can do anything so when you go back to your normal life you can do everything faster and better.
Therefore, I will do the WCC for as long as my non-athletic legs will carry me because I believe it makes the world a better place.
By Jocelyn Coldrey