Washie 100 miler: a True Story
Coming back to reality after finishing Expedition Africa West Coast - 542km in 6 days, racing for 144 hours, only 14 hours sleep - my mind started wondering.... What was the next high?
The adventure side of me was stirred seeing the competitors' joy as they crossed the line after completing the world acclaimed, Comrades Marathon. My endorphin juices were kickstarted. A phone call to my adventure partner, Nolan Lottering, uncovered that he too, was pondering another challenge. Setting our sights on Comrades 2019 was too far away and in RAN the idea of, 'why not the Washie 100 Miler?'
Out of all the fitness disciplines, running is our worst discipline with road running being truly being our Achilles Heel. Speaking to an encouraging organiser, Tracy, helped allay our fears because she told us there was no need to have participated in any pre - qualifying races. Explaining that this was a Monster Challenge for us, who hated running, made her laugh with the reply, "...you do know that you run the WHOLE way!"
We needed a worthy reason to spur us on do this crazy challenge. So we chose to run in aid of raising much needed funds for the Salem Baby Care Centre.
Traditionally the Washie 100 Miler is run between Port Alfred and East London. This year the course was altered due to massive road works on that stretch of the N2. The new route was on the N6 from Cathcart to East London, with a 35km loop added in just outside Cathcart to begin with.
Ten minutes to the start of the race, the weather turned cold and ugly. BANG! It's 5pm and we were off. 152 athletes head out of Cathcart on the first 36km loop which was on a narrow road and not conducive to heavy traffic. None the less our seconding crew found us as we battling against an ugly headwind and icy rainy weather. Like true adventurers we ducked in behind two lovely ladies who we followed for a long time. After the headwind and rain subsided we ran under a full moon with the lunar eclipse surprise happening too. What an amazing time to be out running one of the most prestigious 100 mile races in our country.
We meet up after 36km with our amazingly committed support crew about 5km outside Cathcart on the N6 towards East London. We requested that they stop and meet us at 5km intervals. This meant they stopped over 30 times for us. They were a bunch of selfless people, who were always smiling and greeted us with much encouragement. They served us with our favourite drinks and food. They massaged our legs and calves and even greeted us at one stop with basins of cold water and ice for our feet.
During the early hours of the morning Devon and a young man in matric John accompanied on their bicycles. Despite the loud, heavy music pumping old man, Devon fell asleep on his bicycle. With much shouting and vigilance he managed to stay awake for his unforgiving time slot. The half way mark (82.5km) was before Stutterheim. It was a very welcome sign to behold. We entered Stutterhiem around 4.30am for a loo break, to refuel and to get warm. It was 2 °C.
We kept moving, inching slowly, but steadily on time towards the finish line. Our plan was to complete this Epic race in 24 hours (the cut off was 26 hours). We were glad to see we were actually ahead of schedule. We passed Cobongo Junction and stopped for awhile just after Wriggleswade Dam turn off. We were met with a new fresh group of seconds to bring us home. Their enthusiasm was contagious. The bikes were packed away and they had to run with us.
When we saw and passed the 100km mark, I was filled with different emotions. It was unbelievable. I've never ran a marathon, never mind 100km before. We joked, "anyone want to do the Comrades now?" With 30km left my body and feet started to feel really sore. I didn't want eat or drink anything, yet I felt empty and hollow like I SHOULD be eating something. I just needed to get home.
When we reached the Python Park sign, we had ONLY 21km to go, I could smell the finish line. It seemed so close yet still so far to go. The territory was familiar now and home was in sight. At the Merrifield traffic circle, with 7km to go the excitement started to bubble up, but my feet and legs were beyond sore and exhausted. We ran down the hill, but decided to walk the rest of the way home. I was acutely aware of every single aching toe. We had an hour to complete this gruelling race to be within our goal time of 24 hours. I could feel that my body was actually eating itself in an attempt to find any bit of energy.
Walking the last 2km on the North East Expressway, our seconds came out in full force and walked or cycled with us. There was an air of celebration starting to manifest. Many of our supporters turned out too to join us enroute for the this last home stretch. We were carried literally by the group's pumped up andrenalin. Man oh man, what a feeling it was to enter Buffs Club with family in hand, Nolan next to me, seconding team and ardent supporters right behind us.
We had done it! Family and friends joyfully gave us a hero's welcome. Once again I was overcome with emotions and tears flowed down my face. Subsequently I often get asked, "would you do it again?" Initially without hesitation a resounding NO was my answer. Honestly speaking, I don't know now because this race falls into the 'HIGHLIGHTS BOX' of races completed.
The proverbial cherry on the top was that my personal victory of overcoming The Washie-100 Miler meant others benefited too. With the funds raised, less fortunate babies and young children would also have the chance at victoriously overcoming another daily challenge
We acknowledge and thank: Brian, Devon, Ashley, Gareth, John ×2, Luke, my two boys, my in-laws, Robin, our many friends and family members, members of the East London public who so generously emptied their purses, our dear life partners and last but not least, the Big Man upstairs, Father God for his provision and protection.
By Daryl Wittstock