I had to withdraw from the Knysna Marathon due to my Greyton Classic ankle injury of three weeks ago. Feeling incredibly disappointed to be missing my marathon debut, I tagged along for the weekend’s festivities…
I arrived in Plettenberg Bay with a very unhappy looking ankle: no one even considered the effect that a five-hour drive would have on it! I have not been icing my ankle nearly enough, but with a couple of beers and a view of Robberg to help ease the discomfort, I gave it a good go on Thursday night and again on Friday morning. Feeling a bit more positive, I shot through to Knysna to register.
The registration was held at the sport’s fields on Waterfront Drive, this year’s finish (rather than the traditional Loerie Park). The process was extremely well run, and I had no problem collecting my race number and goody bag, as well as being assisted in down-grading my entry to the Half Marathon.
From there we went to enjoy a lunch of oysters and Mitchell’s at Quay 4 on Thesen’s Island. Carbo-loading, you know.
I woke up early Saturday, and feeling confident, kitted up for the race. A last application of ice and a quick rub with Arnica, and then off to the pick-up point at Loerie Park. We parked our cars on the side of George Rex Drive (the road leading to the Knysna Heads), and walked up to Loerie Park.
The trip from Loerie Park to the start in the forest is festive: the local township taxis are employed for the day to ferry entrants to the start, and back to their cars from the finish.
The starting area itself, which is called The Glebe (there is, I believe, a Glebe Dam), is up near Diepwalle. It was very well laid out and organised. We were dropped on the side of the road, and then walked further up the tar in pitch blackness, until we reached a trail that led up and around the actual start area itself.
The Glebe is a clearing in the forest with a small, muddy dam. The road runs through it, with the starting lines for the two races on the road heading out of The Glebe in opposite directions. On the one side of the road was a huge free-form tent complete with gas heaters, and tables packed with breakfast “snacks” and tea and coffee courtesy of Pick ‘n’ Pay to keep the waiting runners warm. On the other side of the road was Toilet Town. What it is to be male!
The full marathon starting gun went off at 07h00, and we had a further hour to wait for our starting gun at 08h00. Not wanting to be in the crush at the front, we hung back about a third of the way, which meant a slow start, and then lots of weaving to overtake the slower runners who for a reason I cannot fathom clearly suffer from a serious misconception as to the speed at which they are actually capable of running. They never seem to learn, and neither do I.
The first section was uphill up the tar road back in the direction of the N2 and Knysna, before swinging right onto an easy, clay road which headed west through pine plantations. The first five kilometers were at a very slow pace, taking 37 minutes. Feeling strong, and starting to warm up, I started increasing the pace slowly, ever mindful of my ankle.
Due to the change in the finish, the course was altered this year to include an additional loop in the forest. Apparently this added some hills. Considering this is ultimately a downhill race, this is not too much of a concern. In fact, this is probably a great race for a PB — if your knees can take the pounding, that is! There was however, one last, long hill to climb before the big descent that was fair murderous!
The route then follows the Old Cape Road through Simola. This downhill was no fun: about two kilometers of steep downhill on hard paving took its toll on knees. I spent most of my time running on the grass verge. I think this is a seriously bad choice for the route, and think the organisers should find an alternative. About halfway down the hill a fresh looking athlete came cruising past me, and it took a few minutes to realise that this was one of the leaders of the full marathon! When what must have been the fifth runner came past, I decided enough was enough, and that if they could be finishing at such a pace despite having been running for and hour and some 20-odd kilometers more than I had, I tucked in behind and hung on for dear life. These guys are first-rate athletes, and I had to give it my all to hang in!
The road then levels out as it approaches the lagoon. You actually run under the N2 across a wooden platform specially constructed over the water under the bridge, and up the stairs on the other side onto the roadside to enjoy running alongside the lagoon before turning into Waterfront Drive and the finish.
I finished 524th in a time of 1h48 (official results are here).
All-in-all, I think the event is incredible well organised. One small complaint: after crossing the finish line, I went directly to the medical tent to get ice for my ankle. I found the “medics” unhelpful. They themselves did not have ice (how can that be considering everyone says “ice, ice, ice” as the first course of action for almost all running injury!).