My mantra for the Cederberg 100km was from Hebrews 13: 5-6;
God has said, “I will never leave you I will never desert you” So we can boldly say, “the Lord helps me. I will not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?”
I realise now that there is a reason ‘mere man’ was used and not ‘mere mountain’.
Cederberg you beaut! You chewed me up, spat me out, and took me on a roller-coaster ride of trails and emotions. I can safely say without a shadow of a doubt that that was the most gruelling mental and physical thing I have ever endured. I went from being on-top of the world one moment to completely and utterly hopeless the next.
We arrived at Sandrift campsite late on Friday afternoon, my dad had decided the day before to join, I was too happy to have him there, the best seconder someone could ask for. Race briefing that evening was a mixture of anxious questions and excited chatter. Grant and Trevor the two organisers lead us through what to expect and personally introduced each of the 33 runners starting the next morning.
Every runners CV sounded truly impressive, the list included Bruce Arnett, 12 times sky run champ and race favourite, First Ascent Performance tester Brett Wood, Andre Gie tougher puffer record holder, Andrew Porter, Solo Record holder of Drakensberg Traverse, and Cobus van Zyl previous pair record holder of the Drakensberg Traverse, before being broken by Ryan Sandes, to name but a few. I started to feeling completely intimidated and like a bit of an idiot considering the furthest I’d ever run was 33km, tomorrow was going to be my first marathon, and I was the youngest by 4 years. Glad I had my paps there!
We nervously lined up at the start to have our kit checked and get things under-way, I was too cold to even open my bag to prove I had a whistle as the sun had not yet warmed us up. And then we where off!
We all started the climb together, up to the Wolfberg Cracks, and to the arch, I was feeling great at check point 1, 15km in 4th place with Cobus. I was running slowly and very very carefully looking after my legs. This is where leaders and eventual shared winners, Bruce and Andre left us, not to be seen again.
At 45km I was feeling strong, by 48km my body started rejected all nutrition and I spent the next 4 hours in the mid-day sun, no shade, alone, travelling a mere 15kms. Coming out of the 63km check point at 5pm after a swim and a meal I was feeling unstoppable. I soon caught a lonely disorientated, not so sure footed, fellow runner on a steep mountain side. Sticking with him we took 1h45minutes in the dead of the night for the next 5kms. There’s no rush in paradise the stars, solitude and fireflies were truly unbelievable.Regaining some energy and we got on with the last 17kms. Coming past Maltese Cross we were awe struck as the cross come alive full of light as we neared. A team of photographers were there having a ball, and got some beautiful slow shutter speed photos showing the night sky and enormous rock sculpture in the background
9kms to go on a jeep track we still managed a 25min 5km, 4km to go disaster struck; I completely and utterly shut down, dipping into a cold valley with little left in the tanks. The last 4kms, flat, took me 1h30min, at the 2km to go mark I crawled into the fetal position in the middle of the road, giving up, my body in total shock. Brett never left me. He got me up, walking and lead me home, managing a run across the finish just before 2am. 19hours of running, in the most beautiful area imaginable, snakes, a leopard, cold rivers and hot mountain sides, but the biggest hurdle of all was the mind. What an amazing, well organised event! Thanks to Trevor, Grant and the team!
By Matthew Henshall