The Dodo Trail

Trail running is something I had never really tried, excepting a small 5ks I did along the walking trail alone the Klienmond sea front. I enjoyed it a lot, the sea breeze, the sights and sounds of the flora and fauna and the excitement of not knowing what challenge is around the next bend. 

So we had heard of the Dodo Trail, a run through the nature reserves on the western side of the island. They had 3 trails to choose from, a 14, 26 and 52km. Being a week after my first half marathon, and not really knowing what to expect I didn’t want to push my luck, so I signed up for the 14. 

On the Friday, race pack collections and pre race briefing were held at La Pirogue hotel just down the road from us, a well-organized gig as well I must say. After collecting my race number I proceeded to stroll around waiting for the race briefing. I saw a sign that read “From Hell to Paradise” and assumed it was for the more hard-core runners doing the 27 and 52k. We were tight for time and they were having issues with there sound equipment so I thought to myself, what more can they tell me, I rock up in the morning for the bus, get to the race and run right? So back home we went, a move I would later regret!

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So after a fair intake of pasta, a good nights sleep and a bathing of sunscreen, I arrived at the hotel ready for the transfer. There were plenty of people waiting, which was nice to see after the small attendance at the Mauritian Marathon. The bus drove us to the start point, a fair distance by road to where we were would eventually end up.

A young American lady, Nicole and myself had got chatting, and luckily for me she had a fair grasp on the French language so translated what the announcer had to say. Which was pretty much drink lots of water while you can, and enjoy the race. The pack of us, a fair 270 odd runners headed down to the start. I noticed lots of camel packs, runners wearing gloves and lots of compression socks. I however had no such gear, just my stock standard road running attire! Feeling I was in for a little more that I signed up for Nicole asked me what my goal time was, I shrugged and said I didn’t really have one, I just wanted to run as much as possible. After a high 5 and wishing each other good luck we were off.  With the large pack we quickly got separated, which was not much of an issue at the time.

The first 2km or so was on pretty flat dirt road, after that however it got tricky, we started to climb, and climb and climb! As we climbed the roads became trails and after that they became rocky hill faces with little resemblance of a trail. It didn’t take very long until I had had my first fall, nothing to injure myself, but not a good feeling. The terrain became harder and harder to negotiate, with loose gravel, loose rocks and tree roots jutting out of everywhere. And then, as if Mother Nature were having a laugh it started to drizzle. This however I didn’t mind. The fact that it made the already tricky paths wet and slippery was not my worry. I was dying from the heat, and yet to see a water point.

Running was barely an option at some points if you valued your life, and if going up was not enough work, coming down on the other side was even scarier! The drizzle had stopped and now the sun was pelting down on us! The gravel coming down the side of the mountain was loose, and the gradient was steep, so much so that at parts it seemed almost impossible to stay afoot. Luckily at what seemed the steepest part of our decent there was a fence alone the side of the trail. This provided a lifeline to grab onto when my feet started slipping out from under me.

We finally reached the bottom of the hill, and a tarred road. At this point I was suffering from dehydration and my head felt that it was on the verge of exploding. The road didn’t last long though and before I knew it we were back on a path, but now at least it was under the cover of trees. We ran along the side of a river over rocks and through a fair share of mud. At one point we had to run ankle high through the river, which would have been great if it didn’t smell of rot and death. After the marshy section we made our way back onto a road, and through a village with locals cheering us on. The smell of breakfast in the air! A marshal directed us onto a field and finally the first water point. 11km in! I glugged down 2 cups of coke and the same in water, I drenched my head and hair with ever more water. I felt my temperature dropping and started feeling much better.

We ran off the field and I immediately knew where I was, Tamarin Beach. A marshal told us something as we ran past, and I had it translated for me! 3km to go. We ran along the beach for a while, then up onto a path that took us around the rather hectic rocks that line that part of the beach. Thankfully I must add. Once we had passed the rocky area we were back on the beach and struggling to find firm sand to make the final stretch a little more bearable. At this point there were 4 of us running together, a local lady who seemed no stranger to the sport, her teammate, Nicole and myself. We ran this section in single file literally on the waters edge. We where fooled once or twice by sail boats belonging to the hotels, thinking there brightly coloured sails where the finish. But finally there it was! Our final destination.

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We pulled into the hotel and ran the last couple of meters along the hotels path. I crossed the finish line with a great sensation of relief and accomplishment. To be honest it had not all sunk in yet, it was all just to much to take in at that moment. The grueling climbs, suicidal descents, lack of water, the strong scenes of camaraderie as well as the breath taking scenery.

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It is something I will definitely do again, but next time I will certainly gear up better and be both physically and mentally prepared for the challenge!

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The Mauritian Marathon and my first Half Marathon

Lolos mum, Glynis Fox, a well seasoned runner had decided a few months back that she wanted to come over to run the Mauritian marathon. At that time I was keen on running the 10k family run as I was not the fittest person around, but 10ks I could do.

After Lolo and I got here we did some running, and I felt the need to take a more serious stance on the sport, so I started doing some distance, then some speed training, then more distance, and by the time it came to signing up for the 10k I decided to challenge myself, 21 it was. So I signed up, and the training began.

I did a fair amount of training before the race, but had still not hit anything close to the 21k mark, I think the max I did was 17km.

So then it swung around, Sunday the 15th of July 2012. A day to truly remember!!

The day before we went the collect our race packs, and listen in on the race brief.

Early on that Sunday morning I was up, before the alarm (rare I promise), excitement I am sure, and after the morning coffee, a shower and a kiss from my lovely I was off.

My transfer forgot to pick me up, but luckily for me one of the race organizers who I had dealt with drove past and saw me on the side of the road waiting, and gave me a ride to the start.

On arrival at the start I felt a little nervous, and alone as I knew nobody. But the crowds were gathered to get there photos taken with Fauja Singh, a 101 year old man who has run for many years for nothing but charity. He believes that the love he gives when he runs for the various charities comes back to him and that is what keeps him going. When you see this great man you cant help but question his age. He looks nothing like 101, maybe more alone the lines of 75-80. It was truly inspirational!

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So we lined up for the start, myself and about 95 other hopefuls. You can see the serious runners right away. The dudes and dudets kitted to the nines, feet on the start line and rearing to go. I however was nearer the middle, with the rest of the “normal” runners.

Fauja blew the whistle and we were off!!

It didn’t take long for the field to break up, and it didn’t take long for the rain to fall ether. About 2ks in it began. The first real driving rain I have experienced since our arrival. But it didn’t last long, at this point I had made a friend, a young lady from the UK who was running quite happily along side me matching my pace. We got talking and the first couple of km’s few by in conversation. A pity for the overcast weather though, because as amazing as the sea side run was, it would have been even more breath taking with the sun lighting the ocean. I left my new run buddy around the 11km mark. As she was feeling a little strained and I felt good to pound on, so she slowed a little, stuck in the headphones and I lifted my knees and got going.

The people I “met” along the way are what make running races I think! I had a mum and daughter along the way, supporting dad, but as he was not far behind me they ended up shouting and supporting me too, I met ASA runners from SA along the way, germans, frenchies and locals. There was very little other support along the way. I kind of expected the locals to be out in force cheering us on, but that was not to be. The locals were in church I recon!

Nearer the 17k mark the route pulled away from the ocean and I was running solo through sugar cane, lots of it. You see with such a small pack running there is a lot of space between runners.  Not that I minded being alone, it gave me time to reflect.

Many of the runners who had gone out fast were struggling with the heat, and I overtook them one by one as I had trained here in the humidity and heat for nearly a month and knew what I as in for.

It was also around this point that the full marathon lead man came flying past me, he made me feel like I was walking.  And at this point I felt like walking, my knees were done, and I don’t think I had any sweat left in my body. But my head kept me going! I wanted to finish in under 2 hours 30, and I would never forgive myself if I had walked and missed it. So I kept on going.

I was just before the 20km mark and a gent who was also supporting somebody running shouted to me that there was a k to go, so I put me head down, lifted my knees and started going for it.

I came into Saint Felix, and a police officer directed me onto the finishing straight, from the second I saw the people at the finish line cheering and shouting all the pain in my knees vanished, and I couldn’t stop myself from smiling.

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Lauren and her brother Cole were there cheering me on as I crossed the finish line and I really felt like I had achieved something, and I had, my first half marathon!!

MAURITIAN HALF MARATHON 2012, 21.9KM IN 2 HOURS 15 MIN

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