If you asked me at the start of 2023 if I would run a marathon ever, I would’ve probably shrugged and chuckled (fully believing that a marathon is not for me). If you added whether I would run a marathon THIS year? I would’ve most likely laughed even louder while exclaiming, “ARE YOU MAD?”
But here I am (spoiler alert!): Fresh off my first Marathon!
Let me rewind to where it all started… Last year, at the age of 40, I ran my first ever half marathon race when I completed the Two Oceans Half Marathon. Just two years prior – in July 2020 – had broken my right tibia at the knee joint (ironically, tripping over a tree stump whilst out running). The running bug bit me a few months prior to breaking me leg, at the start of 2020 when I was determined to see what my mind and body can do. [During our hard lockdown from March to May 2020, I ran over 200kms in my backyard!)
Fast forward to 2022 (and lots of rehab on my broken leg to get back to running) where I got a last-minute entry to do my first ever half marathon race: Two Oceans Half Marathon. I only had six weeks to train for it and managed to smash a time of 2h15m. I then started wondering if a sub-2-hour goal would be achievable if I followed a proper running programme?
I knew a few people who had done Embark’s Running Programme over the years and had so much success. And so, decided that would be my (not-so) secret weapon to a sub-2-hour Two Oceans Half.
I joined Embark in January 2023 and hit my sub-2-hour Two Oceans on 16 April 2023. Yet, more than just achieving a personal goal, Embark gave me a community of friends and fellow runners who soon became close friends: Tuesday Track, Thursday Hills and LSD Saturdays had become activities that I was now sharing with friends. (Side bar: we also hung out outside of just running…). That’s the thing I soon learnt about Embark: you are never alone in running for and achieving goals.
It was roughly two weeks after getting back from the Knysna Half Marathon when a few of my close Embark friends started training for the Cape Town Marathon. At this point, I was firmly in the “I have NOOOOOO desire to run more than 21kms” territory.
On one of the usual LSD Saturday runs, fellow Embar friends and marathon trainees were running 23kms; some of them jokingly teased me to join them. With nothing to lose, I decided to join them for the 23km run. After all, with Embark, you are never alone in doing anything.
The following Saturday – hugely under the social media influence of the official launch of the Cape Town Marathon route– I joined the marathon Embarkers on their 25km run. On that fateful run, a little voice in my head started echoing: “Maybe you can do a marathon?” “Can you do a marathon?” “Come on, Cape Town Marathon is flat! You can do it”
I ran the 25kms, went home – very clearly on a runner’s high – and signed up for Cape Town marathon. The “I have NOOOOOO desire to run more than 21kms” Eulogi of just a couple weeks ago was shook. Yet, at the same time, I knew I was in safe hands with the Embark Team of fellow Marathon Runners and running coaches of STeve and Garth. After all, with Embark you are never alone.
Every week in the run up to 15 October we inched closer and closer to our top training milage. There were tough runs (oh boy, were there tough ones!). There were easier runs. But they were all fun…
Never did I feel overwhelmed about my decision to run 42.2km. The marathon trainees, coaches STeve and Garth, as well as other Embark runners supporting us made the progress feel simple, easy and manageable. This is the community of Embark: you are never alone in achieving your running goals.
15 October 2023 finally arrived: Cape Town Marathon Day. My fellow Embark marathon runners and I had shared tips on hydration and fueling tips in the run up to this big day. I felt mentally and physically ready. I was mentally and physically ready.
My fellow first time Marathon runner and Embarker, Myrna, and I decided to run the marathon together. We had done every long run together, so it felt fitting to do our first marathon together. Because, with Embark, you are never alone in achieving your running goals.
We had a clear strategy of hydrating every 20 minutes and fueling every 7kms. We hit walls at different points on the marathon route and was able to encouraged each other through it.
Fellow Embarkers came out to support us at various points on the route, cheering us on, routing for us, fueling us. Again, that is the thing about Embark: you are never alone in achieving your running goals.
Myrna and I crossed the finish line at 4h38m. We ran straight to another Embarker, Susanne, who was handing out our hard-earned medals. That is the thing about Embark: you are never alone in achieving your goals.
It’s still surreal to think that I can now say I’m a marathon runner. I’ve never been athletic (I was not born with an athletic bone in my body!). I had broken my leg just over three years ago. Yet, here I am: A Cape Town Marathon Finisher. But that is the thing about Embark: I don’t think I would’ve had the guts to sign up for a marathon by myself, train for a marathon by myself nor be able to finish a marathon by myself. The community of Embark inspired, encouraged and gave me the self-belief to know that I can do it.
I’m grateful to this community for everything that they have brought into my life. You are never alone in achieving anything.
And, yes, I’m already thinking about what my next marathon is going to be. Who’s with me?