It was nice to be back on that chartered Boeing 757 heading out of Antarctica, but I still tossed and turned during the 4 ½ hour flight back to Cape Town. We had partially reclining seats and the reality that we were running another marathon approximately 14 hours after completing the last marathon started to set in.
I knew it was going to be hot and I had experienced the seaside wind gusts when I did a short taper run along the Seapoint Promenade when I arrived in Cape Town 5 days prior.
I might have got 2 hours of restless sleep. Here’s a rough timeline from Day 1 heading into Day 2:
- 6am – Wake-up
- 7:30am – Bus to airport
- 9am – Depart Cape Town
- 12:30pm (Antarctica) – Arrive in Antarctica
- 2pm (Antarctica) – Start marathon #1
- 6:30pm (Antarctica) – Finish marathon #1
- 12:30am (Antarctica) – Depart Antarctica
- 9am – Arrive Cape Town
- 11:00am – Arrive President Hotel
- 12:30pm – Start marathon #2
- 4:45pm – Finish marathon #2
- 9:00pm – Bus to airport
- 10:30pm – Depart Cape Town (for Perth, Australia)
So 12 hours after completing our first marathon in Antarctica, we arrived back into Cape Town, South Africa. It was 9am and it was already warm. We quickly boarded a bus to the President Hotel close to Seapoint Promenade, the site of marathon #2 of the World Marathon Challenge. We arrived and had a little over an hour to shower, get dressed and board the shuttle bus to the starting line. With a long line to take a shower, Andrew and I opted to swim in the infinity pool that overlooked the Cape Town coast. Not a bad way to wash off the grime from the first race, but I’m not sure the other guests appreciated our use of the hotel pool.
A few race-related facts for those of you that are runners:
Course: 6.4-mile loop along the Seapoint Promenade made up of primarily concrete paths (4 loops plus .8 mile add-on)
Conditions: Sunny and 70 degrees F and 15 MPH wind gusts at start. 75 degrees F with continued wind gusts at finish.
Aid stations: Several aid stations scattered along the course.
As for gear, I used the following:
- Altra Torin 3.0 shoes
- Swiftwick Aspire socks
- North Face Flight Series shorts
- North Face Flight Series t-shirt
- North Face Flight Series cap
- Zombie Runner bandana
- Squirrel’s Nut Butter (in all the right places)
Nutrition for this (and every race):
- GU Roctane gels
- GU chews
- GU Roctane Summit Tea
- Nuun Electrolytes
- The Ginger People Gin Gins hard candies
- Coke and potato chips during the last half of the race
This race set up to be a pure test of endurance considering the quick turnaround, massive temperature change and the minimal sleep between marathon #1 and marathon #2.
In Antarctica, I had gear issues and generally couldn’t get my act together, so Andrew really helped drag me around the last 8.4 miles of that marathon. Cape Town was my opportunity to return the favor. Running in the heat is something I’ve done a lot of living in Arizona, so it was my chance to keep up our pace throughout the hot, windy conditions.
This was the first race where we took notice of the position of the different competitors. In Antarctica, it was just a struggle to finish, plus everyone was geared up head to toe, so you didn’t know who was who and it was difficult to get a sense of who you were actually competing against. Or were we really competing? More on that later. In Cape Town, it became very clear who would be the front runners for the Challenge. While I’m not a fan of running on roads or pavement (or anything not a trail), that’s what I signed up for when it came to this particular challenge. I’m also not a fan of looped courses, but when you’re running a small race with 50-60 competitors, you’re not going to be able to close down the streets of Cape Town for a 13.1 mile out-and-back course. The advantage to these loops is you can pay closer attention to where everyone is positioned throughout the race. That said, Andrew and I had a goal of: (1) running together; (2) finishing all 7 marathons; (3) pushing ourselves, but not to the point of it being an unenjoyable experience. So were we really competing or were we just trying to generate respectable results? Again, more on that as the other races unfold.
Was the challenge running 7 marathons in a row or was it something more?
In a previous blog post, I wrote about my pre-race routine and post-race recovery process. When I approached training for the World Marathon Challenge, I was less concerned about actually being able to run the 7 marathons. Yes, I knew I had to put in the miles and remind my body what it felt like to run on fatigued legs, but I felt like the key was recovery between each marathon. If you look back at that blog post, you will notice that my normal pre-race routine took about 2 hours. Now recall that we arrived at the President hotel and we had less than an hour to get ready to run our 2nd marathon. This is the moment where I began to realize that my entire pre-race routine was meaningless. I’m someone that likes process and predictability when it comes to my pre-race routine. I’m 100% okay with, and have conditioned myself, to roll with the unexpected while running races, especially trail races. But I have always felt strong about my pre-race routine to get into the physical and mental place I want to be before running 4-4 ½ hours. That didn’t happen before Antarctica and it was a struggle to get through all of it before Cape Town.
This was the moment I realized that this challenge was less about running 7 consecutive marathons on 7 continents in 7 days and more about the ability to roll with whatever came our way before, during and after each race. This wasn’t a traditional foot race, this was about overcoming and surviving the unpredictability that comes with getting 50+ athletes from continent to continent and starting line to starting line. When I realized that, it was a completely different mindset and in some ways a bit of a relief. I was not in control of this situation and I had to quickly embrace that reality.
Most Scenic Course of the Challenge
As for the Cape Town marathon itself, it was hot, windy, the course zig zagged around the Seapoint Promenade, city sidewalks and street construction. Between the construction and normal pedestrian traffic on an afternoon in Cape Town, it was a bit of a an obstacle course. I found it to be interesting, a bit fun, and certainly the most scenic of all of the marathon courses. As you will see, each course was unique in its own way, but the Cape Town marathon course was by far the most scenic. You just can’t go wrong with palm trees, beaches, sea walls, crystal blue oceans and views that extend for miles and miles.
The volunteers on this course were significant and remarkable. Between course marshals, traffic managers and aid station staff, it was an army of volunteers that did an amazing job on a toasty day. Oh, and this was the first race I had experience getting water “balloons” (think small plastic water tubes) on a course versus cups of water. This really helped with regulating body temperature by biting into one and pouring it over your head and then carrying another and sipping on it until you made it to the next aid station. I’m a big fan as it didn’t require having a handheld or vest or anything else. Big thumbs up for the hydration approach in Cape Town!
As for our performance in Cape Town, Andrew and I gutted our way to a 4:17 finish and 6th place, so we were quite pleased with that result.
Two Guys in Normatecs in a 5-star Lobby
One of the benefits of finishing in the top few runners is catching the first shuttle back to the hotel. We knew we had a few hours before departing for Perth, but unfortunately we didn’t have any place to really take a nap. So we showered in one of the shared rooms that had been reserved for everyone to rotate in and out of for a shower, packed up all of our gear and then decided to set up shop in the lobby of the hotel with our Normatec boots. We also needed to eat. So imagine this visual.
Two guys sitting on a couch with their legs propped up on two chairs across from each other with Normatec boots on and plugged into the adjacent wall. Yep. Right in the middle of the lobby of the hotel. Then we flagged down the lobby bar waitress and ordered lunch. While we waited for lunch, we mixed up and drank our various post-race protein concoctions with the sweet humming sound of our big black, puffy Normatec boots expanding, contracting and echoing throughout the lobby. We didn’t have much of a choice as we were borderline vagrants without a place to crash! When lunch arrived, we placed our plates on top of our boots and we proceeded to eat our lunch as guests stared at us, wondering what was going on in the lobby of their 5-star hotel. The waitress thought we were ridiculous, but seemed quite content with catering to two Americans that ordered a charcuterie of meats and cheeses along with two bottles of sparkling water and two coca colas. This might be a good time to acknowledge that I’m a pescatarian (vegetarian + fish) and by the end of the 2nd marathon, it was already clear my body was begging for more protein and fat (hence the willingness to bend my dietary guidelines to consume some deli meats). That said, I did a solid job of primarily sticking to my diet while embracing those moments when there just weren’t a lot of good food options that were consistent with my normal diet. I’m not one to get wound up about my diet when traveling. It is what it is and you just have to embrace what is available.
An Eclectic, Diverse and Impressive Group of Runners
As I wrote previously, Antarctica was a bit of a blur. It was the first race. It was cold. It was a bit of rush. When we ran Cape Town, the World Marathon Challenge became a bit more real for me. The faces of all of the runners weren’t obscured with goggles, ski masks and the like when we ran the 2nd marathon. As we ran, I began connecting the faces on the course with many of the faces I met for the first time at that Sunday night pre-race briefing at the Westin in Cape Town. Andrew and I had done a little bit of research on the other participants, and The World Marathon Challenge Facebook page had begun to share some backgrounds on different participants, but it wasn’t until that Sunday night we fully realized how amazing, and eclectic, this group of participants really was. And it wasn’t until running in Cape Town that I started to stitch together those faces on the course, with those people I met Sunday night and those profiles I read. I’ll use future blog posts covering the remaining 5 marathons to share more details about some of the participants, but here’s a quick list of some of the backgrounds of the 53 participants of this year’s World Marathon Challenge:
- A world-class 2:17 marathoner
- A world-class marathoner and record-holder for the World Marathon Challenge
- A world-class triathlete
- Several Ironman men and women
- A famous explorer and mountaineer that has climbed all 7 summits
- A woman with cerebral palsy being pushed by two amazing Australians
- Long-time Boston Marathon race director
- Former President of the Miami Marlins
- World Series champion baseball player
- Amputee and global motivational speaker
- A Leader of the NYC Bar with Parkinson’s Disease
- Police investigator and $1,000,000 winner of Survivor
- Multiple successful entrepreneurs and business men and women
- A lawyer
- A dentist
- A doctor
- A fireman
- Multiple teachers
- A Playboy cover girl, Survivor contestant and bodybuilder
- An athlete that quit the USC football program to run the World Marathon Challenge
- Numerous runners fundraising for a broad range of incredible global causes
I’m sure I haven’t captured the backgrounds of every single person that participated this year, but my larger point was to draw some attention to the diverse backgrounds, experiences and purposes that were so inspiring. More to the point, it felt like my accomplishments and motivations were dwarfed by this amazing collection of human beings and athletes.
Cape Town was the marathon that really drove home to me what an amazing experience this was to be traveling the world and running with such an inspiring group of humans. That’s what this trip was all about!