“I Did AfricanX With My Bestie — Here’s How It Puts A Friendship To The Test”
It’s not often you find out you’ll be running a three-day stage race two days before the event. But that’s what happened. My workout buddy, Carla, had signed up for the AfricanX Trailrun presented by ASICS a while back, but in the week before the event, she found herself in need of a new partner. So I was in…
The First Hurdle…
The first spanner in the works: I had a wedding on Day 1. Obviously I couldn’t bail on my cousin’s wedding, but the great people at Stillwater Sports are truly accommodating and made this exception for Women’s Health. I was in for Day 2 and Day 3. Carla would run Day 1 with someone else.
I packed a crazy amount of things, yet I still felt completely unprepared. The furthest I’d ever run was 30km. Day 2 is 35km and 1 500m elevation! No small feat…
I arrived at the race village just before supper on the Friday. Dragging my bags, I found my partner and tent, all the while hearing about how tough Day 1 had been. Knowing Day 2 was slightly longer made me nervous. Could I even run that far?
Race Village Camping: The Reality
I love camping. My parents introduced me to it when I was still in nappies, so I’ve had some decent exposure to the elements. But race village camping… Let’s just say I’ve had better nights. The noise carries – and it was freezing! I hadn’t packed enough layers to keep out the icy chill. And then the wind and rain began. Now I was nervous… and cold.
Day 2 (My Day 1)
I was up at 5am, even though the running only started at 8am. I needed to get moving to ease the anxiety. Breakfast included bacon, eggs, you name it – but I only wanted oats. After burning my mouth on hot coffee, I ate my oats and looked around. So many professional-looking people. Why am I here?!
After a minor panic over locating my timing chip and race number with only 15 minutes to go, we joined the start line. We only had one safety pin between the two of us! But the excitement had set in and we were ready to race.
Running With A Partner: What It’s Really Like
One of the best ways to test a friendship is to race together. I can confirm that Carla and I are still friends and we are keen to race together again. But there were tough times…
Having skipped Day 1, my legs were fresh. Carla’s were not. My job was to make sure we kept up a good pace. This included pushing or pulling my partner up hills. And there were hills – straight-up-the-mountain hills.
We also needed to encourage each other along the way: “Almost there”, “We’ll be at the top just around this corner” and the big one: “There’s champagne waiting for us at Bartinney.”
The real motivation test came at the end. The 35km became 37 – and those extra two kays almost killed us. But we made it to the finish line where lunch and beer were waiting.
Day 3, And The Finish…
Okay, I admit I opted for a comfy bed and a home-cooked meal on Night 2, but I was up at 5am again and got to the race village with time for a coffee and chat.
This time, Carla and I lined up as close to the front as we could get. On Day 3, elite runners start an hour after us mere mortals, so we wanted a shot at feeling ‘pro’.
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Disaster struck in the first few kilometres. Carla’s legs were lead. But we pulled through (literally) – my hand always outstretched to give her a boost up the hills. Around halfway, though, Carla found her legs and put her foot down. I scrambled to keep up.
The highlight took place on a smooth, speedy downhill section. Carla and I were flying, calling for runners to make way as we raced past. The day before, other runners had been a little reluctant to let us past – but today was different. We were mistaken for the leading ladies’ team! With shouts of “make way, winners coming through,” people leapt out of our way.
We crossed the line just after the winning men’s team for that stage – a truly incredible experience. We’d made it – 90km for Carla, 57km for me. And I will definitely be back to do the whole AfricanX next year.
To find out more about the AfricanX Trail Run, visit their website.