18 February 2015

My 8 week journey to the 21km Two Oceans Marathon – Week 1

Graduating from casual walker to Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon competitor seemed like a daunting task – until I actually did it. Read about my first week with OptiFit.


After the fun and excitement of the assessments and tests of Week 0, I hit the ground running this week as I took to the road with a bunch of nerves, biokineticist-trained running instructors, running routes, and the chance to meet my team mates at OptiFit.

ReadHow OptiFit prepares you for a marathon

Before my first official run on the programme, my biggest fears were having a heart attack, that I wouldn't ever be able to finish the 21km, and that I'd be the weakest link in the group. But, I didn’t have long to ponder these fears before the actual running began.

My first run – 7km

On Thursday afternoon I found myself and 3 other budding Paula Radcliffes sheepishly lined up in the car park at the Sports Science Institute of SA (SSISA), dreading the 7 km ahead of us.

It started badly. From the minute I started pounding the tar I felt out of sorts and it wasn't long before I started lagging behind my team mates. I kept at it, but that nagging question: "What have I let myself in for?" was getting louder and louder.

But there was no turning back, and with laboured breaths and heavy legs I kept on going. 1km went by and it seemed like an age until I hit the 2km milestone. Then something changed: my breathing settled into an easy rhythm, as did my legs, and before I knew it I found myself in the unfamiliar position of leading the pack. I admit, I even enjoyed it a little – okay, a lot. 

When I got home that night it was with one of those grins that annoying fitness people often have, but there was something, a niggly, apprehensive feeling in my stomach, and I knew what it was.

I had to run 12km on Saturday.

I’d never run 12km before in my entire life. I’m not even sure how far 12km actually is, but there was no getting out of it; I had to do it.

My second run – 12km

The sun had barely risen on Saturday morning when I found myself back in the car park and this time I wasn’t just nervous, I was downright scared.

I surprised myself by ditching the demons that were haunting me on Thursday and got into the swing of things right from the start. The running felt natural, even though it started with a hill. Once the road flattened out I found myself actually having a good time.

I was bamboozled by the number of other runners out on the roads. What had I been missing out on all my life!

The kilometres flew by and my trick, I found out, was to not focus so hard on the running, but to zone out by listening to my music and rhythmically putting one foot in front of the other. 

After an hour and a quarter, I broke the 10km barrier, making it the furthest I had ever run in my life. But the elation was short-lived. Almost immediately my breathing was as heavy as my legs and I had completely lost my rhythm. All I wanted to do was to stop and go home. Instead, I walked.

The last 2kms were a patchwork of walking, jogging, giving up again, and then running again – until I finally shuffle-ran the last couple of meters in the epic 12km run. 

Video: Yentl at her 12km run

Although I was so elated at finishing (how can being so tired feel so great?), I am worried that the same demons and simple lack of fitness will see me do the 21 km with a similar struggle. Time to read Mind Games for Marathon Runners again . . .

What I learnt about running this week is that my body is a remarkable machine – it will go as far as my mind allows it to. And the enormous value of running with your team mates – they act as on-the-road mind fuel and their efforts to reach the next kilometre motivates you to keep going.

The group consists of six people. My mates on this journey are the three OptiFit Health24 Facebook competition winners: Deidre Vrede, Martin Janse van Rensburg (Twitter: @Martinbeta1) and Bronwyn Maree (Twitter:@BronskiBean).

I also look forward to chatting to and running with Khalid Gallant (CEO of the South African Institute for Drug-free Sport) who is also doing the 21km and is trying to beat his personal best this year. 

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Yentl_Barros

Be inspired during the 2015 Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon

#OMTOMInspiration is a joint venture between the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon, the Sports Science Institute of SA (SSISA), Runner's World and

Follow all OMTOM updates and remember to add the hashtag #OMTOMInspiration!

On Twitter @Health24com@runnersworldza, @2OceansMarathon and @Sportscience_sa




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