The Race That Changed Me

First in our Four-Part Series

By Kim Walker

There is nothing quite like stepping up to the kind of physical challenge that takes you out of your comfort zone. We walk away from the finish line of a grueling challenge a changed person. We tick off the big ones knowing that we’ve moved up a level, and silenced the critics. We’ve stepped in to the fire, when we could so easily have shied away. Those races, the ones that change us, they are the ones we’ll recall most vividly when the gift of running is no longer ours to enjoy.

Bubbly running personality, Kim Boshof, shares her AfricanX 2014 story.

“When I entered AfricanX, it was a huge move for me. 21kms was far at that point and this was to be 3 days of consecutive trail running. A big Christmas was followed by a strict programme which saw me encounter a great deal. I went into the race thinking I had done enough…. I hadn’t. Trail running is far more treacherous than road running and African X was my next level. I ran in a team with my friend, Dani Mascher.

Day 1 was awesome, but Dani wasn’t feeling so great so I did the last half of the run on my own, met a friend or 5 and we finished in high spirits. You hear all about how tough the second day is, and it was. My legs were sore, I was sunburnt but I knew my dad was going to be at the halfway point which was going to get me through….at least that’s what I hoped. The organisers had also given a cut off time which wasn’t easy for us back-o-the-pack runners. Mountain after mountain, I found myself sitting on a rock at the top of one, full of tears and wondering what on earth had made me do this, and I said to Dani, “I feel like the sun is sitting on my face” after which we laughed so much, then we cried together, then we cried with 2 other ladies that came along and we made it to halfway. We had missed the cut off and I ran straight into my dad’s arms when I saw him, and cried some more. Even the race commentator, Sean Falconer, shed a tear. We had loads of friends back at the race village who said all the nice heart melting things, but it doesn’t really matter, in that moment you are in a world of disappointment.

A massage later, a big meal, a good night’s rest and we were on to day 3. A day I will never forget. Everything just worked that day. Dani and I fell into a great rhythm, we laughed, joked, took loads of pics and we ran onto a wine farm or an orchard (I’m not too sure which!) and around the next corner was my dad. I wasn’t expecting to see him and he had driven all the way to try and get me through the last day. He was at the finish, too, and when we ran into the straight, heard the cheers from everyone and I saw my dad again… only then, at that moment, did I realise why we do this. Why we put our bodies through this. With stoke levels through the roof and a small vomit at my dad’s feet, I proudly hugged my friend who had been by my side the whole way. We were last, but we had won. What I learnt is that you can go far alone but you can go even further as a team, and with people who love, support and believe in you.”

Cape-based runner, Colin Chaplin, shares his version of victory, and how he pushed beyond his own limits to complete the Whale of Trail this year. 

“I used to change the screensavers on my laptop every couple of months or so. But I have had the same picture on my laptop for well over a year now. It's a picture of my friend and I at the finish line of the Whale of Trail. The year before competing in the race it had taken me five days just to hike it. The thought of ever being fit enough to run it in just one day seemed beyond me when I entered. I know that there are lots of experienced trail runners out there who will tell you that completing a 53km trail run in one day is no big deal. However I can assure you that when it's your first ultra-trail run, it's a big deal. It's easy to forget that when you first take up running just completing a five km run can seem impossibly hard.

I consider myself fortunate to have been one of the lucky runners who managed to complete this taxing trail. Tough, yes, but the scenery and views were amazing. We went up mountains, traversed ridges, down valleys, through fynbos and finally we hit the beach. One of my enduring memories is moving from the low tide mark up to the high tide mark desperately looking, but failing, to find some firm hard sand to run on.

Once in a while it's good to challenge yourself in a way that’s really daunting. For me, this was my challenge. There was a huge sense of accomplishment in finally getting to the finish line. Even though my body felt sore and walking was a problem for a day or two afterwards I still found myself grinning from ear to ear.

Victory is not just about your position in a race. It's a personal achievement of pushing on after reaching your limit. It's about exceeding your expectations and, let's be honest, that's a frigging awesome feeling.”