Almost too good to te be true.


It is 4am Sunday morning and I'm not feeling my usual 'get up and go' self - we are running the Xterra light trail this morning, I drag myself out of bed with a heavy heart and heavy legs. I've never been so unprepared for a race! And why on earth will anyone drive 70km to go and run 6,5km? It no longer makes sense.

We moved house two weeks ago, I got sick, had to go on antibiotics and stop training. Just as I was ready to start training again, I dropped a mirror on my foot and ended up with a swollen blue claw that I only barely managed to start squeezing back into my running shoes two days before. I ended up having to downgrade from my initial plan to run the longer 12km trail. I'm lucky I didn't break anything - that is my foot or the mirror - I could have ended up with a lot more bad luck than just a shorter trail race.

So it's 4.30, my two friends and I, each armed with a Garmin and a banana, are on our way to Grabouw.

In the car conversation is mostly about our different expectations and the differences between trail running and road running and of course a topic most runners can't ever get enough of - we compare past aches and pains, running injuries and miracle cures.

The Xterra is a beautiful event with the start at the Grabouw Country club. Coffee and rusks are readily available, even Pronutro for the more adventurous pre-race eater.

Soon it is 6.50am  and we are getting ready to start the race. Usually the vibe at trail races are relaxed with runners strolling up chatting and sniffing the fresh mountain air.  My friend comments that she's never managed to find a spot this close to the starting line. As a little bit of pre-race jitters take hold we jokingly mention how we didn't come to win and just hope to finish. We remind my friend that she has to make sure to follow the arrows marked for the short course and not the 12km route. (At a recent night race she ended up doing the wrong race...)

We start the race and as usual the Grabouw mountains are gloriously beautiful.

For the first kilometre or two my one friend and I run together, chatting we even manage to crack a few jokes in between our huffing and puffing. All of a sudden there is a fork in the road clearly marked with arrows and I realize this is where we split from the 12km group. The marshalls standing at the side of the road confirms this and off we go.

At this point I'm a little ahead of my friend, as I come around the next bend I hear one of the marshalls speak into his walky talky: 'Here comes another...' followed by my number. I'm feeling good, I'm not tired, I'm over halfway and there is not a soul around. I'm by myself. Is this possible? Either I'm in the lead or I'm second. I start to race, faster and faster. The only person nearby is my friend, by now about 40seconds behind. I'm not letting him catch me. Type A personalities. Both of us. Our earlier conversation about not coming to win flashes through my mind - bulldust - we both knew we were lying. Why else would we have bothered getting out of bed. My mind starts to race faster than my legs. My husband and children are probably still in bed. They're going to miss my big moment of glory. In the distance, about a minute ahead of me I spot another runner. I can't be sure - male or female. I have no choice, I'm racing with all my heart.

The last kilometre is across a stretch of dry sand. I will not let this slow me down. Once or twice I dare a glimpse over my shoulder. My friend won't catch me. Not today. I don't care if it is only a 6.5km, to me, right now, it might as well be the Comrades marathon. In my mind I compose the message to my husband, children, mom and sisters. I taste the glory of my triumph. I imagine the crowd clapping, tears of joy,  the announcement. It is almost too good to be true.

As I enter the last 100 metres or so I hear people clapping, I even smile and wave - I hear the announcement: "Here comes our second runner."  I speed across the finish. Oh sweet glory!

Then, almost too soft for me to be sure that someone is calling me from behind I hear: "Excuse me, what time did you start the race? You were supposed to start at 7.10am, you actually don't count." Confusion sets in. I'm not sure what is happening. With a nonchalant: "We'll sort it out later." I'm waved off. (I start to wake from my euphoria, clearly it's not the Comrades marathon.)

To the side I see another woman sitting. She looks as lost as me. I recognize the colours she is wearing, the person I spotted in the distance. I'm about to walk over when I hear the commentator make another announcement: "Our first mail runner!" As I turn I see it all happening in slow motion. My friend has entered the last 100m strip,  the red tape ready to be broken by this Xterra warrior.  People are clapping, some confused, others oblivious to what is happening. My friend crosses the finish line - a winner! I start walking towards him - I see the commentator waving him off in the same way he did me, I see confusion starting to cloud his winners' smile. Where are the photographers, the big moment of glory.

It dawns on me. There had to be two separate start times for the two different courses. We started 10 minutes early!

Poof! Just like that our moment of glory turns into a disastrous disappointment!

When the 3rd member of our party sails across the finish line she laughs at our shocked faces while we tell her what happened. "You didn't come to win did you, you came to have fun?" she asks us.

Shocked silence, me and my friend stare at each other, no words needed, a Type B personality will never understand. Why else would we show up.

Ten minutes early or ten minutes late, I can still taste the glory while at the back of my mind the saying: "If it seems too good to be true, it usually is." repeats itself over and over, a mimic of my running shoes continuing to hit the trails - of course to win and to have fun - maybe just to be able to tell the story of the trials, tribulations and mostly, jubilations of the trails.


Written by Nadea Victor