As we all huddled at the starting line, there was an announcement made that we were just ninety seconds till starting time. I was mighty excited to be taking part in this year’s Platteklip Charity Challenge, more so for the charity part of it.
As we took off I curbed my desire to also run off like a lot of the athletes were doing, and instead opted to take it easy alongside my teammates. I figured they were much more knowledgeable than I was about this hike, especially since they had done it the weekend before.
About a quarter of the way, my mind was already playing its usual games on me. If there is anything I need to learn in my new journey towards being a marathon runner, it’s to not listen to that little voice in my head that constantly tells me that I’m tired and should stop.
At about halfway from the top, my colleagues stopped to wait for me. I had slacked quite a bit due to the fact that I needed to stop several times to either remove or put on my sweater again, because the temperature would change very suddenly and drastically. I was also really tired at this point , and was really glad when one of my teammates offered to tow me. At this point I was thinking to myself that there was no way I was going to be able to go up a second time, let alone complete the minimum three climbs.
We got to a little waterfall, and decided to drink the water from it. As I stood in the waterfall and felt the light showers from it gently splatter on my t-shirt, I was an awe of the splendour of our city. For that moment, I forgot about how rough the hike had been for me only seconds prior to that point. My exhilarating moment was short lived though. No sooner than we left the waterfall was I brought back to the reality of what the situation was.
About ten minutes later we reached the summit, and again as soon as what had been seven hundred or so meters of steep mountain suddenly changed to level ground, my mind immediately forgot, yet again, of how agonising that last stretch has been. The agony of that last stretch had been exacerbate partly also due to the fact that I was getting cramps in my calves.
As we went down the cable car and engaged in light hearted chatter, I was very much apprehensive of this second hike we were about to embark on. My teammates reassured me that it would be so much easier the second time around, seeing that we would be knowing what to expect. Somehow, that did not offer me much comfort.
Now into the second lap, having stocked up on refreshments, I decided to come up with a mantra that would see me complete my second ascent a lot quicker. My mind was just not really cooperating though, and with every step I took, I felt my mental aptitude get depleted rapidly. As much as I tried to focus on the splendour of the view beneath me, and the fact that I was doing something I really enjoy, and contributing to the betterment of children’s lives, I found myself stopping to catch my breath every twenty or so steps, and this distance lessened with the very steep ascents. It also did not help that there were other participants of varying age groups that overtook me ever so often. Seeing their race tags with three or more clip holes, illustrating the fact that they had done as many ascents really discouraged me. I then had to make a conscious decision to not focus on the racing, but to just complete the three ascents I had set out to do, at my own pace.
With every climb the niggling pain in my left knee got worse, and the occasional cramping in my calves only made my mission all the more challenging. It amazed me even the second time when I reached the top of the mountain and made my way to the cable car, how the memory of the anguish I had felt just moments prior suddenly vanished. As soon as I got to the bottom I was revived and excited that this would be last time I would be going up. Sadly however, my knee was no longer cooperating at all, and as soon as I started to climb, a sharp prickly pain would hit every time I bent it.
This now meant that the “one foot in front of the other” recommendation I had heard from so many who had overtaken me would no longer work. I now had to step forward with my right foot and use that leg to balance while I pulled my left leg, all the while trying to keep my problematic knee as straight as possible.
Fast forward to about two and half hours later when I eventually made it to the top again, and at that point I was feeling all sorts of emotions ranging from elation, exhaustion, and I found myself half crying and half laughing, and involuntarily lifting my hands in celebration of that victorious moment. As I rode down the cable car for the last time with the other participants and tourists, I overheard a lot of the participants saying how they were still going back up for a least two more laps. I, on the other hand, when asked if I would still be going up again, would shake my head and respond, “…the knee has spoken…”.
As the cable car descended to the bottom of the mountain, I looked out in total admiration and awe of the city, smiling at the thought of having accomplished what has to be one of the greatest achievements of my life thus far. I had done it!