After the Two Oceans half marathon and trail run, I decided to take a short sabbatical from running with the full intention of starting training again in May for the Knysna Forest half marathon. Sadly life, winter and then laziness got in the way, and the training just never happen. Despite this, I packed off to Knysna for the weekend fairly confident that I could finish the race. Turns out I was right, but it seems proper preparation is also critical to the ability to walk the next day.
The Knysna marathon truly is a unique race, starting out in the heart of the forest, in the pitch dark, with everyone huddled around the fire to keep warm. It’s also superbly well organised, from the registration to the taxi service to the start, to the race itself.
However, you underestimate this race at your peril, as I discovered to my detriment. When they say forest, they mean it.
The first 13 odd kilometers meander through the rolling hills of the forest, which is definitely tougher on the legs than the road, although there are some beautiful views across the trees on the higher ground. When the forest finally ends, you come out at the top of Semola hill, which boasts an amazing golf course and some spectacular houses. It is also home to one of the most wicked hills I have ever attempted to run – a knee-breaking 3km straight down from the highest point of the race back down to sea level. Words can’t describe what that gradient does to anyone with knee problems (at least no polite words pr any longer than four letters). The last 3km are flat, but by the time I got down the hill I was in no shape to take advantage of that. But I crossed the finish, in a respectable time, and celebrated in the age-old running tradition of too many beers.
The day after was interesting to say the least. A hangover combined with legs that had seized from the hips down made for a fun morning.
Exploring Knysna the day after the race makes you feel better though – seeing a large number of other people all walking with a stiff-legged gait lets you know you’re really not alone in your pain. Even driving back to Cape Town wasn’t too bad, until I tried to get out of the car at a pit stop.
What an experience, but definitely my hardest race to date. Knysna forest, you win. I am thoroughly beaten and have learned a humble lesson in respect and the importance of training.