The Total Sports Two Oceans Half Marathon is an event very close to my heart. I completed the stunning 21.1km route in April 2022 and, not only was it my very first half marathon but it was one of the best races of my life. For context, I’m not a professional runner in any way, shape or form. I initially started running for fitness for other sports and hated every minute of it.
The road and trail running scene in Cape Town completely changed my attitude towards the sport and since moving here in 2021, I have fallen in love with the views and potential for adventure that this city holds. Since my move here, I have tackled many road-running races and have become a regular at local trail running groups. As for Two Oceans, although I had a ton of fun, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Here are a few tips and important route-specific hints that would have made my race a little bit better and can be the difference for yours too!
Start Out Slow
Let me say that again. START OUT SLOW. Pacing is so important in half marathon races like these and I was so tempted to start running at my usual 5km pace but that wasn’t going to get me to the end. Start at least one minute per kilometre slower than your normal pace for the first two kilometres. This will help you warm up as well as help you get a sense of how your body is feeling on the day.
The First Climb
Everyone speaks about the daunting Southern Cross drive, which we’ll touch on later, but no one told me about the first climb when turning out of Newlands onto the M3. In a car, this climb seems unassuming but in reality, this hill is steep and long. It’s early enough in the race that you may not have warmed up properly, especially in the Autumn chill that mid-April can often present. I, in fact, experienced a calf cramp for the first time in my life three-quarters of the way up. For a first-timer, you’ll want to take this one at a steady pace and walk if you need.
Take My Breath Away
If you’re not already out of breath by the time you get to the Wynberg off-ramp, the view that comes next certainly will. This was one of my favourite parts of the race. As you crest the hill you’ll be able to see a stream of colour as all your fellow participants make their way towards the Kendal road off-ramp. I even took my phone out to update the family group chat with a shaky video.
Beware of the cat eyes
Now, this was a lesson that I am grateful that I merely got to observe rather than experience on a first-hand basis. I was running up the Kendal Road off-ramp towards a crowd of spectators when suddenly three people in front of me fell to the floor. I was shocked but it seemed that they had tripped on thin air! Until I took a closer look to see that they had kicked cat eyes on the side of the road and had come off second best. I kept my eyes glued to my feet from that point on.
The Switch Back
Sport in general is a mental game and there is no bigger mental challenge than having to do a switch back. At around the 8km mark runners flow in opposite directions and being the runner on the right-hand side of the road knowing I would have to run all the way back on the left-hand side was my least favourite part of the race and something I wish I had known about. Luckily the morale of the participants is still very high at this point and there are loads of spectators cheering you on!
The Star of the Show
Southern Cross Drive is an infamous climb that keeps runners honest. A very specific piece of advice I received was to hold back until the 13-kilometre mark of the half marathon, which is the top of this hill. I was very thankful to have spent so much time running on the mountains as this climb is a serious test of fitness. My biggest piece of advice would be to find someone of a similar pace and stick with them. Run when they run, walk when they walk. It’s what I did and keeping my mind occupied on following someone else made the climb so much easier. It even encouraged me to run past them if they walked and find someone else to run behind as my mind had been so preoccupied with where they were placing their feet that I wasn’t worried about how sore my legs were.
The blissful descent, or is it?
The energy boost you get when reaching the top of the climb is insane. There’s a big arch and a commentator and loads of spectators cheering everyone on. I remember being so grateful that the downhill was starting because my quads had been on fire. Well… jokes on me and whoever else had the same thought because the road doesn’t quite sit straight. Most of the downhill is on a camber, which essentially means that you’re running sideways on a hill. The high energy and immaculate vibes (as well as the giggle I had when I was offered a beer and shot of tequila) kept me happy but I had to really concentrate to stay upright.
The last 5km
With the sun streaming through the trees past Kirstenbosch Gardens and only a couple of kilometres of the half marathon to go, I knew I was going to make it. Running past thousands of spectators and onto the sports fields at UCT was an exceptional feeling and just like that, I had run my first half marathon.
The Moral of the Story
Whether you’re running your first half marathon and you’re still new to the running scene in general then remember to take it slow, soak in the experience, keep your wits about you and be ready for the ultimate runner’s high when you cross that finish line because there’s nothing like the Total Sports Two Oceans Half Marathon.