At breakfast this morning it was very obvious who yesterday’s marathon runners were. Their plates were piled high pretty much everything you could imagine, and most were walking very gingerly, particularly up and down steps. The mood was different, too. Where yesterday and the day before, there was a buzz in the air as people strategized and dreamed, today was the reality check. You finished or you didn’t. You achieved your goal or you failed. You won or you lost. In the circle of people we got to know, most finished, including some by only a few minutes before cutoff, but a few that did not. They were a bit quieter, but still seemed glad to have made the effort and committed to try once again next year.
I was wrong about the cutoff time, by the way. It was actually 12 hours – the time was increased by an hour several years ago to encourage more people to attempt the race. While we weren’t there to see it, I heard that when the hour struck, the town mayor closed the gates into the stadium and, as tradition dictated, shook the hand of the first person who missed the cut and that was it. Race over, with no record kept of those who did not finish within the allotted time.
After breakfast, at Krista’s recommendation, we took a taxi to a place called the Oyster Box Hotel, which is located in Uhmlanga, right on the Indian Ocean. What a beautiful spot – the hotel was like stepping back into the days when South Africa was an English Commonwealth, with white turbaned doormen and palm leaf fans slowly moving back and forth. Sharon walked around for just a bit and then found a chair facing the ocean, but I took a longer walk down the boardwalk. All along the beach, there were beautifully architected hotels and condo complexes, many looking relatively new. I was surprised at the number of people who had obviously run the marathon – obvious because they were either wearing the blue race shirt everyone who entered received, or by how they seemed to wince with every step …
We hadn’t been there very long when I received a text from Ryan, inviting us to an ‘aches and pain’ party, sponsored by the local running club he is a member of, the Durban Old Boys. Again, Lindsay and Ruth insisted on picking us up (saving us a hefty cab fare) and took us to the event. The club was located in one of the residential areas of town and looked more like a pub than anything else. We were ushered in, given a beer, and informed that we had arrived just in time for the ‘fines’. There were lots of fines… most based on how you well you did in the marathon compared to what you had committed to do the previous year. If you finished slower than your committed time, you were fined one Ran (about 15 cents) for each minute. If you finished faster than your committed time, the fine doubled. Even Sharon and I were called to the front of the room and fined. Sharon received a 20 Ran fine for finishing ten minutes faster than her goal time, and I was fined 100 Ran for not entering the race . Oh, I did forget to mention that as part of the fine, we were required to drink a disgusting combination of beer with a shot of crème de menthe? Yikes! Fortunately, I only had to have one, unlike most of the other attendees… Many of the members seemed to have known each other all their lives with their fathers and father’s fathers club members before them. Again, I could see the English roots, in a Dead Poets Society kind of way. We had a lot of fun – Sharon in particular was quite popular, and was even made an ‘honorary member’ of the club, complete with club shirt and the requirement to post her 2012 race commitment time into their official book. Ryan was requested to bring ‘more Americans’ back with him next year.
Before heading back to the hotel, we went out for another South African specialty, Bunny Chow. Evidently back in colonial times, Indian slaves were brought over to work in the sugar cane fields, and needing some way to transport their curry lunch into the fields, they created Bunny Chow, which is essentially curry poured into a hollowed out loaf of bread. According to Ryan, it is the preferred South African ‘go to’ late night meal after a night on the town (no Denny’s here…) and I can see why. Sharon and I split a chicken and prawn Bunny Chow – delicious!