Most places in South Africa have a big race, Cape Town has Two Oceans, Durban has Comrades, PE has Iron Man, the list goes one and then you get to the East London and you get the Surfers Challenge. Having only started running in Cape Town I wanted to do my hometown race when I finally got the chance. They also do things differently in East London for instance the start time is at 3pm.
The race was an education. Some cultures have seven different words for snow, well now I know of many types of sand. Powder sand, heavy grain, heavier grain, shale, shale with pebbles, and the list goes on when you add moisture content, density and how many people have run on it before you.
I have never had to concentrate so hard not to fall and hurt myself especially in the pebble, shale and boulder sections. With over 2654 people running the vibe was really chilled. Strong headwind the whole way and drizzle in parts. The drizzle was great because it stopped the sand getting caught in the wind and stinging the legs. The race consists of about 4km of pure tar magic and rest was sand, stone and water or a mixture of the three.
The river crossings were an interesting novelty. Swimming in your shoes is hard work. I can see why triathlons do the swim first; I had no blood in the arms. My wife asked one of the lifeguards to give her a push because she felt she was being pushed up river. He told her that she had reached a point where she could stand. She stood up only to discover the water level was below her knees! My sister was on hand to give us dry shoes after the first river crossing just before we got onto the tar; time spent changing shoes really helped later on.
Never under estimate the power of a limited-edition t-shirt. After I finished I walked back and managed to get my wife going faster when I saw her near the finish. I said something to the effect of "You see that girl in front of you she is not going to get a finishing t-shirt." That was what she needed to speed up I have never seen her run that fast as she ploughed through scores of people in front of her.
As many SCEL entrants will tell you from experience this a “must do” race!