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How many times can you Quit? #UTCT

How many times can you Quit? #UTCT

I always think that you will never be a failure until the day you decide to quit. That day when you decide to let yourself off the hook and sacrifice your goal for comfort is the day that you can label yourself as a failure.

This year started out quite good with my Comrades preparation being solid until I got injured in March. However I thought things would be “okay” and kept thinking that the Comrades will define me. I thought that if I don’t line up at Comrades Ultramarathon I would be a failure and all this would be for nothing.

I ended up not running The Comrades Ultra Marathon this year because of many things and in many ways the injury was a blessing. Watching my friends reach their goals and complete the Comrades was one of the toughest moments this year. I was angry and jealous…

I had a tough year with studies and some family problems that made things seem ten times worse. Working, training, managing a blog, studying a degree and being comfortable in the uncomfortable was just not possible. I lost my Grandfather and Grandmother, my parents separated and so many tears were shed this year.

So with all this …. I started training for Ultra Trail Cape Town that would take place on the 3rd of October 2015. When I received my Press entry from the organisers that invited me to come and run the race (Thank you Stu and Nic ), I was not sure if I was capable. I think God was telling me you need to do this…it could be good for you.


The training started and for about 3 months leading up to the event, I only ran trail 4-5 times a week with my coach and friend Johan. I knew that I needed quality over quantity, running on the road I could do the 70- 80km per week but on the trails it would be less.

It is strange how things happen because two weeks out till race day I strained my calf. I don’t know how it happened, but it did happen and I would have to deal with that. So I did absolutely no running for the next two weeks and… o boy it seemed like every part of my body was now duelling against the other. I was falling apart!

With plane tickets booked and accommodation arranged, my wife and I traveled down to Cape Town not knowing if I would be able to start the race, but my wife had spoken… we are going.

Before I tell you about the race, I would just like to mention that when you attempt something like this make sure your wife, friends and family know how committed you are to your goal. There will be times when you want to quit, that you feel you are not strong enough. This is when they will lift you up and dust you off when you can’t. They will support you and cheer for you.
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Race mornings I get quite nervous but on this specific morning I woke up at 2:30 AM and sat there in the room sipping on my coffee – silent. I saw the rain outside and smiled because as if things were not hard enough God likes to mix things up. We arrived at the start and the atmosphere was one of excitement and nervousness, people from many countries and provinces about to take on this challenge.

I was standing at the start with my calf patched and rain pouring down. I prayed just a little and asked myself “why am I here?” The race started and the next thing I knew I was running past Lionshead on my way to Kloofnek. The pain was there but I was managing… Running into Kloofnek was amazing because of the support I had on the route. I checked in with my wife and friends! All OK

Heading from Kloofnek up through Platteklip gorge was probably the toughest climb that I have ever attempted. By the time I got to the top of Table Mountain the wind was blasting me and I was so cold that my hands were not working. Guess what? The rain was pouring down!12141154_10153573971023567_3942098352851352799_o


I managed to push on and reached Woodhead Dam, cold but still keeping things together. The run down from Woodhead Dam to Groot Constantia was brutal but I took things slow, I did not want to blow a quad. The trail was muddy and unrelenting…

Just before Groot Constantia at the 100k and 65k split, there was a little aid station for the 100km athletes. This was the first time I wanted to quit the race and I reached for my tracking device. One of the older guys manning the aid station saw what I was about to do and took me by the shoulder and asked me how I was doing. I said “ It hurts”. He walked me out of the aid station for what seemed the next 500meters and reminded me why I am here and that he believes in me.

Let’s just take this back a bit, some random guy I don’t know is motivating me to continue and his words were genuine. This is our sport of Mountain Trail running…you cannot explain this to people.
The run from there to Groot Constantia was really one of the strongest 3-4km runs I have ever had. The mud was thick but I felt unstoppable. From Zero to Hero as they say. Reaching the Groot Constantia Aid station I felt strong and determined. Checked in with the wife. All OK! Had one of Noels pancakes and headed off to the winelands.
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My race actually started from here because close to Alphen Trail aid station I felt severe pain shoot up from my calf into my leg. The pain was so bad that I had to stop running. I walked my way to the aid station where my wife and her friend were waiting. I was in bad shape.

I told my wife that I am quitting here because I cannot imagine running with this pain. We debated about this for about two minutes and she refused to let me quit. She refused to let me quit MY race at 43km. I was angry and we almost ended up fighting but I left the aid station.

In the forest, leading up to Newlands Forest I met up with Elaine. She was an international runner from Singapore. At that stage we knew we needed each other and decided to stick together. Elaine kept me going in the difficult times, there were many! My fast hiking pace was about her running pace but we had worked out a system and kept pushing on.

Reaching UCT it was really surprising – it is as if the body had come back to life. Checking in at the UCT aid station was the first time I believed that I could actually finish this damn race. Checked in with the wife. All OK…actually GREAT! Rob Enslin’s wife was also part of my support crew at this stage, and she also checked in with me. We had some soup and topped up the water and off we went.
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The last part of the race was really one of the toughest 10km sections I have ever done. Running up to the blockhouse on Devils Peak is no joke after 55km. We managed to keep a good pace and after what seemed like forever, reached the road leading down to the rugby club.

Running to the finish and completing this race with Elaine next to me is a moment in life that I will remember forever. I have gone the distance and measured myself. My wife and friends congratulated me. If they only knew that without them I would not have come close to finishing. I shed a tear or two but was happy that I could be back in time for the Rugby.

The power of friendship and love for another is unbelievable. I will forever be grateful that my wife did not let me quit. She is my rock.

To all my friends that helped me to complete this goal – Thank you! To my UltraRunner and Tailwind team – you guys are the best!

Life is full of challenges, we run them every day, sometimes trails and sometimes road, but the biggest ultra is Life. We are all athletes just in different ways. Go for a Run…and change your life

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Pieter Steyn

Founder at Ultrarunner_ZA
Big Dreamer...Loving Husband to a beautiful wife :) Runner and Wannabee UltraRunner! Takes life too seriously.
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Big Dreamer...Loving Husband to a beautiful wife :) Runner and Wannabee UltraRunner! Takes life too seriously.

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