A few weeks ago I got a mail from a friend suggesting we enter the Big Walk and before I fell over with the thought of walking 80km I read a bit further and realised she was talking about entering the 5km leg of the race. All in all a much better idea, so I agreed to join in and booked and paid for my entry online (only R33 per person) and within a few minutes I was signed up.
I’d almost forgotten about the event but when an email reminder popped up on my computer last Thursday I thought I better find out where I needed to register and collect my race number – a first in my lifetime. But before I get ahead of myself if you haven’t heard of the Big Walk or you don’t live in Cape Town you might not know what I’m talking about …
The Discovery Big Times Walk has a long history, dating back to 5 June 1903. The Spartan Harriers, a running club, decided that a long distance walk was needed and one very rainy August 1903 morning a total of 61 competitors set off from Green Market Square. The event wasn’t a resounding success and it only started up again in 1923 and the 50 mile challenge started its proud history.
In 2010 there were ten routes to choose from – 80km, 50km, 30km, 25km, 20km, 13km, 12km, 11km, 10km and 5km. Each route starts at a different location and a different time. Those taking part in the 80km would have started at 03h45 (so not an option for big party animals… unless you can walk on no sleep) and headed off from the St Georges Grammar School in Mowbray, which was also the end of the race.
Lucky for me the 5km only started at 10h30 and in Boundry Road, Newlands. So this was an ideal opportunity to ease me into this new venture. When I left home before 10h00 to meet up with my friends I drove down the Main Road and was really taken back by the sheer number of people who were taking part in the day’s events. It seemed that almost everyone in Cape Town was walking.
After a bit of a bumpy start – i.e. we were late and just fed into the sea of people starting the 5km. There was excitement in the air, at least the three of us were excited, but this soon came to an abrupt halt when we discovered a water point right at the start of the 5km where everyone needed to stop and get something to quench their thirst. This created a tight bottle neck and it took us over 20 minutes to get out onto the Main Road to start the walk.
There were thousands of people of all shapes, sizes and ages. If you’re taking part in the 5km expect to see young children with their families, plenty of dogs, mothers with prams and corporate sponsored groups of people. After a bit of a jostle to get out of the big crowds we were in our stride and merrily chatting away about the weekend events and upcoming plans.
The walk took us along the Main Road through Newlands, Rondebosch and Mowbray and before we knew it we saw the sign for 1km to go! On we walked and into the school grounds where we heard over the loud speaker that the front walker of the 80km had just less than 5km left to walk. I thought that was extremely impressive because I’d looked at the big time clock and it had only just ticked over the eight hour mark. Make no mistake these walkers are fast!
We walked through the finish line with big smiles as we were handed our medals. I was extremely happy my first race number and medal! I think I was bitten by the race bug and we’ve made a pact to find more walks to take part in, and next year we’ll be entering the 10km or 20km race because we enjoyed the 5km one so much but found it a bit short – it seems I’m fitter than I thought.
Cape Town’s weather really played ball and it was a superb day with beautiful views of the mountain. The race is really well organised with marshalls directing you to where you need to be. A big congratulations and thank you to the organisers of this year’s Big Walk, it was a fantastic event that I’m sure will have even more participants next year. I hope to see some of you there!