The ascent was the highest of all the days and mostly came in the last third but if you're walking, it doesn't really matter. But beginning at the beginning is a good place to start. Our destination was the famous Hole in the Wall, 34km distant. There would be less beach running and more inland running and for me, this was the most interesting day because of the variety.
There were also some navigational challenges which saw a couple of runners heading waaay inland. Once again we started on an incline on a small dirt road which then climbed up and over a small hill to reach the beach again. I started by walking to ease my achilles and sore foot into it. I had also taken the precaution of putting my road soles into my trail shoes. They had a slight heel raise and once the achilles was warmed up, I never felt it again. But the foot...it was eina for all of it.
Aileen and Brett jogged off and once we were on the beach they were a constant 150m or so in front of me. Once again, there were gorgeous beaches to behold and most people seemed content to amble along knowing it was the last day. We caught up to Heather and Carlo who had left an hour before the field. She was limping along determined to get to the checkpoint before calling it a day. Brave woman with a great attitude and Carlo was a hero. He then ran the rest, clubbing a lot of people on the way, it must be the rested legs!
I finally caught Aileen and Brett at the check point and the three of us set off on the last beach before heading into the rolling green hills and small villages. At the top of the first climb, we followed some people in front. Aileen and I were taking photos and when we looked up they were all standing in a huddle, arms gesticulating in all directions. Looking back, we saw Kelvin Trautman (photographer extrodinaire) bolting down the hill and without a thought, we turned and followed. He knew the route and he would run past all the runners, take amazing photos then bolt past again with camera in hand and heavy backpack.
The scenery changed to one of natural forests and magnificent aloes. One last beach saw us walking at a brisk pace because of my foot and Aileen's tender knee and then we swung away for three big ups before the final one that brought us out above Hole in the Wall and the cheerful yellow finish banners. The last swim across the Mpako River mouth was the biggest and we made the most of it, using the waterproof camera to take the final pictures.
The race was over. But the cameraderie and memories are forever. The final dinner and prize giving was a great celebration of everyone's achievement and was a fitting way to end. Rushing off after the race just would have detracted from the experience.
Writing about it here doesn't do it justice. To all those we ran with, suffered with, chatted to - I hope to see you there again.
Owen, Tam and the team - respect! As one race organiser to another, I know what it takes and you guys rocked.
Aileen - way to go friend. Can't wait for our next adventure!