Alison Smith runs the Two Oceans Marathon to become a ‘real Cape Townian’


Inspiring OMTOM Stories: Alison Smith

Some people have mid-life crises but Alison Smith questioned her entire existence.

One morning 9 years ago Alison awoke with a start and queried her Cape Townianess. Despite living in the city all her life, she realised she had not participated in either of the Mother City’s major sporting events. There is a lot of debate about what constitutes a ‘real runner’ but for Alison is was blatantly obvious that all ‘real Cape Townians’ had to peddle the Cape Town Cycle Tour or run Two Oceans to authenticate themselves.

Since she did not own a bike, running was the obvious choice. Alison has been a competitive hockey player her entire life and figured running would not be a problem. She drove herself down to Sea Point promenade and set out to run as far as she could. Less than one kilometre later she called it a day and drove back home.

Undeterred Alison went online and entered the Two Oceans half marathon (this was in the days before you needed lightning-fast typing skills to get an entry), figuring she’d manage another 20km if she trained a bit.

Although the race’s motto is #RunAsOne, our prudent protagonist preferred to #TellNoOne – keeping her goal a complete secret from friends and family. The training went well and she was ready for the big day.

What does it feel like when you’re about to validate your Cape Town membership? “The night before the race I slept for a total of zero minutes! I was shaking as I got ready and was wondering what on earth I had been thinking. Could the human body actually run 21.1km? It seemed insane and completely unrealistic!”

Alison made it to the start and stared in wonder at the thousands of ‘real runners’ all around her, certain that she would be outed as an impostor. The gun fired, the kilometres flew by and she received her medal. However, the spirit of Two Oceans did not end at the finish line. “I remember being totally surprised that I had actually enjoyed it! I had never imagined that I would actually have fun; I was planning to tick this off my bucket list and then move on with life. By the time I got home I knew that this had been a life-changing event.”

As soon as she could walk properly again, Alison trotted off to her local running club (Pinelands AC) and signed up. She thought she was a big deal after her debut half marathon but soon caught imposter syndrome again, surrounded by runners who’d run hundreds of halves and others who casually talked about their marathon and ultra plans.

Alison relaxes with her sister at the Pinelands AC gazebo after one of her three half marathons. She subsequently upgraded to the ultra and will be running her sixth Two Oceans Marathon this year.

But the running bug spreads quickly and it wasn’t long before Alison found herself lining up for the Cape Town Marathon – and a short while after that for the ultra version of Two Oceans. Alison is all geared up for her 6th consecutive ultra this year and bemusedly admits she’s now one of those people who “lists ‘marathons’ as one of the things I do for fun.”

And as for someone who’d initially #TellNoOne, Alison now wants to #TellEveryOne, “It’s been life-changing and I’m so glad that it has been. The people that I’ve met along the way are the reason I’ve stuck to it and loved almost every moment. These people, these runs, these journeys have challenged me, changed me and made me a better me!”

Spreading the Two Oceans spirit – Alison enjoys running the Two Oceans Friday Fun Runs with her niece and nephew.

Alison’s Oceans Advice

2019 goal: Blue medal (6h30m).

Advice for other blue medal hopefuls: Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot – repeat until someone puts a medal around your neck!

Advice for novices: Don’t let it stress you out if you can’t sleep the night before the race, it’s totally normal!

Best part of the race: I enjoy the second half, the scenery is incredible and I enjoy the challenge of being really tired and pushing through anyway.

Worst part of the race: Standing on the start line, I do not enjoy being around so many people.

It’s all in the mind: I have weird dreams before Two Oceans. Like the year we ran the Ou Kaapse Weg route, I dreamt that at the top of Ou Kaapse Weg all my teeth fell out! I have no idea what that means, but luckily it didn’t actually happen!

Top tip: Put some lip ice in your pocket, it can help with many ailments!

Look out for more great Two Oceans Marathon human interest stories coming soon.

All photos supplied. Header photo: Alison enjoying the Big Bay parkrun.

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