Cautionary OMTOM Stories: BN4991
This story was confessed to me by a club mate who made a terrible mistake during her first Two Oceans Marathon in 2004. It still haunts her to this day and she doesn’t want other novices to repeat the same grave error of judgement.
She is still acutely embarrassed by her naïve blunder – so much so that she only agreed to share her story under condition of anonymity. Therefore, I have decided to respect her wishes and will refer to the protagonist of this story under the code name BN4991.
One of the great things about the running club structure in South Africa is the ability to lean on club mates for support and advice. BN4991 tapped into vast depths of knowledge and experience within the Fourways* Road Running community over her journey to the Two Oceans Marathon start line.
* Fourways Road Runners ran as Lonehill Road Runners until 2006 when they decided to rename themselves after the suburb in which they did most of their drinking.
In the build up to Two Oceans Ian Jones, a cantankerous English brew master whose physique challenged that of the stereotypical ultra marathon runner (matched with a personality like that of a pirate ship captain), decided that he would give back to third world children by pacing a bronze medal bus at the Two Oceans Marathon.
Ian spent a little bit of time on the road (and a substantial amount of time at the Fourways pub) recruiting subjects to join his pacing bus. By the time race day arrived he had eight eager passengers signed up. However, they were spread across various seeding batches and despite moving himself back a couple of seeding pens and pre-arranging pickup points, Ian’s minibus departed from Main Road Newlands with just one commuter – BN4991.
BN4991 admits she had a propensity to go out too fast and blow – and readily acknowledges 15-years later that Ian’s pacing was the key to her maiden Two Oceans Marathon success. She recalls, “Ian had been really supportive leading up to the race, encouraging me, offering advice, etc. On race day he had a better seeding than me but arranged to pull over on the road at the first watering station and wait for me.”
BN4991 elaborated that Ian did a brilliant job along the route, frequently reining in her rookie enthusiasm over the first half and ensuring she slowed down to a pace that would ensure she achieved her goal time of under 6-hours for a bronze medal.
Ian fondly recalls how he nurtured his protegee from being “completely petrified” at the start to slowly grow “stronger, both physically and mentally” as the day wore on.
Ian and BN4991 had 55 fantastic kilometres together, over 5-and-a-half hours of wonderful companionship and camaraderie, special moments that could never be recaptured – theirs was an epic journey of the kind that JRR Tolkien wrote books about.
But then BN4991 made the mistake that still haunts her to this day, “He (Ian) was a great pacer and with one kilometre to go, I summonsed all my reserves and sped off, leaving him for dust.”
The record shows that BN4991 finished the 2004 Two Oceans Marathon in a time of 05:46:04, exactly 24 seconds ahead of the man who had mentored her to a glorious bronze medal finish. Now Ian can be very forthright in his opinions and, other than queueing politely, there’s nothing the English like better than dishing out a good lesson in manners.
BN4991 enjoyed less than 30 seconds of finish line exhilaration before a strange and somewhat comical scene unfolded: our cantankerous Englishman caught up with her, caught his breath (on reflection BN4991 may well have had a couple of minutes of exhilaration) and delivered a “right talking to” on running etiquette – much to the amusement of fellow runners and officials within earshot.
Over the years BN4991 has replayed that last kilometre of Two Oceans 2004 over and over in her mind – and every time she’s reached the same conclusion, “We should have crossed the finish line together.”
You might be able to keep up with the Jones’, you might even be faster than a Jones in a sprint to the finish line – but if you’ve run 55km with a Jones then it’s just good, plain common decency to let the Jones keep up with you over that last kilometre!
Ian Jones earned Blue Number 3724 in 2009. He has subsequently returned to the United Kingdom for humanitarian reasons: worried that his countryfolk were getting deceived by American flavoured-water masquerading as beer whilst others were being slowly poisoned by cheap Australian imitations, he realised that his brewing superpowers were urgently needed back in the land of his birth. He is currently the operations director and head brewer at Charles Wells in Bedford, ensuring that discerning British drinkers are able to quench their thirst with a quality product.
BN4991’s OMTOM Advice (12 ultras)
2019 Goal: Bronze
Advice for other bronze medal hopefuls: Work out where you need to be at 10km, 28km, 42km and 50km and then either slow down or run a bit quicker so that you hit the markers at the desired time.
Advice for novices: Don’t put pressure on yourself – go out and enjoy the day. Don’t worry about time. It is a tricky race as it is so easy to be pulled along by the fabulous atmosphere at the start of the race. The sun is coming up, it’s flat, the ocean is there and you are fresh. You need to keep your reserves for the start of the race at 42kms.
Best part of the race: Coming off Chappies into Hout Bay. The anticipation of the hard work beginning is scary but you are on a high from the trot over Chappies.
Worst part of the race: Really? Who would not say Constantia Nek?
Special Oceans memory: I used to enjoy catching up to our club captain Gavin Veale on Constantia Nek, pinch his bum and run on with a big smile.
Ian Jones’ OMTOM Advice (10 ultras)
Two Oceans Marathon career summary: First two were just to finish, the next eight were all between 5 and 6 hours. I am happy to have finished my career with a PB that is two minutes faster that my wife, Jo’s best time.
Advice for other bronze medal hopefuls: Go out slower than you think possible. Time saved at the beginning is doubly lost at the end.
Advice for novices: Have fun. Keep an eye on the time but don’t be fixated on it. Enjoy the scenery and the crowd.
Pre-race routine: I’d have at least a couple of beers the night before the race to relax.
Best part of the race: Cannot beat Chapmans
Worst part of the race: It always seemed a long way from the bottom of Chapmans to the start of Constantia Nek. I always hated Constantia Nek until I understood you could walk it and not lose a lot of time.Follow Running Mann: