I am at the head of the pack, with three other blokes. We have been running for over an hour now. I feel a warm glow of achievement – I am keeping pace with real trail runners! They are chatting animatedly. One of them turns to me, “So do you run often?”
“No...” I gasp.
I think I am about to die. “And is this your first time with CRAG? How did you hear about it?” Crag – Cape Runners Against Gravity – is a trail running group that meets each Wednesday at different parts of the mountain for a 90 minute run.
We are nearing the end now – we can see the car park. My three companions reveal their extra gear and storm ahead. I slow to a stagger.
10 minutes later the entire group has re-gathered and – you have to love this about South Africans – chilled beer is produced from the cars. Conversation turns to other outdoor Cape Town activities. This weekend is the big bike race, the Argus, a 110km circuit around the Cape peninsula – including all its hills and famous Chapman’s Peak. “Are you doing it Ed?” asks someone.
“Oh no – I have only been here 3 weeks so it is too late.”
“It’s not!” a friend from work, also testing CRAG, interjects. “I phoned and international people can sign up right until the day before.”
“Yes – do you want to do it? I will if you will.”
“Nah – I haven’t trained and I have no bike.”
“My housemate has a bike you can use. And I haven’t trained either. Go on.”
“I did it last year with only 10 days training,” says one of the other runners. She looks reassuringly normal. But you cannot tell with these South Africans. “You should do it.”
I open my mouth to refuse because surely to refuse is the sensible thing to do. But then a scene from “Yes Man”, discovered whilst channel hopping late at night last week, comes to mind. The protagonists life is made infinitely more varied by saying “Yes” to every and any opportunity. “What would Jim Carrey do?” I wonder.
“OK” I say. “Why not.”
And so here I am, Saturday night. I have a bike (mountain – infinitely unsuited to a long distance road circuit), padded shorts (in which I look a tit), a variety of energy drinks. None of which can make up for the fact that the longest cycle I have done in the last 6 months was 2 miles. Up the hill to work.
My target? To stay out of hospital. And not to face the ignominy of being put on the truck back to Cape Town when they clear roads of stragglers prior to reopening to traffic at 1730.
7 hours or less. Wish me luck.