I started running in Mexico City four months after giving birth to my younger son, who is now nearly five years old. Friends I'd met at a university Spanish class raved about the infectious running culture in the sprawling city and because I'd been looking to lose the excess baby weight, I signed up for my first 5km race (without training).
I thought it would probably be enough to turn me off the sport forever, but it instead left me wanting more. Six months later I did my first 21 km race, Maraton Ciudad de Mexico, and this past weekend my 12th, the Knysna half marathon with several 5 kms, 10 kms and even a full marathon in between.
Knysna is one of my favourites on the Athletics South Africa race calendar, but always seems to creep up on me in the middle of winter. It's the third year I've made the trip to the Garden Route town for the race and and I am happy to report the journey's gotten shorter every year. Three years ago with a then five and three year old in tow, the journey was seven hours each way. This year it was condensed to five and half hours, with just one pit stop each way. Imagine that!
The race itself was not one of my best, but the camaraderie of organising it with several running club members, taking the minibus taxi up to start in the middle of Knysna forest, treading carefully on parts of the muddy trail and then treating yourself to oysters and bubbly after, makes it all worthwhile. The race is in the middle of the South African school holidays and many people take advantage of the trip to enjoy the Oyster Festival, which runs over two weekends and many other parallel leisure events around that time.
We were very organised this year. My running buddy, Penny, made a group booking for us at Abalone Lodges, which was in walking distance to where we needed to be to take the minibus taxis up to the start. It's a great option for families and single people alike. We've traveled loads with the boys and prefer a little more space to hang out after the boys have gone to bed.
Apart from the odd weekend, they are very diligent about going to bed by 8 pm. Even when we try to push them a little, they almost demand to go sleep by that time. Oh well, there are worse battles to face in life.
Because running has become such a huge part of my life, I wanted to include it in the trip by aiming to finish a bucket list race along the way. On the 20th of May next year, I will set out to complete the Great Wall Marathon on the China leg of our trip.
We haven't planned to spend time along the Garden Route on our trip. It's a region we already know well and will always be somewhere we go back to. The weekend away did however feel like the unofficial start of our BRICS trip.