With our big race, The Otter African Trail Run, coming up in October, we thought it would be apt to throw in a little shakedown midway through our peak training period (if one can call it that!). The Rock is an annual highlight on the Namibian running calendar since 2008. This would be my third and Nico’s first, and only our second race together (ever!), so we had plenty looking forward to.
The Rock Spitzkoppe Community Run & Mountain Bike Challenge takes place in September every year at Spitzkoppe Community Rest Camp in central Namibia. We opted for the half-marathon which circumnavigates all of the Grosse Spitzkoppe and the Pontoks mountains.
My brother, our boys’ beloved uncle who would stay with them during the race, came camping with us the night before. With our tents pitched on the far western side of the Grosse Spitzkoppe, we could enjoy a splendid sunset beneath the indomitable INXS face basked in deep red-oranges.
On race day morning, Nico and I arrived just in time for the briefing. Camping is synonymous with a lack of sleep, so we laid in for half an hour too long and I missed out on my morning coffee. I chomped down a banana in the starting shoot before our 7 am race start.
In the days before the race, I prepped Hubby on the course details and the anticipated highs and lows. The first section of the race has never been a personal favourite of mine. Runners exit the Restcamp and follow a 5 km section on a wide, deeply corrugated and dusty district road. After that, they turn west onto a sandy jeep track hugging the Pontoks, just in time to appreciate the first gentle sun rays as it unfurls the iconic granite protrusions that is the Spitzkoppe. From there on the scenery and setting is pure magic!
As it befits a good wife I stuck to Hubby’s side for the first 5 k’s. Nico has not run many races, mainly because competing in crowds is not really his thing. But once he is in he is 100% game on. He runs to finish and get it done.
Because we set out towards the back of the pack we were soon passing a number of runners, which always makes me a heck of a nervous. After a flat warmup of about 1 km we embarked on a long lazy climb for the remainder of the first 5 km. Hubby, who usually gears back and speeds up for hills, didn’t seem to notice the climb. Full knowing that it was too fast for me, I just hung on for dear life. But I must admit, I was also curious to see what happens if I revved it up a little early. When I started to suck air I drew comfort from the thought of a walk break I promised myself at the 5 km aid table.
This year I purposefully adopted a different mindset regarding the corrugations, and with good results. The first section on the district road wasn’t as dreadful as I remembered and even though the course was pretty much corrugated throughout, it wasn’t such a mental struggle as in the past. Just like with other technical races, once you stop fighting the course and rather embrace it as a sort of a dance, one where you have to keep up with ever-changing steps, tunes, and rhythms, it becomes a fun challenge.
As expected, Hubby and his Bar One were disappearing in the distance as I pulled up the hand-break for a breather and sip of water at 5 km. In the end, I was grateful for the faster-than-comfortable start, because it set the pace for the remainder of my run. I even managed to run a few negative splits!
The joy of running through a remote, arid Namibian landscape, paired with views of the iconic Spitzkoppe range, the Matterhorn of Namibia, is something we never take for granted. We are super-grateful for organisers who are able to successfully pull off a yearly event of this caliber (did I mention that it is remote?!), that keeps luring runners, local and international, to come back and make a weekend of it.
Nico was waiting for me at the finish line looking all rested by the time I arrived. I was surprised and happy with beating my own Spitzkoppe PB by 9 minutes to finish in 02:05:13. I finished as 12th female overall, 6th Vet (the hard-earned status that is still not panning out the way I expected. Onward to Masters and Grandmasters!)
Thank you Spitzkoppe for having us, Namibia Adventure Organisers for hosting such a high-quality event and all the sponsors who made it possible.