Saturday, 23 January 2016

Bert's Bricks Great Brick Run 21km

When I have to wake up early for road races - well, anything really - I tell myself, "You'll have so much fun when you're there".

And so it was this morning when my alarm went off at 04h50. "You'll love it," I told myself as I started pulling on my running kit.

This morning was the Great Brick Run hosted by the Bert's Bricks Athletics Club in Potchefstroom. Potch is just under 50km from Parys on a lovely road that initially crosses the Vaal River into North West Province and meanders through some hills and valleys of the Vredefort Dome and then onto an open landscape where the road is bounded on either side by farm lands.

About 30km from Potch a light rain fell and continued until I reached the beginning of town. This cool and overcast morning made for perfect running conditions.

I registered (only R80 for the 21km - cheaper than JHB) and found myself in a crowd of a few hundred runners. Maybe 500? The 21km walkers had set off before our 06h30 start and in our group were the 10km and 21km runners. There was also a 5km fun run scheduled for a 07h00 start.

The first 2.5km of the route took us past the back of my old high school (standards 6 & 7) at Potch Girls and then out the back of town.

This is an out-and-back route (for all courses) and the turn-around for the 21km is at the Bert's Bricks factory. It's a tar road all the way with small holdings and farmed land on either side. It is also flat all the way, which was a treat for me because I haven't done a lot of running - flat was good.

The quirky element to this run is that at the turn-around you have the option of picking up a brick. If you carry it all the way back to the finish, you get a six-pack of beer. Even though I don't drink beer, I was totally in for this. On the race information it did say that only the first 100 people carrying their bricks to the end would get the beer. Brick carriers are in the minority so there was certainly enough for all making it back with their bricks.

I set a very comfortable and easy-breathing pace to the Bert's Bricks factory. Looking at my splits they were beautifully in the 5:45/km pace range. We has friendly and well-supplied water points every 2,5km, plus one as we entered and exited the factory.

I'd brought along a pillowcase to put the brick into, which I just carried in my hand to the turn-around. I wasn't sure what the brick would be like and it was a regular, solid clay brick. No holes in it. I popped it into my pillowcase and headed off.

First I tried tucking it under my arm - it really didn't sit right. After a kilometre I saw a guy ahead of me running with his in a bag too, and just holding the bag in his hand with the brick below. I gave that a try and it definitely proved to be a good option. I'd swap hands every hundred metres or so. Holding it with both hands at belly height also worked for a bit of a break and later I'd hold it on my shoulder, tucking it into my neck/face to stabilise it.

The brick definitely got heavier! Nonetheless, I held onto a comfortable 6:30 pace to the finish and felt way better than I'd expected, especially as I haven't run a half marathon for ages. The cool temperature and flat terrain definitely helped.

At the finish I got this sweet medal and my six-pack of beer.

Even though I dread early mornings, it is always worth getting up to run. Every time.

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