Life is too short for one sport. How boring would it be if we only had one choice in life? Our lives have become so busy with day-to-day routines. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are all on the lookout for a great escape. If you are not already doing so, you should. My name is Willie Richards, and I like to escape.
Why? Because I choose to.
I had learned a lot from my previous #500kmplus adventures, so I decided to combine that knowledge into one epic trip. Before starting any sizeable adventure, you really do need a goal or a reason to take on the challenge successfully.
For some, it could be a medal at the end. For others, it may be an more emotional or other personal reason. I choose to make a difference to my world. It might sound like a cliché but if we all do something small, it will make a huge difference in the end.
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa
#WheresWillie was planned to be from Blouberg Namibia to Blouberg Cape Town. You’re probably asking: “Is there a Blouberg in Namibia?” Yes, there is, and it is situated 14km from the Buitepos border post with Botswana.
Since my work schedule is crazy with working offshore on a field support vessel as a 3.4u Inspection Engineer, training is not easy. Being a freelancer, if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. So, to fit in a 19-day adventure is not easy.
Let’s go duathlon
Initially the trip was planned to be held over 1,740km. I gave myself 22 days to do this. I decided to make use of a duathlon format to cover the distance quicker. If I had chosen to run that distance, I’d probably still be running! By adding the cycling leg each day, I would cover the distance quicker. It would also take the constant beating off my body. (Ironically, in the end I would prefer rather to run, as on the bike, my bum would begin to blister and chafe raw from day three onwards). There was not enough baby bum cream available in sub-Saharan Africa to soothe my torn-up bottom end.
“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” Mother Teresa
Each day I would start with a half marathon, some days I would even add a couple of extra kilometres if the terrain was not favourable to cycle at the time of transition. Not favourable meant thick sand and corrugation which there was loads of. The trip was planned to make use mainly of dirt roads. Dirt roads have less traffic and you tend to see more of nature. The route ended up being 92% on dirt roads from Namibia back to Cape Town. Tar roads were only used if there was no other option available.
Once I transitioned from the run, the bike leg would cover the bulk of my mileage each day. Distances on the bike varied from 60km to 70km a day. To finish off the duathlon every day, I would run another 5km to 10km to round off the day at 100km. There was the occasional day that we would cross the 100km mark if conditions were favourable. That did not happen often. My hardest days were the days where I battled a constant headwind. It was the time of year that the wind was constantly blowing from the south. That wind really made for energy-sapping conditions!
I stuck to my duathlon a day format and on day 10 I reached the 1,000km mark just past Karasburg in Namibia. This was a big highlight for me, as I had never done anything more than 500km on my previous trips. I was moving into a new distance category for myself. I always tend to set myself little rewards or milestones. I never look at the overall mileage. After the 1,000km mark it was hard to get to my next milestone. The next big achievement for me would be the 1,600km mark as this would mean I had achieved 1,000 miles. This would also mean that I had completed 16 ultra-distance duathlons in 16 days.
I reached this distance just before Citrusdal in the Western Cape. I remember this day clearly as it was a super-hot day and the cycle leg was kicked off with a steep climb up Pakhuis Pass. From Clanwilliam to Citrusdal the road was in a terrible state again and made for very hard cycling on my bruised backside.
Nearing Cape Town, I had to start planning on when I would be arriving in Big Bay in Bloubergstrand. I had a commitment with African Tails to run through Mamre with the grade 6 and 7 students from the Mamre Primary School.
Tapering: a new interpretation!
Alfred and Deon, who were doing my support and backup during the entire trip, assisted me and we reduced the distance nicely towards the end, while sticking to the duathlon format. One thing I did though was stick to the half marathon run each morning before transitioning onto the bike.
Day 19 was my final day. I ran through Mamre with the local primary school kids and finished my 19th half marathon in 19 days, then transitioned on the bike for a last bit of tar towards Melkbosstrand. I was joined halfway by my friends Ian Janisch and Rob Labuschagne. Home was close now, only 7km away. I had to pump the brakes a bit after arriving in Melkbostrand, as my arrival had to be at Westcoast Athletic Club in Big Bay, our running club, between 5pm and 6pm.
This felt like one of the longest waits of my life. I was yearning to see my wife and son. I really miss them as I am mostly away working and these little adventures also add to more time away from home. They were only 7 km away and it made me crazy to know I could blitz the run and see them, but the arrival had to coincide with my running club’s finish ceremony.
Eventually the time was right, and I could do the last bit of the beach run home. It’s a familiar section I always train on when at home. My son Liam (12 years old) ran the last section with me into the arms of my loving wife Talita and friends. It was a hell of a welcome by Westcoast Athletic Club and African Tails. I still can’t believe that I pulled it off: 19 duathlons in 19 days, and an overall distance of 1,845km.
Facebook 500kmplus for images and stories of Willie’s previous mad hatter trips.
These charities assist African Tails with their ongoing work:
Rescue Rehab SA Rescue Rehab SA Facebook
Westcoast Athletic Club where Willie is a member
Before his trip from Happy Tails Magazine
IOL news story as Willie passed through Mamre
Willie’s previous trips by Intrepid Explorer magazine.