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My First Ultra Trail Marathon


M Du Plessis

(LPPH Registered Nurse)


On the 19th of October 2022 I participated in an international Ultra Trail Marathon in Cappadocia, Turkey, a UNESCO world heritage site. The terrain comprised mostly of trails, jeep track and old cobblestone roads passing through the villages. We covered 119.8 km and climbed about 3800m.

I went into the race not really knowing what to expect – of both the race and my body.
Initially, I had a race goal of 18 hours, but also would have been just as happy to finish under 24 hours. The extra 19 km after completing a 100 km, kind of scared me, and I had no idea how my body and mind would handle it. Of course, deep down my super competitive side was hoping for better – like a top 10 finish. A girl can dream, right?

When we started, I felt great. I was feeding off everyone’s excitement and adrenaline. I know I started a lot faster than the recommended conservative start, but decided that “If it feels good at the moment, then why not?” I was stoked that I could start with my family, who were doing the 63 km distance.

Unfortunately, we started way at the back (no ITRA points) and got held up in bottle necks for quite a while, but once we got out of the “traffic” it became a proper jol! The trails are super flowy (and slippery) and so much fun to run.

The vibe was amazing, the scenery was out of this world, and the weather was perfect, so I was having the time of my life!

At 30 km I met Yekta. He told me, “You’re running a good pace. If you continue like this, you could win a medal!” I laughed, and told him, “I doubt I can keep this pace up, but let’s try!”

I then decided to change my goal to just try and keep up with Yekta. It was great! I really felt lucky to find someone who had done the race before, and it took a massive load of navigation stress (which I’m obviously amazing at) off my shoulders. It was also nice to know that I would have some company for the night section.

We continued at a good pace as the vibe became a tad more serious, but I still managed to enjoy the views. At checkpoint 7 they told me that I was 4th, but that the lady in 3rd was quite far ahead. I thought, “Well, that’s okay, 4th is way more than I ever anticipated” and carried on, but Yekta was on a mission to get me that medal…

We picked up the pace a bit and really missioned up the 1st of the 3 mountains of the 2nd loop. I still felt strong, and I think the idea of possibly getting podium on an international race completely refilled my adrenaline and psyche stores. I was amped!

On the downhill we passed another lady. The lady in 3rd. When we passed her, Yekta said, “Okay, now you have to be smart.” and I thought, “This is a lot of pressure! There’s more than 30 km to go, but not a whole lot of brain left. Even so, I am definitely going to give it my best!”

We stopped at the checkpoint (I think 8) and we had some delicious soup, emptied a dune of sand out of our shoes, and pushed on. Yekta said, “Let’s find the 2nd lady.” and I thought, “This guy is very ambitious if he thinks this amateur Namibian runner is going to place 2nd, but let’s humour him.”

We really pushed up the climbs and the downhills were also superfast. Before the last checkpoint we made a mutual decision that we wouldn’t stop at the last Check Point but push through to try and catch the 2nd lady instead. The 3rd big downhill was way more technical than I ever imagined. I was convinced we were lost but luckily my watch and Yekta gave me the reassurance that we weren’t. I was concentrating very hard not to fall off the mountain, but ultimately, we really made good time down the technical bit.

We passed through the last checkpoint, each having a sip of red bull before carrying on. We got to another climb (I thought we were done with them) and about halfway up we met the lady in 2nd. I was completely surprised, since I had no idea that we were even close to catching her!

We then had another super technical down. Yekta went on ahead to try and catch a few more guys, but I was very happy just trying to finish strong and maintain my 2nd place.

The last 8 kms were tough. I was terrified of losing my position, but my legs were also tired and refusing to do any more climbing. I pushed on, met another Turkish guy, and just tried to stick with him till the end.

Coming down the finish chute, running over old cobblestones and people cheering and applauding was a moment that I will never forget. Seeing the familiar faces of my family and our hotel host, some South Africans, the finish line and just the overall vibe at the finish line, was incredible.

I then learnt that I finished only 5mins behind the 1st lady!

I had completely surprised myself. My body and mind were way stronger than I thought, and this race taught me that I can dig so much deeper than I ever thought I could.

Knowing that all my friends and family were following me and cheering for me from all over the world kept that smile on my face, and meeting Yekta was a total game changer.

I managed to finish in 16h28, 5mins after the 1st lady. 2nd overall female, and 30th overall.

Stoked is an understatement!

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