Running the Surfers’ Challenge – and Runner’s Hyponatraemia

East London has an annual run which locals affectionately call “our Comrades” – a wildly popular all-terrain challenge now in its 41st year. 17,5 kilometers of sea sand, shale, rock and ocean, I ran it for the first time eleven years ago, and then every year during high school. I missed out during my university years, but this year I was back!

Pre-race jitters with my aunt!

I expected to do very well because I’ve been training (in high school I never trained) so I thought it would go, well, swimmingly… which was not quite the case. I think I had forgotten just how rough some of the terrain is (I really need to learn how to run on sand).

Then there was the infamous bottle neck, and excuse my lack of empathy but WHY DO PEOPLE START AT THE FRONT IF THEY ARE NOT PLANNING ON RUNNING? Impatience was my downfall because I decided to jump onto the rocks and fell HARD on one of the big rocks. But you know… Survived it (karate taught me to fall safely).

The wind was quite unkind… 30-60km/h from the West… and we were running TOWARDS the West. At times my only salvation was running behind the big guys as shelter from the wind!

I finished before the 03:30:00 cut-off – 02:34:55, 961st out of a field of 1955 runners, and the 206th female. So that’s probably the best time I’ve ever had in this particular race, but a pretty dismal time compared to my other races. But  you can’t compare apples and pears.

(I also ran the Tomato Trot last weekend and finished in 01:33:26, which is a pretty alright time for a 15km if you ask me. I also got a packet of tomatoes as prize for finishing. Heh.)

A different kind of excitement began when I got home. What started off as some mild stomach cramps while showering, ended up in me lying passed out on the cold bathroom floor a few minutes later. I went from a massive runner’s high to being white as a sheet with (TMI-alert) diarrhoea and vomiting and a good deal of disorientation. I can honestly say that the last time I felt that crap was when I got the Paeds Sick in fourth year.

Initially I blamed the kiddies that handed out water at the rest stops along the way – “One of them must have had a tummy bug!” – because I knew I was not dehydrated. I had hydrated very, very well. And I mean, I may not be a pro but I’m not a noob, either!

For a good hour I had my parents clucking over me. When I had Mom mix some electrolytes for me I felt better in a matter of minutes.

So I’m pretty sure I can let the kids with their grubby hands off the hook and proclaim that it was neither tummy bug, dehydration nor fatigue, but probably a dilutional hyponatraemia because nope – I didn’t drink electrolytes along the way, only water. Maybe I am a bit of a noob after all.

Let nobody ever tell you that you don’t learn new things when running. Here’s a good article about Runner’s Hypnatraemia from the New England Journal of Medicine – just click!

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9 thoughts on “Running the Surfers’ Challenge – and Runner’s Hyponatraemia

  1. I suppose that’s a benefit of being small – you can more easily exploit the slipstreams of runners ahead of you 😉

    I’ll remember that electrolyte thing, as I’m thinking of taking up running myself these days.

  2. That sounds like an awesome race! Hearing about this makes me want to run something like it (even if, let’s be honest, I probably won’t be able to run half the time).
    If runner’s hyponatremia is anything like the Paeds Sick, I never, ever want to experience it. Ugh.

    1. Eh, thanks! *blushes*
      There are always tonnes of races around Cape Town, but I don’t know of any specific ones right now. You should definitely do one or more ParkRuns, methinks! You can also go to and check on their calendar for anything good. I’ll let you know if I hear of a cool one!

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