When Trav asked me to write a story of my Comrades experience, my initial thought….Awesome, but in fact sitting at my computer now about to start this story I am thinking sh%# ! I am actually not much of a writer/story teller so this is going to be a long shot, Almost like trying to plan the perfect Ironman Marathon.
So after an intense busy start to the year I sat down with my Coach,Trav Johnston, and decided that now that I have my PE 70.3 World slot and wasn’t taking my Kona slot this year due to work restraints, I decided I need a break from the repetitive "life of Tri", realizing that I needed a change not only for the body but more importantly the mind. I decided to run Comrades, not as a novice as I have run before but that being a few years ago.WOW. I actually forgot just how far it actually is.
So my TP program was adjusted to focus more on the running side of things as I need to obviously run more! And as we all know winter is “base” training for most of us and Trav decided to begin a MAY MADNESS challenge, this asks you to cycle every day for the month of May comprising (1hour Monday-Friday/3hours Saturday/1.5hours Sunday) so being the OCD/FOMO triathlete I am, I decided that I was not going to miss out on this challenge either….so there went my relaxed one session a day run plan.
The Big Day of Comrades Marathon - The Ultimate Human Challenge was fast approaching, just typing that out gives me goosebumps and a ultimate challenge it really is.
So as planned I completed my training to the best of my ability with “MM” plus work pressures thrown into the mix as all triathletes well know. And all was on track until Monday of race week. I woke up not feeling great and decided to head the pharmacy, not wanting to attempt any antibiotics at this late stage, I stocked up with so much Vitamin C, I was convinced I would turn orange by Sunday. I had to manage the situation and just get through the week and get to the start line.
Every run is a new adventure, and every race exists only to expose some piece of us. The greater the race distance, the greater the satisfaction. This makes our Comrades Marathon one of the best challenges you can face in life. The distance alone makes Comrades intimidating. The infamous climbs make it torturous. At midway, the course snakes upward through the valley of a thousand Hills. This is the heart of KwaZulu-Natal province.
FINALLY race morning had arrived looking around at grown men of all different cultures and backgrounds standing arm in arm tearfully singing the national anthem and not forgetting the spontaneous rendition of "Shosholoza." This is something every fit/healthy and God willing South African should experience! A few short seconds later the famous cock's crow load a BANG!! And we were off on our way to PMB 87km away, I started cautiously through the cool, dark streets of Durban, concerned about tripping over other runners or their discarded clothing. The first 20ks pass easily, almost eerily. It's quiet in the throng of runners. Maybe no one's awake yet. Or everyone's simply harboring their energies for the long day ahead. I recall seeing the occasional Zulu woman and small child scrambling on the sidewalk, collecting shirts and jersey’s tossed off by warming runners. Finding a fantastic rhythm until Inchanga, and that were the wheels began to fall off, I said to my running partner Gav, I am not feeling so great and being sick I was mindful and careful of HR and at this stage I was on track for our way over ambitious “Silver” and running and a gentle 5:11 pace was now becoming a massive effort and so I decided to relax and let the silver go as my HR was at 244BPM. Not long after this I saw the small figure of Claire Horner, I remember saying to myself just “SMILE and WAVE” like a duck on water calm on top but fluttering below the surface.
I now had a new goal…..finish! At this late stage realizing that I had not nearly done enough time or distance needed to run a sub 7:30! But sure try tell a triathlete you can’t do it, we will certainly give it a shot. Thinking back I was pretty hard on myself and most probably should not have even run so the decision to cruise to the finish was easy. Running/walking steady and easy until “Little Polly’s“ I still had a chance to run a sub 8 but the effort up “Polly’s Shorts” took every ounce of my strength and the last 6ks was a walk/stumble as I just wanted now at this stage to sit down and was graving choc milkshake treat and to see the happy faces of my family.
So coming into the stadium slowly moving around the last corner looking up at the clock seeing 8:08 I was extremely happy with that time. Once again this incredible race has HUMBLED me and made me even more eager to go back it do it over again, you know I say to people when asked why do you run that far? my reply is the mostly always “Once you have finished the Comrades no matter how big life’s or work challenges are after that they seem small and anything is possible, set your mind and your body will follow”
One stand out moment I will never forget - I passed someone, standing at the side of the road, holding a sign, It didn’t contain any words. Just a big question mark "?" The same thought has occurred to me, why do we run / swim / bike, and after a few days I can give you my answer, it’s because this is what makes me alive and specifically a crazy triathlete/runner and to one day stand around a braai as an old man sipping on Red wine chatting to your mates and be privileged enough to say 2017 Comrades might not have been my fastest run but I finished and so proud that I did. And the rewards are my memories for life and that I will never forget. I’ve got what only few can proudly say they have and that’s a Comrades Up medal.
See you all at IRONMAN soon!