The Ultimate Human Race…

A Comrades Poem

Twas the night before Comrades, when all along the coast

Not a runner was stirring, not even to boast;

The race numbers were hung on club shirts with great care,

In hopes that come morning, you are prepared;

 

The novices were nestled all snug in their beds;

While visions of Bill Rowan medals danced in their heads;

Repeat offenders, with race plans in their lap,

Knew sleep was elusive but praying for the odd nap.

 

When out at a B&B arose such a clatter,

Barely past midnight there’s Lani trying to sort out an injury matter.

Stretching and pulling and downward dogging away,

Begging her feet to not ruin the day.

 

The moon on the breast of fierce determination,

Thoughts of strong running and perhaps some precipitation,

When what to her horror did then appear,

Lack of breathing born out of fear,

Falling to her knees lively and quick,

She knew where to draw strength, she knew the trick.

 

She prayed, and she cried, and she called on his name:

“Please my Lord, here I am and humbly I pray!

Hold me and guide me and carry me all the way!

To the top of Inchanga! To the Comrades honour wall!

May a bail bus not entice me or catch me at all!

To Arthur’s seat so I may doff my hat and lay down a flower

To charging into the stadium displaying the works of your mighty power.

And then she knew she would finish come what may,

As the peace descended there was only one thing left to say;

 “Happy Comrades to all, and to all a good day!”

 

Comrades nightmares had the bogeyman sulking as his ratings dropped in May.  Night sweats induced by chasing cut offs and night screams echoing off 1000 hills.  Novices ignorantly fearing fitness levels and fatigue, not a clue about the pain we were about to be schooled in.

I had no such nightmare, however.  Grinning like a lunatic every time the C word was breathed out loud, I was just excited and had been ever since I had entered.  I was convinced that I would absolutely love it, that I would train hard and therefore have a wonderful race.  I did train hard(see training blog) and I enjoyed all my races leading up to the big C; even though I didn’t do as well as I would’ve liked to; however, I can now say that Comrades lived up to its slogan, It will humble you.

 

It was only the week before Comrades that fear finally settled in.

My Top Fears:

Injury

One thought that plagued my mind was that Lindsey parry said that most people that start the ‘down run’ Comrades with an injury would not finish.  I bought my new shoes just before my ultra marathon, Loskop, but I hadn’t realised that I had accidentally purchased the incorrect model, Cumulus instead of Nimbus.  I hoped it would not matter but the pain in my feet by the end of my race told a different story.  The pain was quite intense but I did not want to give it any credence, I just massaged my feet and kept training in those shoes.  I thought my feet and legs would adjust.  A week before Comrades though I was still having trouble and decided to run Comrades in my old shoes.

The Distance

Then there was the fear that I had not trained enough, tapered too soon or that I did not have the mental and physical strength to complete the distance.  A year of absolute faith in myself had disappeared.  I had to turn to family, friends and fellow runners to be my confidence.

Old Haunts

My friend got hit by a car on the 12 October 2014.  We were running early morning and a car oversteered and hit my friend.  He sustained injuries to his left arm including a shattered elbow and was in ICU for several days.  He recovered and still managed to run a 09:58:50 Comrades 2015.  I walked away from the accident physically unscathed but a day later I suffered a panic attack.  This was the start of months of terrifying panic attacks.  I am a happy-go- lucky-nothing-gets-me down type of person and I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me.  Suddenly a fearless lady was irrationally scared.  It took faith, love and one day at a time to slowly recover from my Post Traumatic Stress.  Remnants of its nasty breath however still whisper in my ear and breezes on the nape of my neck when I’m in a stressful situation.

 

What I didn’t realise as a Novice

It hurts, It hurts a lot. 

You are told it would but you just cannot comprehend what they mean.    Yes, I had feet issues but besides that.  Your body hurts.  I did cross training and running and really thought I would only have some slight discomfort.  Arrogantly, Ignorantly Novice…

 

It is Lonely

You are surrounded by the most amazing people.  Enthusiastic runners, buoyant and magnificent supporters.  The cheering, the call of your name yet they cannot stop the pain in your legs.  They cannot do the distance for you.  You need to pull it out and do it.

 

Where I am

I kept asking people where we were.  I wanted to know when I was running on a famous hill or a prominent landmark in the race.  I discovered that most people didn’t actually know where we were either.

 

You can do more than you think.

The shear distance seemed impossible until I did it.  (I can’t help grinning as I say that. I did it). YOU CAN DO IT!

 

The Actual Race

A wide-eyed grinning novice, I found my seeding pen F and I looked around in disbelief.  I was really here.  I strolled around, blanket wrapped around my legs just giggling.  Probably hysterics but hey.  Eventually, my pen started filling up and I was surrounded by nervous excited energy.  There were tons of 0’s on the race bibs around me and I felt rallied #teamnovice!  Being a shorty I could not see much once we were penned in but I could see the clock on City hall, lights playing off of the building.  What an amazing ambience.  Then the national anthem started, tears flowed down my face as I sang with a full proud heart.  I say ‘Nkosi ‘as loud as I sang ‘Uit die Blou’ and so did the African girl next to me.  We locked eyes on “UNITED WE SHALL STAND” and grinned.  Thereafter we sang and danced on Shosholoza, the energy of the 16000 runners moving like a Mexican wave from pen to pen and back.When Chariots of Fire started my roller-coaster of emotions took me back to teary status.  I couldn’t wait for the legendary Cockcrow that announced the start gun was about to go.  “BOOOOOM” and we were off,oh no we weren’t.  We shuffled like awkward penguins making our way to the start line.  Seven minutes later I crossed the mat and I officially started running the Comrades.

cockcrow

photo credit: Comrades website

The body takes over and does what it does.  I was running and in my happy place.  As I said the body takes over and does what it does so I found myself making a porta potty stop within a few kilometres.  Stressing out my avid supporters as my little dot on the tracker stagnated.  My friend Cherie found me there and we happily embarked on the first 10km’s or so together.  So I ran on and slowly met up with other club members, said hello, did a few km’s with them and then moved on.  I was not sure when to walk and when to keep running so I followed my fellow runners and soon I was through the first checkpoint.  The niggles in my feet started soon after and by halfway, I was in a lot of pain.  I loved reaching every new milestone was thrilled to find myself on iconic hills, places I had heard of so often since childhood.  My fuelling was perfect and I never ran out of energy but by 30kms to go I was in agony.  I starting praying for courage and strength.  Help came in the form of angel in green, a fellow runner from my hometown wearing green cross earrings, and I remember thinking as I saw them, oh it will be ok, God has sent me a friend.

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Photo credit: Ben Burger

Although I still had to do the hard work to get to the end, she was at my side all the way, gently guiding me.  Our last three km’s we were running zoned out, a cool breeze blowing and people cheering us on.  My mantra, keep moving and the road will end, keep moving and the road will end.  When we turned the corner and I saw the stadium, I already started crying, as I cried I laughed running in,I also realised that I hadn’t looked at my watch at all and had no idea what my time was.  I had wanted to do a sub 11.  The fact that I was now running into the stadium despite my agony with the applause and the cheers, I didn’t mind if the time was 11.59 as long as I made it to the finish and completed this journey.  I could not even imagine the feeling of entering the stadium.  It was beyond amazing and I was once again grinning like an idiot.  I was grinning and laughing and crying and eventually I saw the clock at 11.03 and I was over the finish line.  I had finished.  I had  completed the Comrades marathon and on that road, I left behind my self-doubt, fear and the last of the hold that my post-traumatic stress had over me.  I then knew, I am strong and I need not fear anything because “ I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me”

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On a side note, we stayed in a wonderful B&B in Howick.  The Mulberry Hill Guest House.

Click for the website as I definitely recommend it…

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