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David is a friend based in Melbourne, Australia, and 2010 was David's 1st trip to Comrades.
Besides what David has said in his story, in the build up to Comrades 2010, along with Roland Williams, David free gave time to help bring the Melbourne Based runners together for training, dinners and farewell BBQ's etc.
The taper from months of such high and consistent mileage down to almost nothing is quite excruciating. The days are long, and so are the nights. You spend less time running, less time asleep (because you are less fatigued) and you have to watch what you eat – it’s terrible. I hate tapering …..
Twenty-two hours after leaving my home in Melbourne, I landed in Durban. I walked into the foyer of The Hilton hotel and almost immediately recognized a man I knew, but had never met.
Twelve months ago, I read an article written by an Indian guy who had, after a lifetime of relative inactivity, decided that he was going to have a go at the Comrades Marathon. Amit Sheth had only been running a couple of years but had made huge progress in his short running career. He was not fast, but he possessed the two things you need to do this sort of thing: endurance and belief.
Last year, Amit made it within 500 metres of the final cut-off in last year’s Comrades, but the clock beat him at just over 82 km and he was not allowed to continue. His account of that disappointment was so powerful, that it convinced me that I needed to attempt this race. Over the past twelve months Amit and I have corresponded regularly and encouraged each other over the internet, and we spoke briefly on the phone one time. I had seen photos of Amit before so when I saw him I knew it was him. It was great to finally meet each other in the flesh but unfortunately he and his wife had just been robbed of their passports and a load of cash (right there in the foyer!). He was typically upbeat about the whole incident and we chatted for awhile before I went up to my room.
The next night, Amit gave me an Indian silver coin: it was a good luck charm. I would carry the charm with me from start to finish in my waist pack on Sunday. I am annoyed that I did not get around to buying him an Australian memento as I had planned.
After unpacking I walked across the road to the Comrades Runner’s Expo, and right there and then I knew this race was different. I also knew that no matter what happened on Sunday, I would come back one day. Now, I have attended my fair share of aviation expos around the world with work but I am not exaggerating when I say that this Runner’s Expo rivaled some of the best. Only in Dubai have I seen one bigger expo than this. Right from the start, you are immersed in this great event and everyone is so damn friendly. Further, being an international athlete, you get treated with incredible respect.
I spent the next few days resting and doing the Comrades thing; the bus tour, attending the pasta party, more time at the expo and catching up with my uncle, who has lived in South Africa most of his life. It was all pretty low key. Sleeping pills ensured I got adequate sleep on the three nights leading up to race day.
The Bus Tour:
As an international, you get to go on a bus tour of the route on the Friday, which is essential for a novice. It really opens your eyes and prepares you (or destroys you, depending on how much preparation you have done) for Sunday. As disheartening as the bus tour was (the terrain is gob-smacking), I am so glad I saw it before the race. I think that if my first look at some of the hills (they shouldn’t be allowed to just call them hills, they are more mini-mountains) had been left until race day, my spirit and confidence would have taken such a hammering, that I may well not have made it. At least now I knew what I was up against and it put me in the right frame of mind (shitting myself) for Sunday.
On the way back from Pietermaritzburg on the bus, you stop at a couple of key places. The first is the Ethembeni School for underprivileged and disabled children. What a heart-breaking place. As if being a black kid growing up in South Africa doesn’t stack the odds against you enough, being physically and or mentally disabled certainly seals your fate to some extent. Several of these kids are there just because they are albino kids. Have you ever seen an African albino kid? As you can imagine, many of these kids are cast out of their communities for the rest of their lives. Others had serious physical disabilities and some were more obviously mentally damaged. Anyway, the five bus loads of people get off at the school and the kids went nuts. They dance, sing and scream at us and we fill two cardboard boxes full of clothes, toys and money. My eldest daughter, Charlotte, donated one of her less-worn t-shirts and 6 of her teddies and we also put some cash into the kitty. By the time we left there was over 12,000 US Dollars in the cardboard boxes. We all left wondering how we got so lucky in life. The town surrounding the school is poor, and there are lots of kids waving at us on the bus as we depart and I am sure everyone thinks we are one of the soccer teams here for the World Cup. I also know that they will be back on the road supporting us on Sunday.
The second stop on the bus back to Durban stops at the Wall of Honour. This is where thousands of bricks laid into the side of the hill, have previous Comrades runner’s details inscribed in them. I spent some time looking over the plaques and soaking up the surrounding terrain and absorbed some of South Africa’s beauty; there would be no time to take it in on Sunday.
The Day Before:
Low key. I walked down to the stadium the day before the race and everything was pretty much set up for the race finish tomorrow. I walked the last 300 metres of the race on the soft grass around the stadium and looked down the finish chute to the finish line. Shivers ran up and down my back and I had chills as I thought about whether I would make it to the finish line tomorrow afternoon. I had dreamed of running down this finish chute every day of my life for the past twelve months, and now I was here, 24 hours away; holy shit.
After a hot shower I got dressed and met Matt and his wife, Lou, down in the lobby and we hopped one of the many buses taking us up to the start. The mood on the bus was one of calm but there was underlying excitement. At one point, a group of people on the bus started singing but I just listened to my iPod and tried to focus on my day ahead; Relax and Focus. Be confident – you have done the work.
Around 18,000 people were all crammed into the start area trying to stay warm and keep the nerves in check.
At 0520, I knew a couple of things were about to happen. I knew that the crowd was about to sing the unofficial South African sporting anthem, Shosholoza. It is a song that is inspiring, emotional and heartfelt. Its lyrics are quite simple but loosely translate to; the train is gathering speed and steaming towards South Africa. And when almost 18,000 mainly black Africans sing it together, there is no need for music – it is like a church choir, and the emotions really start to churn. Charlotte and I learned the words to this song a year ago. As I sang aloud, the tears welled in my eyes and a lump developed in my throat – this was it.
I stared at the clock on the side of the Pietermaritzburg town hall. This was the moment to reflect on everything I had done leading up to the race, everything that we (as a family) had sacrificed. Twelve months of blood, sweat and tears; thirteen hundred kilometres run since January. Twelve months of commitment - early mornings, late nights, and family inconvenience. Twelve months of running shoes, smelly training gear, countless energy gels and bottles of PowerAde. Twelve months of thinking about this very moment every single day.
It was also at this exact moment that I knew that my wife (Susie) and my coach (Chris) were opening the letters I had written for them. They were both under instructions not to do so until this exact time. I wanted them to know that at that very moment, I was standing there, singing, waiting, hoping, reflecting, and thankful for their respective support so I could realize my dream. In my letters, I wanted them to know how grateful I was for their help and support, and that I would not have been there without either of them.
Above all, stay disciplined; walk for 3 minutes (only) every 45 minutes religiously (regardless of hills or aid station location), try and do this to 70km. 70 km is the distance that I thought I might be capable of getting to; after that, I knew I would really be at the mercy of the race. If I could stay disciplined and get to 70km, then I would give myself permission to walk at will, and take as long as needed to get to the end. If I could get to the 70km mark in around 8 hours or so, then I knew that unless I was suffering a terrible injury or illness, then I could walk the last 20km in under four hours, and still make the 12-hour cut-off.
Don’t do anything different today than I have in training. I have trained on water, energy drinks, carbohydrate gels, Power bars, salt tablets, and I have tried bananas, oranges, biscuits and Coke. Don’t eat or drink anything different, no matter how tempted. If the plan falls apart for whatever reason, re-evaluate the objective and reset. If that doesn’t work, there is no shame in not finishing; there is only shame in not doing your best. Stay disciplined, no matter how much it hurts. It’s going to hurt; it’s supposed to hurt, so harden the fcuk up!
I was only about 150 metres from the front row, but it still took me almost five minutes to shuffle across the start line. No point panicking, no point trying to push, this is all part of the race. The first kilometre took me nearly 10 minutes to cover, it was so congested. Don’t worry about pace or the lost time; it’s all part of the race.
It took a good hour for the masses to begin thinning out but it wasn’t until after the sun came up, probably after the 20km mark that I started to relax and get into an uninhibited rhythm. The 9-hour pace bus was never far away from me and the sheer number of people running in this group made it difficult to get past them – they were at least 10 deep at this early stage of the race. The trouble was, I was running just a bit faster than them and each time I worked my way through the ‘bus’, I inevitably came up to one of my 45-minute walk breaks and they went past me again. I would then spend part of the next 45 minutes trying to get through them again; frustrating. I kept me nerve and finally broke free of them by about the 30km mark.
It is true to say that the race doesn’t really start until around the 60km mark. Therefore, the first 30 or so kilometres are simply passing time. You don’t run too fast, keep your rhythm, ensure you are eating, drinking, walking, taking your salt tablets, keeping calm, watching your pace and trying to enjoy it.
I knew I would have several bad patches throughout the race. During the Frankston to Portsea race (55km) six weeks ago, it came early; at the 30 – 40km mark. This was a good test and the experience taught me to just relax, push through, and you will come out the other side. At about 35km at Comrades I entered the first of my ‘lows’. I struggled to maintain my rhythm and this was partly due to some of the more hilly terrain we were now experiencing. I really just wanted to get to the halfway point. I just wanted to be in the second half of the race – ‘on the way home’, as it were – it just seemed to take forever to get there.
Apart from the supporters, I failed to notice anything along the route. My focus for the majority of the 9+ hours was only the 10 metre stretch of bitumen in front of me. At the base of a hill, I would look to the top (if I could actually see it) and then it was head down and plod to the top. I did not take in the scenery or the beauty and I totally missed running past the huge Wall of Honour coming up to half way. I occasionally chatted with local runners who could not believe that I wasn’t staying on for the soccer World Cup and they were amazed that people would travel all the way there just to run this race. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
I stayed focused on the immediate road ahead of me. As I came around a left-hand corner, cresting a hill, the guy beside me said ‘there she is’. I looked up and saw her – Inchanga! What a monster; it looked even more fearsome than it had on the bus tour on Friday. For as far as I could see, a sea of thousands and thousands of colourful ants snaked and streamed their way up the side of this endless mountain. Head down, arse up – let’s do it. My reward for getting over it would be the halfway point.
After finally getting to the half way mark I just tried to focus on getting through the next 45-minute block of running. The further I progressed, the more I looked forward to my ‘reward’ of three minutes walking and refueling. I just wanted to keep the regime up as long as I could but the further I went, the more fatigued I became and the longer it seemed to take to get through the next 45 minutes. So many times I was sure I was due for a walk, but was gutted when I looked at my watch to see I had at least another 20 minutes to go – it was getting tough.
I ran past Matso at about the 50km mark. His feet were playing up but he was plodding along. Matso is a big bloke (used to play football for a junior Hawthorn team in his day) but was strong and lean on Comrades day – a very powerful bloke. As I ambled past him he asked how I was doing; I told him I was tired and I kept on going up the incline we were running. I now regret that I didn’t ask him how his day was going. I was focused.
People have since asked me; ‘when did you think or know that you were going to make it?’ The truth is, I never thought at any stage of the race that I wasn’t going to get to the end. What I didn’t know was how long it would take me and what shape I would be in at that point. I was always conscious of the fact that every year, many, many people accomplish this feat with less athletic ability than me, on less training, with less determination. So, I knew that unless something catastrophic happened, I was somehow going to get to the end.
Some say that you run the first 50km of Comrades with your feet, the next 20 km with your head, and the last 20km with your heart. I reckon that’s pretty close to spot-on. Or at least that was my experience. The 50km to 65km mark was tough. I was in unknown territory and starting to reach what I thought were my physical limits. My legs were aching (particularly my quads) as were my knees, ankles and my feet. Every step was starting to hurt and it was getting harder to get going after every walk break. But I knew that the worst was yet to come; Field’s Hill.
At about the 61km mark I was hurting but was maintaining a consistent pace. I ran along the road under the shade of some trees and did not even notice that I had passed another good friend and training partner. Roland called out to me and I asked him how he was going. He was having a tough day and said he’d been vomiting and was suffering cramps. It had slowed him down and he was battling just to keep fluids down. I told him I had started to feel some internal and muscle cramps and that I was ‘over it'. However, I kept on running.
Everyone I spoke to who had done the ‘down run’ had told me that how you handle Field’s Hill will define your race. Everyone says that running down a hill of such length (about 3 km) of such a gradient (it’s straight down), along with the tight cambers, will tear apart an already weary and battered body. It does exactly that. I have heard that some people walk the length of the hill; some walk down backwards to ease the pain. The temptation is to stride out down the hill and try and pick up time. However, with my legs starting to tighten up (hamstrings and calves) and my feet reeling with pain with every step onto the bitumen, I knew that doing anything stupid now could end my race in a heartbeat. Indeed, it was wise to shorten the stride and shuffle down, putting as little stress on the body as possible. I was glad to be at the bottom of the hill and I was now desperately looking for that 20km to go sign. It had become a significant mental milestone.
The flat road through Pinetown after Field’s Hill is welcoming for awhile and gives the legs a little respite. I passed through that 20km to go sign and it lifted my spirits, but it was now just a battle with the mind. My body had long given up but my mind was pushing me beyond my previous limits. Without a strong mind you will never succeed at Comrades. You need a mind that will overrule your body and carry you close enough to the finish that your heart can take over and carry you to the end. But no sooner are you finding a rhythm again along the flats when you are confronted with another famous heartbreaker; Cowie’s Hill.
I was ecstatic that I had achieved my pre-race plan and stayed disciplined through to 70km but I could not hold the regime any longer, and Cowie’s Hill was the decider. Just as I started on up the hill I passed over another timing mat (walking). I knew that each time I passed over one of these mats that an automatically generated time would appear on the computers of all of those following me back home in Australia, as well as some people overseas. Knowing that so many people were watching my progress in real time on the other side of the world was a strong incentive to keep going at several points throughout the race.
I looked around and I think I only saw one person attempting to run up Cowie’s. I am no hero and I had done better than I expected up to now; I walked too. From here you jump on and off the freeways into Durban and the crowds get thicker – oh, the crowds. There is nothing like the crowd support at Comrades.
Running in an Australian singlet was incredible. Not just because I am a very proud and patriotic Aussie, but because the tens of thousands of supporters that line the route treat you like a rock star. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I heard: Go Aussie, Go Australia, Go Bruce, Welcome to South Africa, we hope you enjoy your stay; or that good old Aussie anthem: Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi (God, I hate that chant; is that really the best we can come up with?). I got the occasional ‘Baaaaa’ but I think they were confusing us with the Kiwis. There was the odd reference to how poor our rugby team was doing but being from Melbourne and brought up on Aussie Rules Football, they could have been talking Swahili for all I knew. In the first half of the race, I made an effort to acknowledge any Aussie supporters by running over to them and giving them high-fives. By the time I was in the second half of the race I was reduced to just giving a wave, but by the end of the day, it was all I could do to just raise my index finger in thanks, but I always said ‘thanks’.
On a couple of occasions I passed small groups of women who shouted out and asked if they could run with me. Two women asked if they could come back to Australia with me! If I had had the energy, I would have made more of a joke of it but by that stage of the race I was in a world of hurt and just smiled as I went past and gave them a wave. What a friendly bunch of people these South Africans are!
What was amazing about the support was that it was there all the way from the start to the finish. Whether we were running through quiet streets between towns over the first 60km or closer to the Durban city, there were always people on the side of the road cheering you on. As we progressed closer to Durban and into more populous areas, the crowds grew thicker, more vocal, more influenced by alcohol. People traditionally line the roads and have barbecues (or Braai’s, as they are known in South Africa). People are only to willing to share their food and alcohol with you if you are willing to take it (I know of one Aussie who stopped for a beer). They have set up tents or their lounge suites or chairs on the side of the road early in the morning and they just never stop supporting you. At one point the crowds converged along the road (like you see in the Tour De France) and there was only a narrow gap to get through – unbelievable.
The last 10 or 12 km is excruciating; it truly is. The kilometre marks just seemed to take forever but psychologically, getting down to single figures (less than 10km to go) was powerful. With 9km to go I gave a little smile and mentally broke the rest of the race into smaller chunks. By now, small rises were mountains; small down hills were agonizing descents. I ran across the last timing mat at about the 7km to go mark. I had a chill go through my body and became emotional because I knew that this would be the last time that Susie (and others) would get any indication of where I was on the course prior to the finish. It gave me a real kick but I knew that 7 kilometres was 7 long ‘Comrades’ kilometres and anything could go wrong. It can take some people over an hour and a half to travel this last section of the course. I was still very conscious of my increasingly tight legs and the potential to cramp; I kept my strides short and took extra salt tablets to minimize the risk.
Now, all I wanted to see was that 5km to go sign. And you know what, it either wasn’t there or I totally missed it. So the next sign I saw was the 4km to go sign, which was actually quite pleasing. We were now on the fringe of the city and running down the freeway into Durban. As we came over the last bridge down into the poorer part of town, I looked through the city’s buildings and spotted the tall light masts of the Kingsmead stadium. I was home. I had done it.
The second last kilometre is running straight along one of the main inner city streets of Durban – it must be four lanes or more wide. The trouble is, it’s straight, so it takes forever. The crowds by now are thick and loud and screaming at you. You turn off the road and see that beautiful, beautiful sign; 1km to go! You are now looking at the stadium just down the road and I stopped to take some final water from the last aid station. I poured a couple of bags of water over my head and face and took the opportunity to walk for a couple of hundred metres and suck it all up; time didn’t matter now and surprisingly, there were several people around me doing the same thing. I think at that point you are just taking it all in and coming to terms with what you have just done, as well as preparing yourself for the entry into the mass of people at the stadium. I take out the tea towel size Australian flag I have carried the whole way in my waist pack. It is soaking wet but I clutch it tightly in my right hand and holding it makes me swell with pride.
I begin running the last 500 metres and round the corner and see the stadium entry; here we go; this is what it is all about. As I turn into the stadium the noise, the colour, the music, the emotion, all become too much. I cannot hold back the tears. I run onto the grass and around the stadium I have thought about a thousand times. I run towards the last corner and raise my fists into the air. I hear Lou call to me from inside the track and she takes a photo – my smile is so wide it hurts.
I put my ‘wings’ out and ‘fly’ down the finish chute. The final straight is not as long as I thought it would be. Indeed, after spending so long preparing for this moment, it is almost disappointing to think that it will all be over in a few seconds. I don’t want it to end. I hear my name called out over the loud speaker and I start to cry into my Aussie flag. I stop just before the finish line and give the biggest fist pump I can muster. I have done it. I have done it. Nine hours and fourteen minutes after the start, I have gone faster than I thought I was capable. I then lose all control of my emotions and just stand there, weeping uncontrollably into my flag. An older gent (an official) comes over to me and understands – he has obviously done this before and knows what I am experiencing. He gives me a hug and lets me cry into his shoulder for as long as it takes to compose myself. When I finally do he asks if he can take me over to one of the officials (his daughter) to receive my medal; my long-awaited, hard-earned, precious medal. I thanked him and went on. I heard Men at Work’s ‘Down Under’ play over the loud speaker – I was truly living my dream now.
For me, a day of utter concentration left me totally exhausted in every sense of the word. As such, I was elated to get through and leave it all out on the road. To come home with anything left in the tank would have been a waste and I exceeded my expectations.
The inside of the sports stadium resembled a war zone – people everywhere. I couldn’t walk. My body was shutting down. But hey, it deserved to after what I had just demanded of it. I called Susie and we both wept with joy. It was great to talk to her; but I only wished that she was there with me to experience it all.
They say that there are two famous people on this day; the first person to cross the finish line, and the first person to not cross the finish line. That is, the first person to be stopped from crossing the line, once the clock ticks past twelve hours, and the final gun is fired. Standing up against the barrier inside the stadium, watching the final few runners go past, with less than 100 metres to go, the clock continued to tick down. With 60 seconds to go, those people racing past me now will make it. By the time the clock hits 30 seconds to go, those running past me are sprinting; they may make it if they hurry. With 15 seconds to go, you know that those running past will not make it. Your heart crumbles. They have run the same distance, they have trained just like you, the have committed themselves, they have been out there longer than you, but only one of us will take home a medal today; heartbreaking. The gun goes, and it’s all over. People continue to run into the stadium to rapturous applause; heartbreaking.
Thankfully, I was there to see my friend Amit and his wife, Neepa, approach the last bend, 10 minutes before the cut off. They too had achieved their dreams. I yelled out to him and he saw me. I will never forget, for as long as I live, the look of joy on Amit’s face.
After The Race:
We head back to the hotel, just across the road. It took a good couple of minutes to walk up the flight of stairs and over the race course; it took many more to hobble down the other side. The pain in my legs is unbelievable.
Everyone I have spoken to who has done both the ‘up’ and ‘down’ runs says that the ‘down’ run is much worse on the body. Well, I have not done the ‘up’ run but I can certainly relate to the damage that had been done to my body.
After a hot bath and a shower, I made it downstairs for a quiet drink and a proper meal. We had all intentions of ‘celebrating’ but there was no way I was in any state to party. It took me nearly an hour to get through my burger and chips and I am embarrassed to admit that I did not even finish my beer. Matt told me he was pissing brown fluid and I convinced him that this was not ideal and indicated kidney damage. He came good by morning.
I went back upstairs, took two sleeping pills and two pain killers and don’t remember hitting the pillow. However, I do remember the exact time that all the pills wore off. At 0343 I woke up and began writhing around in my bed in sheer agony. It felt like someone had speared my legs with a blunt object and it was all I could do to not cry. The things we do. I limped to the bathroom at 0630 and attempted to go to the toilet – I had to use the walls to ease myself down. Getting up off the toilet was an experience – my thighs felt like they were on fire and I did not have the strength to stand. After a shower I went up for breakfast and slowly started to refuel and repair the body for the next three hours. I had a chat to my coach, to Susie and to Charlotte and I was immensely proud of my achievement. I couldn’t wait to get home and share the victory with my family.
Post-Comrades and the Future:
Once back home, apart from the obvious physical scars, my emotional scars were much worse. I knew that after such a long build-up to an event like this; after putting in so much mental energy into the one task; I knew there would be a significant ‘let-down’ after the race. The truth is that although I was aware of it, I was not prepared. It didn’t really hit me until I returned to work the following week. Before Comrades, going to work meant fitting a whole lot of stuff around my lunch time runs. Now, I had to go to work to, well, work – nothing else – nothing to really look forward to. No escape from the computer or the desk. It was positively depressing.
Inevitably, many people have asked me what it was like. I have to be honest; I have struggled to answer the question. Of course, it’s painful. But how do you actually explain an experience like that? How do you convey the raw emotion, the agonizing pain, the mental drain and the sheer exhilaration of accomplishing a life goal? I have tried to explain the physical torment as being akin to sitting down on a chair, taking your shoes and socks off, and having someone whack both your feet with a cricket bat; not hard, but continually, for over 9 hours. Eventually, it becomes unbearable and leads to tears. Imagine also that someone is also doing the same thing to your knees, your ankles and your quadriceps. Get the picture? I thought not. How can anyone know what that is like? Still, it helps give it some perspective.
So, what to do next? Life has pretty much returned to normal at home and we are looking forward to having our third child in a little over a month. My focus will obviously be there in the near term and a potential change in role at work is providing me with some interest.
As far as running goes, well, I have no innate desire to run further or over a more difficult course. The ‘magical’ 100 kilometre mark holds no mystique for me at the moment. One day I may do it just for the sake of it, but at the moment it is not on my radar. I have little interest in running standard marathons at the moment – my personal best times are so far in my past that there is no strong motivation to run the distance regularly (or pay the exorbitant fees for the privilege). That doesn’t mean I won’t do marathons in the future, but I’d like to do a few different races next year.
I enjoyed the Coburg 6-hour track race this year (well, the 4 hours of it that I did anyway). I’d like to run for the full 6 hours next year, just for fun; circling a track that many times is strangely attractive to me. I’d definitely like to run the Frankston to Portsea (55km) again next year; it’s such a great race. Indeed, I want to do it every year until I die! And the Great Ocean Road marathon (45km) sounds like a great event. Other races are things like the Two Bays Trail Run (28km or 56km). These events are all within about three months of each other, so there is a challenge there. I think I would ultimately like to get to a point where I am constantly maintaining a level of fitness where, by running four or five times a week, I can, with maybe just four or 6 weeks of build up, be able to finish races like these. Having gone through the Comrades training, I was never happier than when I was running an easy 2 hours (20km or so) and not raising a sweat. I want to be at that point all the time (at a minimum). I don’t know how to do that yet but I know many people do; and they do it on minimal training. So, that’s the goal for now. Long term, I want to be the old, grey, tanned, wrinkly bloke you see out running on the streets religiously, no matter the weather, well into his eighties.
At the airport in Durban just before we flew out, an Indian friend told me he’d like to try an Ironman (triathlon) next. He said that as if that was the next step up. Having done a couple of Ironman races in my mid-twenties, I felt confident in telling him that if he could conquer Comrades (which he did) then an Ironman would be a walk in the park for him. Now, I am by no means belittling the effort and commitment it takes to do an Ironman; it is an incredible achievement and takes an awful lot of dedication – they are bloody hard work. But the two races are not nearly in the same league. Sure, you may end up spending more time out on an Ironman course, but much of it is spent undertaking non-weight bearing exercise, so you really can’t compare. The Comrades marathon is much tougher on your body and thus, your mind.
And what about Comrades, will I go back? You bet I will, but it won’t be anytime soon. Maybe in 4, 5 or 6 years I’ll try and convince some others to go back with me. Some of my friends enjoy a good challenge and this is certainly one to try. This race is a ‘must-do’. It is the greatest foot race on the planet and I recommend it to anyone. And I am living proof that anyone can do it. I am an average runner (a plodder) who has no stunning personal best times. I run one pace; easy. Twelve months ago I struggled to run 6 km without a walk break. But with a plan, commitment and effort, it can be done. But it’s not easy. If it were, everyone would do it.
I am thankful the Comrades seed was planted inside me two years ago. I am thankful that I became hooked on the race twelve months ago. I am thankful I became obsessed with this race. I am thankful that I have a supportive family and network around me. I am thankful for the enduring friendships I have made along the way.
I hope I inspire just one other person to give it a go. I hope I am a role model to my kids. I hope I can go back to Durban one day and once again push myself well beyond my limits and truly experience life.
There are two quotes I found inspirational enough to print out and stick on my office wall to keep me focused over the past twelve months. The first is by champion triathlete, Mark Allen. He says:
Unless you test yourself, you stagnate. Unless you try to go way beyond what you’ve been able to do before, you won’t develop and grow. When you are committed, when you don’t have the fear of “what if I fail”, that’s when you learn. That’s when you’re really living.
The other was a poem sent to me by my friend Amit; it is written by T.E Lawrence.
All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity. But dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act out their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.
I guess that makes me a dreamer of the day; and that makes me a dangerous man.
I am a long distance runner; an ultra marathon runner.