Running Tales

Comrades – How Hard Can It Be?

comrades marathon







A quick few lines on the results of the Comrades! Well my hypothesis about ‘how hard can it be?’ was firmly answered, it is hard!

While I had spent time mentally preparing myself for all the running that was to come, I had not envisaged what an early start it was going to be, setting my alarm clock for 2am. Although I went to bed at 7pm I did not manage to drift off until about 10pm. Not a great start, but ultimately I figured you would be tired anyway running the Comrades, so it should not matter.

The bus service to the start was very efficient, turn up get on a bus and go, great. Great that is until it is driving along the motorway to Peitermarizburg and all the lights gave out on the bus. The driver undeterred just carried on, mass revolt by passengers and he pulled over. Slightly worried that I would not make the start of the marathon, like the other 50 passengers, an electrical engineer stepped forward and fixed the problem – brilliant, also brilliant when it happened two more times.

As to be expected the atmosphere at the start was great, almost party like at 5am in the morning. Then the gun, the first few kms are pretty crowded, so just follow the crowd and try not to trip up or be tripped up. Then as I settled into my pace I found a pace setter, sub 9 hours. That was the one for me I told myself! In SA the crowd following the pace setter is known as a ‘bus’ and it turns out we had a colourful ‘bus driver’. He had us chanting, told us a bit about the history of the areas were going through etc

The cold start suited me well, bringing me back to many a day running in the UK We wound our way through the country side, with the one thing that stood out being the crowds, the support was amazing. All thanks to the locals for coming out to cheer. A really great lift in spirits, especially as the ‘bus’ with probably 500 people went past. One of the peculiarities of the race is the km markers count down and starting at 89km. With a brain not really designed for mental arithmetic, we quickly (ish) pasted the marathon mark, I thought, anyway it kept me entertained for a few kms as I kept redoing the math.

Passing the halfway mark was however the first warning sign that something was up. We were too slow. The bus driver should have kept to a schedule, which without a watch (I found out later) was going to be tough.   So we pushed on through for a while and by the time we had 35km to the finish, I decided the bus was moving too slow for sub-nine and if I was going to do anything about it now was my last chance. With plenty of down hill it was both an opportunity and a gamble. Going fast on the downhill is a great way to ruin your legs, but if it worked, then great. Over the next 13-15km I put in some of my best splits.

With 21km to go I had two hours to finish, the sub-nine finish was mine to loose. I could do it!

Then my body revolted!. The legs told me they would only work at a certain pace and 5:30 a km was not it, my stomach tried on a couple of occasions to empty itself, thankfully I won that battle. With a lot of walking on the up hills and a lot of grunting I made it through the next 10 km. Then for some unknown reason I got good again and the last 10 km I managed a fairly reasonable pace, although not exactly sure as my watch gave out at this point as well. Although it was a small victory to have run non-stop the last 4km, uphill (it was very slight) and everything. Into the stadium for a 9:16 gun time and 9:13 chip time.

With no doubt I was elated to finish, extremely pleased and sore. While I did not make the sub nine, I only ever planned to do 9:30, so success. And truth be told, I didn’t and don’t care, I finished.

I even had the sense of humour left to laugh at the fact that with the finish in the stadium in the centre of the running track, you had to cross a bridge to exit the stadium with 15 stairs on either side of the bridge. The last challenge!

As always I thank you all for your support along the way as I have trained (albeit not enough) for the event and good luck to all those doing Lewa and Vic Falls or whichever next!!