The Comrades is special.
It could be the history that stretches back to 1921 when 34 brave runners started, but only 16 completed it. There are all the traditions from the cock crowing to the message carried between the two mayors.
Maybe it is the sheer magnitude of the twenty thousand entrants for a ninety-kilometer ultra-race. It is rare to remain in a crowd until fifteen, twenty kilometers into a race.
It could be the fact that it is not an easy race. It is not a flat stadium-run. If it is not going up, it is going down. There is very little level ground.
Perhaps it is in the overwhelming support from fellow-runners and the thousands of people lining the streets. It is wonderful to be cheered on with people of all colors and ages calling your name. And here some of them even pronounce it correctly!
Or is it more personal? I remember the early rising as a little boy to watch the start and then keep watching until the last cut-off gunshot rung out. There were warm blankets and milo. And Bruce Fordyce. I still remember the decision I made thirteen years ago to run my first Comrades. In 2006 everything went so well. My timing was perfect. My preparation peaked at the right time. My race could not have gone smoother.
2018 Comrades was different. I started far too fast. I was confident that I could keep up a pace of around 5 minutes per kilometer, but it was not to be. After about one marathon which I blitzed in 3 hours and 36 minutes, I regretted it. Plan B was to finish and if possible do it in less than nine hours. My hope for even that started to wane until a huge bus (of runners) caught up with me. The energy that surged through that group rubbed off on me and I did the next seven kilometers with them until I was left behind. By now I needed only around 7-minute kilometers, but the pain and fatigue became too much at times.
I listened to music to take my mind off the pain, walked the uphills and ran the downhills, drank coke mixed with water to put some energy back and in this way managed to finish 3 minutes faster than my 2006 time. My time was 8:51:48. I just looked up my 2006 time: 8:54:26.
When I entered the stadium and crossed the line, there was an extreme relief to be allowed to stop. But also gratitude that God allowed me another completed Comrades marathon. I was in conversation with Him many times during the day. In 2006 I ran with a friend most of the time. This time I ran with some people for short spells, but I had one everpresent companion who never left me.
I did not take pictures during the run. I may get some from the organizers. I need to mention something about the place I stayed, though. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at Ambrozia’s house in Pietermaritzburg. I include one picture taken from close to their place and then a few of their yard. What love and hospitality!