The Comrades Marathon is an ultra marathon of approximately 89 km which is run annually in between Pietermaritzburg and Durban in South Africa. It is the world’s largest and oldest ultra marathon race with 20,000 people entered into this years race. The direction of the race alternates each year between the ‘up’ run starting from Durban and the ‘down’ run starting from Pietermaritzburg. This year I would be towing the line and attempting the Down run!
My alarm sounded at 3:30am, it was finally here, after training for the Comrades for the past 6 months it was race day. I got up got dressed covered myself in sun lotion and had breakfast which consisted of porridge, a banana, a peanut butter oat bar and a cup of tea. Once I was ready we hopped in the car and headed for the start line. We got as close to the start as we could and after saying goody and wishing me well I said good bye to my parents and headed to the start line. It was still dark and would be until about 6:45am.
I made my way to the start line and gathered with my fellow runners. With 5 minutes to go we all sung the national anthem and a wave of emotion came over me as everyone joined in with passion to sing together, I had to try my hardest not to burst into tears. We then went on to sign Shosholoza an old zulu mining song and then Chariots of Fire blared out across Pietermaritzburg. As the music ended the cockerel crowed and the cannon fired and at 5:30am 20,000 of us started a 89km journey from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.
In the comrades unlike any other race I have done before the kilometre makers count down as you run along the course and I tried many tricks along the way to break down the 89km ahead of me. I thought come on it’s ‘only’ 9 × 10km or 3 × 30km or 89 × 1km who was I kidding it was a bloody long way and the next few hours were going to hurt.
Before the race started I set myself a goal of getting a Gold medal. This would mean that I would have to finish in the top 10 ladies. Most people I told this too laughed at me and said I wouldn’t do it. But I thought what is the point in setting the goal of just finishing, I knew I would finish, I had trained hard and was prepared. I wanted something to aim for that was challenging and that would test me so aiming for gold off I went. I felt great and for the first 50km or so I was in 4th place feeling strong and enjoying the run. The atmosphere was amazing and I ran with some awesome guys who were so kind and passed me water as we went through all of the aid stations. I can’t thank them enough for helping me and keeping me company along the way. I stuck to the pace that I wanted to do but then I ran full pelt into the mother of all walls. I wasn’t out of breath or tired it is just that every step that I took was so unbelievably painful. It felt like a shock wave going through my body and as much as I tried I just could not run any faster. The slogan to the comrades is ‘it will humble you’ and it sure did that to me.
The support that you get along the route is insane. Everyone makes a day of it with banners and BBQ’s the whole way along the route, the smell of a Boerewors cooking away was so tempting and more than once I felt like pulling up a chair and having a snack with an unexpected supporter. I think being a girl (sorry guys) is extra special. As we were all quite spread out the crowd would go mental everytime you ran past them with shouts of ‘go sister’ and ‘do it for the girls’ I also got proposed to four times along the route which was wonderful, unfortunately I didn’t go on to explore the possibilities as I was more concerned with dragging my ass to the finish line. Good to know that Comrades is clearly the place to meet a suitor.
I was lucky that I had great support along the way. I managed to see my parents four times along the route which was awesome as once they had dropped me off I only thought I would see them at the end. Although with 30km to go my dad shouted “the race starts now” I yelled back “it bloody started 60km ago in Pietermaritzburg I then headed into the Netbank Green Mile which is full of music, scary super heroes and the best dancers out there! My awesome cousins were dancing on the stage as I ran passed they battled off the referees and ran with me waving their pom poms in merriment for a km which was a much needed moral boost. At 13km to go I saw my aunties and uncles going crazy as I ran past. Unfortunately my spirits were pretty low and everything hurt at this point that I wasn’t as cheery as I could’ve been. My uncle Malcolm ran along side me giving me a pep talk and which helped and spurred me on for the final 12km to Durban. All the way along the route ice cream trucks kept on appearing, I have never wanted an ice cream more in my life and if I do this race again I am taking 10 Rand and buying one!
After what felt like forever I finally arrived at Kingsmead Stadium and was thrilled that the race organisers made us do a lap of the stadium before eventually reaching the finish line…this was a cruel trick. I have never been happier to cross a finish line in my life! I finished in 7hrs 23 minutes and 6 seconds in 23rd place with a Silver Medal. I was 22 minutes away from getting a Gold but I could not have been happier with my Silver Medal. This is undoubtably the hardest race I have ever done in my life, it is brutal!
As soon as I finished I asked my mom to film me saying that I will never ever do that race again. I have already changed my mind and I am looking forward to tackling the up route next year!