I got thinking about this past year's running and I thought that I would join in the global trend of looking back and recalling it all. It is a happy list even though in some athlete's minds there are more 'lowlights' than highlights, but let me start at the beginning.
January saw me for the first time in my short running career, not having the stress of having to qualify for the Comrades or the Two Oceans. Our ten minute leeway on the previous year's qualifying marathon in Bela Bela, meant that I could focus on running miles and not the qualifying time pressure. This did wonders for my confidence, because now after 4 years of running longer distances, I knew what I was capable of. It also meant that at my first marathon for the year, I was able to spend some time with a friend who was battling near the end of his race, and give him the moral support to help him keep moving when he perhaps needed it the most. I also knew that when I left him to decide his own fate,and ran on, I could still make the cut-off time comfortably and that was a great feeling. I am pleased to say that my friend too, made it in time and the year had a nice start to it in my books.
My next highlight includes my first ever Ultra Two Oceans marathon. In previous years I had never been fast enough to qualify and would have to settle for running the half marathon. So I entered this year's Ultra with great glee, especially as my lovely niece had planned her overseas wedding perfectly and I was fortunate enough to attend both. While in the UK I picked up a real nasty cold and my vulnerable chest was my weak spot. Perfect timing once again meant that I could get the right meds on my return, just in time for me to chase away the bug so that I could stand at the starting line of the Ultra in the fairest Cape. What a race! Perfect weather, excellent support along the road, and just the right distance to challenge but not destroy me! I floated home after an excellent weekend, but it might also be due to the traces of meds still lurking about my circulatory system!
My next highlight in my running calendar was my bailing at 62km's on the grandaddy race, the Comrades. This is where the highlight question may come in. Why is my 'giving up' a highlight? Surely quitters never win? Well, this decision has been such a profound turning point in my life, both personally and running wise, that I am so glad I listened to my body and respected myself enough to say 'stop'. Comrades is the ultimate race, and it has taught many a runner a thing or two about themselves, and I am still uncovering what this race means to me, and the bailing aspect has given me such a profound reason for my running it. It is just so very difficult to put into words. Especially in a short, concise manner!! Needless to say I have re-entered for next year, and I am looking forward to meeting up with the challenge once more. Every time I face the race, I uncover aspects of myself, and I am looking forward to more mystery and celebration.
My bailing Comrades left me with the perfect opportunity to run the 80km Karoo marathon which is a 'must-do' for every runner. Held in September this year, meant that I had a few months in between Comrades to train up and change my running strategy. Except I never did. I ran a few times, with the longest distance of 29km and in many ways I was a little afraid of being under trained. Not that that thought got me out on the road, I observed my thoughts and finally hoped for a miracle. Which is exactly what I got! I learned so many other things about myself that day, that I am still in awe of how wonderful the human body is. The magic town of Laingsburg in the middle of nowhere, still haunts my thoughts and I am looking forward to the day I return, except I am not sure it will be to run the race again! Running it this year, taught me that by breaking the mammoth goal of 80km's down into bite size chunks of 8km an hour made its all the more achievable and I ran the race comfortably and enjoyably. I never really understood just how my running confidence had been affected by bailing Comrades, but finishing the Karoo so well showed me a thing or two and I am so glad that I did run it.
Now at the beginning of a fresh year, there are new goals and old goals. Firstly I want my revenge at the Comrades. I need to see the inside of the stadium in Pietermaritzburg this time. I want to explore the wonderful races we have here, in different areas of this great country. I want to increase my speed. I am looking forward to the new challenges yet unknown, and can't wait to meet new friends on every race.
This festive season I thought about my running friends and how we share such strange common bonds. Funny looking outfits, very bad hair days, sweat and soggy tissues, pretending we are 'toilet doors', very long conversations, dirty looks, and happy smiles, pain, joy, passion and healthy lifestyle. Exhilaration in each other's achievements, and unyielding support when the going gets tough, very early mornings, sleepy breath, blisters and vaseline, sunblock and painpills. Frustration and despair, sadness and comfort, jokes and stories, endless talk about different races, admiration and true friendship.
I had wanted to possibly get gifts for my friends, then I realised that their friendship and my return is our gift to each other. Nothing can ever replace that.
Bring on 2011!