Monday, June 06, 2011

Facing the rest of the year without the goal of Comrades leaves a big empty space. It can lead to a case of 'post-comrades-blues'. Logbooks linger vaguely around, teasing me with the realisation that it doesn't matter anymore. Now I know that I should be upbeat and full of post-medal glory, and don't get me wrong, I am feeling positive, it's just such a strange feeling knowing that for now, it's all done, finito, klaar!

The further away I go from my 11 and half hours on the road, the nicer it begins to feel in my memory. The pain is lessening and the dark thoughts of 'giving it a miss' are all forgotten. Talking to non-running friends, my story is sounding more like, 'wow, it was easy' and that is how the race tricks us into coming back time and time again.

Watching the recorded race on TV, there was an interview with Comrades King Bruce Fordyce and he missed his silver medal by 20 seconds. He said that his friends are more disappointed than he is, he is glad to have medal number 29 in the bag. He said that Comrades never gives you everything on the day, 'she' always leaves something for you to come back to, and that is so true. Although, I somehow doubt that I will be repeating myself 29 times just to see what 'she' can give me! Yet such a legendary runner understands the mystery and goes back year after year and I find myself thinking about all the mysteries both covered and uncovered about this race.

Why do people do it, is the first mystery to (usually) non-runners?

Well I had no 'grown-up' intentions of ever being able to do it after my aged 30 year old goal slipped quickly by, I thought that dream was over. So to that I must say as in Justin Bieber 'never say never'! But my reasons for doing it, are varied.
Because I can. (This still sometimes surprises me!)
It gives my running a focus.
Running in SA without it as a goal, seems rather empty.
Nothing else matches the feeling of being there.
It is tough, but it makes us runners 'softer' - crying like babies at 'Chariots of Fire', willing everyone over that finish line before the gun, crying with those that can't and knowing that there are still folk outside on the road heading towards the line, makes my heart all mushy. I know- I was one of them not that long ago.

So why go back year after year?

A married couple of running friends have 36 Comrades between them and they are heading for 40, another couple 25 between them. Bruce has 29 on his own. Never mind the medals, this means that for all these years, these people have been fit enough, healthy enough, positive enough, and determined to be there and finish it. That shows me that it is more than a sport, it is a lifestyle. When life gets tough professionally, emotionally or even spiritually, we know that around 15 000 people come together with their stories to stand in front of a City Hall and make personal history, and somehow the problems of life disappear for a day. All the days before hand, when the training happens, people have clustered together and made there health better, and cleared their heads. Although sometimes the fog of hitting the wall does momentarily dim the light!

Will you ever win it?

This question was asked half jokingly by my ex boxer Dad, as in boxing there has to be a winner. In this sport of mine, there are winners, yes, the ones at the front as well as the ones at the back. All are equally celebrated and that makes us unique. Our national cricket team gets scorned because they haven't yet won a world cup. Yet me, with my slow time almost 6 hours behind the first guy home, gets applauded on air planes, at shops and in hotels. It does seem bizarre that middle aged people can do so well when most professional sports people are going into retirement, and by middle aged, I mean the others - of course! The winning mentality of a runner should be in every run and every race, our goal is to get to the finish. We do joke about giving the Russians some competition, but I feel sorry for them they are so small, and the travel so far, so I think I will let them keep winning!

There is more to life than Comrades.

Well, no, not really!
The planning, the preparation, the support, the toughness all makes it so unique and the fact that so many of us ordinary athletes are able to participate is so extraordinary, that there can't ever be anything that matches it.

The people of KZN are fabulous in their support of us. Couches, camping chairs, picnic blankets, gazebo's, braai's, patient dogs, music, tables with salty snacks, beers, and soft drinks, banners, applause, smiles, words of encouragement, camera's, vuvuzelas, wigs, sunglasses, blankets, jackets, woolly hats and gloves, tiny skirts and skimpy tops, kids, adults, reluctant teens, villagers, tribal dancers, musicians, and so much more, all on the pavements to celebrate ME, how can there be anything else in life?

So now that this is finished, I 'come back' into my study watching my hubby as he asks me excitedly once again, 'are we running in the morning?' I have to answer 'no'!


Johann said...

I suppose if you don't run trails Comrades is the main reason you run in SA. I think most runners will stop running completely if Comrades was not there. I prefer the trails because I was built more for that than the road...and you can walk more :) I've got some serious goals this year still. MAS, 4 Peaks, Golden Gate, Sani Stagger with some smaller ones in-between. February next year its Three Cranes so my focus will be trail until March next year at least. I love long term goals and have some race goals lined up for the next 5 to 6 years. I think there will be more and more South Africans that have other goals than Comrades, mainly trail ultras.

cathievr said...

Thanks Johan, sorry been messed up with these blogs, they disappear, I know there are some awesome trail runs for the likes of the very brave(you) Comrades I think is def easier than some of those monsters you do, so I take my hat off to you, but will stay on the tar, I am not built for trail running!!