It's the final countdown! There are no more Sundays left to train, no more panic training runs to catch up on. It's just me and the 89,9km. Okay perhaps another 18 000 others too! This year I have to get my revenge on the 'down run'. In 2010 I bailed at 62km. I know what it feels like to bail, not to finish, and get two medals. I prefer the medal option now. So it's takkies on and chin up.
The year has flown by, I still get a little confused that this Friday I will be boarding the plane, that I booked over 7 months ago. I look at my huge calendar on the wall and see the races done and dusted. My mileage is the highest it's ever been, over 900 clocked km's. Running partners of husband, friends, sister, mentors, fellow racers, and fellow plodders. A wonderful tapestry of people each with their own unique story. The thrill of being part of this group hasn't faded for me. That is still a surprise. I tutted and shook my head at my 'crazy' sister running her first Comrades in 2005. I cried with relief and awe at her fabulous finish never dreaming that in 3 short years I would have my own tears of joy. In those three short years where we lost a loved sister to cancer, a dear friend while running, and my lifestyle changed forever. I surround myself with positive people all determined and supportive of each other's goals. It is a fabulous way to live my 'forties'.
Comrades cements friendships forever, so we may forget the pain and the endless miles, but the memory of who you first ran with, who you crossed Polly's with, who you left behind and who you helped celebrate with, is something that is difficult to describe. I worked on this race for a few years in TV, at Drummond, at the start, at the finish, on the road, and in the truck. I then took the softer option of watching it from my couch, then as a supporter from the stadium (nerve wracking), then I was a supporter from the other side of the globe, watching the blips on the internet. Finally I became one of those 'blips'. The best option is running it. Feeling the KZN crowd all willing us on, offering us food and sometimes beer, applauding us with sore hands that have been clapping for hours, singing our praises so we feel as proud as the Russians out front. Smiling and cheering, wishing us well with comments of 'looking good, you can do it' and our pet hate 'you are almost there', these supporters carry us through the distance.
Some people like to drive the route the day before, but it can set the nerves off. However the day of the race, the route looks nothing like the drive. People line the street, plastic sachets litter the road, braai smoke hovers over the horizon, and it feels like one big party. In places, the support does thin out, and that is where the fellow runner becomes the entertainment. I love chatting to the 'blue numbered foreigners' finding out where they are from and what do they think of it so far. Admiring the 'green numbers' and their experience of the 10 medals. The yellow numbers which mean 9 medals in the bag, and the stripy yellow numbers which means the runners are going for their 20th medal. We have a friend who will be wearing the stripy number with pride, and we all share her pride!
This year is a 'down' run which really means that we are running to Durban and down to the sea. However there are many uphills to conquer, but nothing beats getting the first whiff of the sea, the first glimpse of the hovering sea, and the city highrises. The quiet of the motorway just before Berea, gives us time to reflect back on the long day behind us, before the crowds celebrate with us from the overhangs up on the road. I am so looking forward to that turn on the highway when the cemetery is on the right hand side, but the stadium is whispering to me from the left. The fencing keeping the crowds from touching us, which is a good thing, because we should be running with a sign 'fragile, handle with care' at this stage. The turn to the left before the last 'mile' which is usually dressed up in sponsors colours and then the deafening roar, as I enter the stadium. The shrill voices I recognise as my fellow team members spot me, and I wave royally at the crowd. The final lumpy grass stretch gets forgotten as the big sign above the clock shouts FINISH.
I can taste it, can't you?
Send me good thoughts!