I managed to qualify for this year's Comrades marathon by finishing my marathon on Saturday with 5 minutes to spare. We have to run a standard 42.2km marathon under 5 hours in order to run the 89km distance in June. Two weekends ago, I did the 42km distance but was way over time and spirit. I was getting concerned about my running 'mojo' as my sugar levels had not settled and I ended up with an extremely sore left foot due to inflammation of the tendons.
Training during the week had ground to a halt as I visited my physio for some treatment and decided to pay a visit to the 'running doctor' for a cortizone injection. It seemed to do the trick and by Friday I was walking like a normal person. Friday afternoon we realised that we may not be doing the Saturday marathon after all, as we saw that entries were closing that day. Some quick emails and phone calls made sure that we would be getting an entry into the Secunda marathon early the next morning.
After a dismal attempt at sleeping till 2.30am I got up and readied myself still very pleased that my foot felt good. We met up with Marlene and Cerlest and headed east. The red slip of the new moon hung strangely on the horizon and in the distance were flashes of lightning. I announced to the ladies that this morning's run was 'everyone for themself' I didn't want a repeat performance of Marlene waiting for me on the long drawn out kilometers. We got to Secunda quickly and waited for the 6am start, eating breakfast in the car and watching the sky lighten with heavy rain cloud looming. I had a thought that this is the area that I would see a pet pig, and I laughed at the odd thought that crossed my mind!
A large field of runners lined up for the marathon and this race is rather unique in that there is the option of doing the full marathon in the morning, then a lunchtime half marathon followed by a late afternoon 10km. We had entered for the marathon but Cerlest had taken the option of doing the 21km if she felt up to it. I shook my head being very content with getting my week's mileage in one run.
The gun went off and we set out on a very dark road due to the rain cloud and at around the 2km mark, the rain played with us. It was rather refreshing and not too heavy so we sucked it up, knowing that the alternative of heat could begin at any moment. My foot started to twing at me and and I silently cursed. At the first water table I stopped to take a pain pill and Marlene and Cerlest kept moving, I waved them on, when I saw Marlene straining her neck to catch a glimpse of me. The pain pill took a long time to work and my mental powers were straining themselves to come up with and fight excuses for me not going the whole distance. At around 8km I settled into a rhythm and began to notice my surroundings. The rain had stopped but cool cloud still protected us. The route weaved in the suburbs but not too distractingly as the runners were seen far away from our turning points.
The water tables were excellent and support from the locals in their gardens and driveways was fantastic, all greeting us and willing us on. Traffic was very patient as they waited for us plodders to cross intersections while they were on their way to work. Being in a different district it was interesting to see how far runners travel. People from Richard's Bay, Phalaborwa, Free State made for good diversions. Lovely open gardens with a huge variety of dogs kept me distracted from the gnawing pain in my foot. At around 18km I seemed to have a small stretch of road to myself and I noticed how loud the pigeons were. My offbeat footsteps and the cooing made me smile. Garden gnomes and cement ornaments are a common sight in this town and I caught a glimpse of a rather unusual colour, patchy green, then I realised it moved. I stopped running and watched. Almost the same size as the Chevy Spark behind it, stood a glorious fat pig! I gasped and laughed and watched the three dogs give the pig respectful distance. I pointed it out to myself and hoped that the runners a little behind me would see it, as this was a lovely sight. I set off again and moments later heard the runners behind remark on the big pig!
What a lovely morning it was turning out to be, if only my foot heard my nice energy and stopped moaning. My time was going good in spite of the pain and this kept my confidence up. The waterpoints got better and better the further we went along, and the food choices were mind boggling. Biscuits, chips, sweets, chocolates, easter eggs, potatoes, bananas, worsies, oranges, condensed milk in a syringe, grapes and a whole lot more made my eyes wide. I felt like a kid at a great party. The drinking water was ice cold and as the rain clouds melted away the sun began to show us what it is made of.
With about 9 km to go I was giving a leaning walker some encouragement, when my foot roared with pain. I forced myself to keep shuffling and rummaged in my pouch for more 'drugs'. So close and with enough time I thought. Apart from the foot everything else felt good. My sugar behaved, my pace felt right, so I started my internal debate about why I should keep going and just get the qualifier over. (Except my inner dialogue was not this polite!)
Single figures is always comforting and I just kept an older man in my sight as we shuffled past each other time and time again, knowing that he would be measuring the time properly. I don't like to get too worked up on the timing, so I think of an overview and then distract myself.
Near a school was a small water table with a big sign saying 'Marco's water table- pop in for a visit'. He was a young man who was dishing out refreshments with a great spirit. Dad stood proudly in the background as us weary travellers trundled past on tired foot. The last few kilometers looked like a downhill, which helped the mind and I found myself shuffling past a foreign lady who had passed me very early on in the race. I congratulated her as by now it was 'in the bag' as I overtook her before the last corner. The PA announcer there was telling us to 'put foot' as we only had 8 minutes left. I looked nervously at my watch and saw that we had 12 minutes. It doesn't sound like much, but three minutes at this stage means a huge difference in stress levels. Breaking it down, I felt relief that my foot had behaved and held out and that I had managed to keep myself from sliding down that tricky slope of negative self-talk. Sister and friends cheered me in, and I gratefully crossed the line with 5 minutes spare.
We relaxed at the lovely venue and I even went for a physio rub at the medic tent which was great before we set off home. A fantastic day out and everyone seemed to enjoy their morning in the 'kosmos' land. I am sure this race will see us again next year!