In 2008 I lined up for my first ever Comrades, a couple of weeks shy of my 42nd birthday. I was going to 'try the Comrades'. I had trained well, had lots of guidance, my good running friend was with me, I was all set to try. I never realised how much that mind angle would affect me. There is no 'try' in Comrades. I needed to 'do it' much like the advertising slogan says. Fast forward to current time and I am a few days away from my fifth(hopefully) medal!
As the years have ticked swiftly by, I realise that my life now has been divided into six month cycles. Before Comrades (BC) and After Comrades (AC). 2015's BC season has been rather stress-free. Last year I was coming back from foot issues and a non-start on Comrades in 2013 which happened to be really good timing for me to have an injury. The race that year was an 'Up-run" from Durban to Pietermaritsburg, and had one of the worst cases of 'berg wind' weather conditions on the races history. Intense heat accompanied by a dusty hellish wind made the road look more like a battlefield as people wearily tried their best. My last 'Up run' was in 2011 and I had a great day. I have realised that in my running career, missing out on this race makes me very determined to get back to taking part in it. There is nothing like it, so this year's training has made me really look forward to 'running the other way'. I did 3 Ultra-distances and ran 2 marathons, all rather sluggishly slow, but it all helps in the mental preparation for this race. The panic over my foot injuries is long gone and with regular exercise classes and massages I now know that it is not 'just about running the distance'.
BC running has been calm and enjoyable for the most part. My mileage is a little on the low side, but I am hoping to stay calm enough to do some mental training closer to race day. I am now realistic. Having run the race a few times I understand that there is no way I am suddenly going to start running a 6 min-a-kay speed if all my other running has been closer to 7 minutes. But I looked at my times from last year and saw that they were rather consistent, so I am hoping to be able to do something similar this year. I read all the talk about timing and marker boards on social media and a teeny part of me wants to join in the panic, but the other part of me knows.
On race day, nothing is the same, not the running, not the distance, not the pain, not the support, not the waterpoints, not the road, not your friends, nothing! Strangers stand for hours to catch a glimpse of me, to applaud me and offer me food, support and chirps. I don't get that on other races. I love catching the eye of a supporter and thank them, or give them a smile, or a thumbs up- depending on my energy level. They are the magic of this special day. With their bored dogs, yummy smelling braai's, loud blasting music, kids who would rather be anywhere else, hands red from clapping, eyes sore from trying to read our names and throats sore from screaming, these are the people I am coming to see. KZN throws the best party, and I am lucky enough to be able to run through the province to accept their invitation to make myself a better person!
The thing I dread now is the AC, once the afterglow has waned and I face the bleakness of a dry Winter. But now that I'm aware of this we try to get things in place to help us look forward. This year we are going to run the Loch Ness marathon in September. This takes place in my birth country and it promises to be a great run. It also means that I can't hibernate for too long and it will drag me out of my AC slumber and get me back on the road. But in the meantime it's 'hurry up an wait' for that long party on foot on Sunday!