I ran and completed the Comrades Marathon 3 times – and have one medal to show! I think I can safely say that though I enjoyed all 3 runs they were all vastly different experiences. Bruce Hargreaves the Comrades Ambassador for Australia has said in one of his newsletters that not getting a medal in the Comrades run is like falling off a horse and that the only solution would be to get right up again! Well Bruce is a great runner, a good friend and maybe more familiar with horses than I am! I prefer to liken the experience to being run over by a 3 tonner twice- Once to flatten you and then have the truck reverse over your flattened remains .
My first Comrades was the one which I carefully planned and managed to complete in about 11h 40miunutes. It was exhilarating and worth all the abrasions (yes ouch), blisters and muscle aches. I had only one thing in my head – the 12 hour cut off and that thought drove me past all the checkpoints.
The second run was one of the anniversary runs where there were so many people that poor me, right at the back of the pack took more than 15minutes to get to the start line after the gun went off. (Moral – listen to old Bruce and try for a better qualifying time).. This was also a year when my stomach decided to run as well, and suffice to say I was rather preoccupied with fertilising the soil and coping with the associated unexpected prolapse of certain unmentionable things. I was quite devastated when a few runners dressed like rhinos galloped past me. I remember running desperately past the checkpoints and seeing the knowing look of sympathy and understanding on the faces of the run stewards, because though I managed to avoid the cut off times and the relegation wagons, they knew I’d never make it. Perhaps I did not train enough but when that final gun went off I was so close that I could hear the cheers from the stadium when the last runner crossed the line and the agonised groans of the crowd when the first of the runners not to make the cut off time arrived.
That last kilometre was the most painful, the longest and the slowest kilometre that i have ever ever encountered. Plodding with leaden legs, ,shuffling with heavy feet and sniffling with self pity, I stumbled and limped through the abandoned barricades , entered the fast emptying stadium, and determinedly pushed through the finish gate before it was dismantled.
I met Bruce in the hotel lobby the next morning and he gave me a hug.
The third attempt was 2 years later. This time I had neatly planned all the training and told myself – Right. This time, focus on the run. Three months before the run, I fractured a metatarsal while training. Well I thought if I take one month off, I still have another two months to train. Then 3 weeks or so before the run, I was at a local marathon and got knocked over. Two of my front teeth connected with the concrete pavement and decided to stay there, leaving me with a bloodied mouth and jagged teeth that would be right for a Halloween costume party. After several long and painful lectures from my friendly dentist, I managed to make it to the run and what a memorable run it was. It was another down run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. As I entered the stadium I heard the roar of the crowds. It was so exciting! My heart was beating so fast and my head buzzed. I hesitated and the crowd roared again. Next thing I knew I had one foot on the finish mat, turned my head to check the clock and BANG the gun went off. The crowd groaned. “You’re out”
the race official said.
I was the first of the runners who did not make the gun time that year .
It was, as I say like being hit twice by a truck . But, you know, I think I’ll try again – Bruce wait for me.