Towards the end of April I introduced you to Bernita Bornmann, “The Butterfly Lady” Through that article people got to know her a little better and the butterfly trail now make sense to many. But at that time Bernita was only weeks away from her first Comrades and now Comrades is over, something of the past.
On 29 May 2016 Bernita successfully completed her first “Ultimate Human Race” in a time of 11:13:58. I decided to catch up with her again to find out little more about her Comrades and this is what she had to say.
I asked her to share with me how her first Comrades was; how she felt before, during and after the race and if it was what she expected from this iconic races.
“Before the race….you and thousands of other runners listen to Chariots of Fire…. I still find it hard to describe that feeling. I felt anxious, excited, scared, determined but also very proud to finally be part of the Ultimate Human Race. I felt proud to have the guts to actually pitch up for the biggest challenge I have ever set for myself.”
“During the race your every emotion follows the massive crowd of people going up and down the hills. Your legs hurt in ways no one could prepare you for, but then you look at the supporters cheering, shouting your name and you think of all the reasons you started this challenge in the first place.”
“When I got to Cowies I was in a lot of pain, but quitting was not an option. I remember saying to myself, ‘Don’t stop no matter what!’ Other than hurting, I had no medical issues or cramping. One of the challenges was not to worry too much about the time and cut-offs as this can add a lot of extra stress. I knew I had to make it, I knew I had to be there in a certain time, but because I was ahead of time I did not let it get to me. A lot of the thinking and planning was done by my running partner Paul who ran the whole race with me, something I am very grateful for. I learnt a lot from this Comrades and will apply it at next year’s race.”
Hours later, you along with many other runners entered Kinsmead Stadium in Durban. Can you remember the first thing that went through your mind when you entered the stadium knowing the end is only a few hundred meters away ?
“I cannot really pinpoint a specific thought or feeling… it all happens so fast, those final few moments. I know that I was overwhelmed by an array of emotions and feelings when I looked up into the crowd and realised that I made it. This is the finish I always saw on TV and then I realised, now I am part of it, not from up there or from my coach, but as a Comrades finisher. I realised I did it, I completed my first Comrades Marathon. I was filled with pride, joy, thankfulness and yes, relieve that it was over. Believe me, there was a lot of tears at the finish line.”
Bernita, Comrades is a tough race which test athletes on so many levels. I am a firm believer that Comrades is not just a single event, it is not only about race day, race day is to me the conclusion of a journey that started months ago. Obviously your training has paid off and you successfully completed this iconic ultra-marathon, but now in hindsight, is there anything that you would have done differently if you had the opportunity ?
“No, I don’t think so. One can only train up to a certain point. I did plus minus 1300km from in training from the start of January and did not have any injuries that required physiotherapy or anything else. Just a niggle now and then, but then also rested when I needed to. I am so thankful for this. I also think the fact that I also focussed on stretching and weight training helped me during the down run.”
What have you learned about yourself on this road to Comrades ( before, during and after the race )
“Like I said previously, if I set my mind to something I will complete it. Commitment and perseverance is key to success.“
The next obvious question. Will you be there on the 4th of June 2017 to take on the up run to secure your back to back medal ?
Okay, so you are going back in 2017, in that case, is there anything you are going to do different in preparation for that race ? …and if so, what and why ?
“I have already heard from various Comrades runners that hill training is key to have a good up run, so yah, hills, hills and more hills will be on the training agenda for sure. For those who know me it is not a secret that I am not very fond of running hills so I have a lot of hard work to do for next year. I have to change my road work to also incorporate hill training. I think it will also altogether be a new challenge for me, mentally.”
In our previous chat you mentioned that the butterfly trail will continue to Comrades. So tell us, is there a little black and white butterfly at Kingsmead ?
“Yes! I actually had the opportunity to put then up along the route, before the race. What an amazing sight to see them while I was running. And also, every 10km one was thrown up in the air!”
What will you say to anyone who is considering Comrades but who are maybe hesitant or scared to do it ?
“Visualize how you would feel at the end. Many of my running friends told me this before the time, and I did it. If you train correctly, give it the right amount of respect and give it your all you can complete Comrades.”
So friends, there it is, “the Butterfly Lady” has spoken. Will you be joining her in 2017 maybe for your first Comrades ? Remember my favorited Madiba quote, “It always seem impossible until it’s done.”