We are less than 80 days away from the running of Comrades marathon 2017. This race over the past four years became an integrate part of my life. After I managed to shake off 53kg I found myself on the road, became a runner and in 2014 lined up with thousands of runners to take on my first “Ultimate Human Race”
Over the ninety something years Comrades became part of a South African tradition and over years became one of those items on any runner’s bucket list, one of those must try items. Comrades Marathon definitely is, without doubt, an ultimate human race, the ultimate test of one’s character, challenging the human spirit, which explains why complete strangers from local and abroad and from totally different backgrounds help each other to conquer this hilly course.
This year’s theme is ZINIKELE, It takes all of you.
My Comrades journey, the decision to do it, started with a t-shirt I bought at the 2014 expo in Durban and the words, “Don’t promise, commit” sort of snookered me. I was a supporter that year, but when I left the expo in Durban I told my friends that I will run the down run in 2015 and the rest is history. Conquering that first Comrades, I remember coming into that stadium in Durban overwhelmed with a mix of emotions and with tears in my eyes and that indescribable feeling of achievement. That year I hang on to a favourite quote by Madiba, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
Since then I’ve gone back for more and this year I will run my fourth Comrades Marathon. The first one was special but really tough, so much so that I was one of those who said, “Never again” just to find myself back at the start line in 2015 to try to secure my back to back medal, and I did.
To me Comrades never comes easy. Getting to the start line takes all of you, hours of training, endless early mornings, races, places, dealing with injuries, fighting off the flu, sometimes more than one attempt to get qualified and get your seeding right. Preparing for this iconic race requires hard work and ultimate commitment, just to get to the start. On race day, before you can experience and enjoy the moment you cross that finish line before the 12 hours cut-off, the long road between Durban and Pietermaritzburg is often lined with pain, discomfort, desperation, confusion, questions without answers, uncertainty, fear, self-doubt. But it is not all doom and gloom, there are also moments of sharing, solidarity, encouragement, comrade and even humor and laughter as runners navigate their way towards the finish line. It is the encouraging words from fellow runners and total strangers that push you forward towards the end.
The fourth of June is going to be another tough day on the road. It is again an up-run and this is a real challenge for me. I prefer the down run, but this is part of the magic I guess of Comrades, to always challenge you on some level. For us, the so called “normal” and non-elite athletes, this is not a race, and if it is, it is only a race against time, a race against that clock that “seize to work” at twelve hours, when the final cut off gun with sound and determine whether you made it or not. I have learned over the years that a Comrades runner can only claim success when success is achieved.
During every run so far I met my runner’s wall between 60 and 65 kilometer. This is where I go into mental overdrive where it becomes all about mind over matter, the will to carry on and finish what you’ve started arguing against your body that wants to stop. Fact is, the battle now becomes more with your head than your body because your head refuses to believe that you can make it. This “battle” also drains you mentally, emotionally and saps your body of what is left so I try to get this battle over as quickly as possible so I can carry on with the business of the day, getting to that finish line, in time.
In 2016 I started to run for charity when I joined hands with the Bible Society of South Africa and ran my first Comrades for Bibles. I read a lot about people supporting charities through their sport and I decided to give it a go, and this was without doubt the best move I could ever make. That runner’s wall again came at around 60 kilometers, but the battle was short lived. When the going got tough, I reminded myself why I was doing this, so someone somewhere can get a free Bible and then suddenly the tough got going again and I had my best Comrades ever. I really think this is a tradition we as runners need to make part of your running journeys, running for something more than just a medal or personal achievement, but to also support a local charity and bring change to people’s lives.
This year I will again run Comrades for Bibles – run the 87 kilometers raising funds for Bibles – sowing my support for Bibles, one kilometer at a time.
However, there will be an added challenge. I have committed to run Comrades 2017 with a friend to try and ensure that his Comrades dream becomes a reality. Christo Lourens will be by my side on race day. The special challenge here is that Christo has a hearing impairment and has a cochlear implant. For fear of damaging the sensitive and expensive transmitter unit, Christo chooses to compete in his runs without it. When he runs, he is thus literally deaf and totally cut off from the outside world. The main challenge for hearing-impaired runners is always safety. Deaf runners have to be aware of their surroundings constantly. This includes not only motor vehicles but pedestrians and other runners as well. It all revolves around safety. For this very reason I have committed myself to assist Christo and be alongside him – hopefully all the way. Although Christo and I will be taking on Comrades together and hopefully navigate our way to the end together, both of us will run our own race and we as individuals we will have to get to that finish line at Scottsville Racecourse in Pietermaritzburg. [ …read more ]
People say what I do is very noble, but to me this is all about Ubunto, meaning, “I am what I am because of who we all are.” Running for a cause and this year, also for a friend, is a real blessing to me and means so much to me that it is not just about me, it is not just about my medal, my personal goal, dream or challenge, but it extends over boundaries and horizons much further than that.
My Comrades for Bibles charity drive is now open and you can show your support by donating to this cause. Every R50 donation will make available one FREE Bible to someone who really needs it most and goes to the poorest of the poor. It was Paul who said, “I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.” ( 1 Corinthians 3 :16 ) Each Bible we can place in the hands of the Bible Society of South Africa and ultimately in the hands of a stranger somewhere will not only bring a single person, but potentially a whole family, one step closer to a living relationship with God.
Today I am so glad that I am not forced to support one of the official and accredited charities associated with Comrades, so I decided to dedicate my kilometers to the Bible Society of South Africa. I have a dedicated web page for my Comrades for Bibles charity drive and I invite you to visit this page to learn how you can support this cause. I tried to make the process a little easier and hopefully we can top last year’s R14,323.40 ( 311 free Bibles ).
Thank you for your support and for being part of my journey to Comrades 2017 !