“GO FORWARD OVER THOSE MOUNTAINS LIKE A SOUTH AFRICAN RUNAWAY TRAIN”

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Comrades Marathon 2018, the 93rd edition of The Ultimate Human Race, a down run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.

COMRADES 2018 “I AM IN”

So where does one start? I guess at the beginning. Oh, not talking about the race but referring to my experience of this iconic race.

I certainly won’t go back to the beginning of time, though I need to shed some light onto the build up to race day which takes me to the day I decided that I will indeed do the race. The truth is, when I committed to line up for this year’s marathon, I was very aware of two things; it was going to be a tough day on the road and a finish or a tough day on the road and a fail.  It was my intention to opt for the finish, but the DNF (Did Not Finish) was as real as the first year, and this year, even more than ever before.

My training for this year’s race was the worst ever.  I previously had never done so few kilometers for Comrades before, not even when I was injured in 2015, so I was painfully aware the odds were stacked up against me.  I had so many setbacks over the past few months that the probability of failing was ten to one bigger than that of finishing.  When one faces personal challenges, a relationship breaking up after 16 years, relocating to a new home a few months later followed by urgent surgery due to some serious medical issues, you are humanly derailed and led to a place in your life where you don’t want to be.  The reality was, I was in that dark place and getting back on track was my responsibility and mine alone.

I looked at the down run profile of the Comrades marathon and recognized landmarks and names; Polly Shortts, Little Pollys, Lion Park, Umlaas Road, Cato Ridge, Inchanga, Botha’s Hill, Hilcrest, Kloof, Fields Hill, Cowies Hill, Westville, 45th Cutting, Tolgate.  All these have a significant and special meaning for athletes attempting this iconic race. I cannot help but think how they also symbolise the landmarks and special places in our lives where we are challenged with the harsh and very real realities of life, and yet, with all the odds stacked up against us, we push on and find a way to manage these odds.  We find a way of dealing with it and through whatever it is, we then find our wisdom & strength.  We somehow manage to beat the odds, maybe not always, but most of the time.

AGAINST ALL ODDS

This year’s Comrades to me was one of those races where the odds were stacked so high against me that I could not even see the other race day challenges of the Comrades so called “Big Five” before me ( Polly Shortts, Inchanga, Botha’s Hill, Fields Hill and Cowies Hill ).

RACE DAY

On the 10th of June 2018, I stood at the start of Comrades and I remember not having the slightest feeling of fear for what was lying ahead. In hindsight, I think this was because I knew that it was going to be a tough day anyway and adding fear and uncertainty would just be two more odds to have to fight later that day.

I remember singing “Shosholoza” with the other twenty thousand runners and thought about the translated English words of this song, wondering how many runners actually knows it. Roughly translated it means, Go forward, go forward on those mountains, train from South Africa. Go forward go forward, you are running away, you are running away, on those mountains, train from South Africa This song is an Ndebele folk song that originated in our neighbouring country Zimbabwe that later became popular in South Africa. I knew, all I had to do was trust myself, trust my own pacing, my will to finish and then do as the song says, “Go forward over those mountains like a South African runaway train.” One step at a time, left, right, left, right, and repeat to the end. A grueling 90.184 kilometers of torture was lying ahead and the plan for the day remained, “Just finish”.

On the back of this there was also the #Comrades4Bibles charity drive which I planned to do for the third consecutive year supporting the Bible Society of South Africa. This is another leg of my own charity “Run for Bible Rands” and money raised through #Comrades4Bibles goes towards the grand total for this charity at the end of the year.  I also decided to dedicate this year’s Comrades to all those runners who were unable to run because they were sick, injured and/or because of other personal reasons and for those who were themselves were dealing with personal issues, challenges and hardships in various areas of their lives.  I wrote down all these names and placed it in an envelope that was pinned to the back of my race number, so I knew, although this was my Comrades, my 5th attempt to finish the Ultimate Human Race, it was also for Bibles and it was in solidarity with those who faced tough times.  For one day I was going to carry their names with me and symbolically carry their burdens as well on that day. Some may think this is silly and even corny, but that was fine, I knew this was what I wanted to do, and I did.

From the start, I reminded myself of how extremely important it was to break the race up into ‘bite-sized chunks’ and that is what I did.  The terrain changes during the course of the day and the various stages of the race need different approaches and should be run differently.  This is a golden rule that many athletes forget, sometimes even those who have been on this route far more times than I have.  If you have a good day it does not mean you can just go out and be reckless. Comrades coach Lindsey Parry says this, “It is vital that your Comrades Marathon pacing strategy is well thought out before you start. Too fast and the Comrades route will slow you down later.”

I ran my first half of Comrades conservatively and felt great when I met up with our support team just before the half way mark.  I have to say the severe drop into Drummond is always a personal  highlight of the down run because I know just ahead,  our amazing support team is waiting for us to give us that well deserved injection of positivity and encouragement.

NO AVOIDING THAT SO CALLED “SOLID BRICK WALL”

At around 80 km, a few steps into Cowies Hill, was the point where I hit my solid brick wall this year. I pulled off to the side of the road and leaned against a rail, just to take a break and refocus. This is where I my hand reached back to the envelope pinned to my race number with the names of people I was running for, saying, “God, I need your help, this is not just for me, this is for all these people fighting their own battles AND this is for the Bibles…” I was tired. I was sore. Field Hill already did its damage. My legs were heavy and hammered and I knew on the other side of Cowies the pain would get even more intense and real as we drop down towards Westville. I knew this was where the mental bashing would start.  This was where Comrades became real.  This is where Comrades gets real for most of us, because it is now no longer about the eighty odd kilometers we have already completed… it is about the next ten we still have to do.  Runners often say your legs will get you to around eighty kilometers, your mind will then take you to the end.  So true.

I got back on the road, struggled through the next thee kilometers and then the worst part of the race started, the last seven kilometers.  I had no idea how far we were from the finish because the distance signs counting off the final kilometers were nowhere to be found.  Apparently they were blown over by the wind earlier in the day and no one thought it was important to put them back up so we were literally running blind.  I asked a few runners around me for their distance (on their watches) and everyone gave me a different figure so I knew the distance was not accurate.  The route was in fact further, well according to our watches anyway.  The only thing I could count on at that point was the actual time of the day so I switched my watch to that setting because I knew at 17.30 I needed to be at that finish line. It is horrible to run blind like this, not knowing what’s ahead. It was also a new finish venue meaning a new route to the end, so one could not even draw knowledge from any previous memories or experiences.  Horrible.

THE FINISH IS NEAR, YET SO FAR

My first glimpse of the Moses Mabhida Stadium left me with even less hope that I was going to finish in time. It was already getting dark and that beacon seemed so far away. At that point, I just focused on slowing down my pace slightly, but keep running.  I knew from my planning that an average pace of 07:55 min/km was going to be a close call, leaving little space for error, so I decided to make 07:40 min/km my aimed average pace.  I ran at 07:39 min/km so in fact, I was according to my planning, still safe for a finish but the inaccurate distance info I got from everyone made me nip a bit. Was this going to be enough? Well, I decided to trust my own instinct, stick to my plan and hope it will be enough.  Basically, I ran the last seven kilometers with the odd brisk walks at the water points, but no stopping, every step forward towards the finish. This was where the true meaning of “Asijiki” became a reality, “No turning back”.

I was overcome with relieve when I spotted the beginning of the TOYOTA red mile. I actually remember thinking to myself that there is just about 1.6km to go and then I am home. Entering the well-lit Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban stirred up a whirlwind of emotions in me and I was filled with pure relieve when I saw the first clock.  I was safe!  My race plan paid off, my pacing was spot on and I was going to bag that medal and I did.  Again, I reminded myself of Lindsey Parry’s words, “It is vital that your Comrades Marathon pacing strategy is well thought out before you start.”

I crossed the finish line at 11:57:31. Mission accomplished. Fifth consecutive Comrades Marathon done.

THE TRUTH FOR ME ABOUT COMRADES 2018

Honestly, this was my most difficult Comrades Marathon ever. This race challenged me on so many levels, leaving me vulnerable to whatever race day was going to throw at me. Lining up at the start with a mere 534km on your legs was ten to one the silliest thing I could do, but I was determined to get to that finish in, in time, and I did it. Obviously I would not recommend such little training to anyone, ever.  Comrades Marathon is more a mental thing than anything else, I can now vouch for that. You have to be fierce, strong willed and focused otherwise you will not survive This Ultimate Human Race.

LIFE HAPPENS

Friends, in our lives we will encounter our very own Polly Shortts, Little Pollys, Lion Parks, Umlaas Roads, Cato Ridges, Inchangas, Botha’s Hills, Hilcrests, Kloosf, Fields Hills, Cowies Hills, Westvilles, 45th Cuttings and Tolgates, but know that how we approach these, how we see them as part of the bigger picture, that will determine if we will make it to the end. Sometimes life gets tough and you are faced with real life obstacles, challenges, and have to make life changing decisions that will forever change the course of your being.  Just do it and focus on that beacon that is looming in a distance.  Fight and push forward towards that goal so you can ultimately conquer and taste the victory. Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Don’t let anyone else define your destiny.

One of my all-time favourite quotes is from Nelson Mandela who said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” The seemingly impossible is something you can accomplish. Maybe you’ve tried it before, maybe not, but it’s important to remember it can be done, and that very thoughts should drive you.

RUNNING FOR A CAUSE

I also once again realized the difference it makes in your motivation levels when you run for a cause. It makes you more stubborn (yes I said it) and also more focused, because it is no longer just about you, it’s about others, in my case, those who so generously gave towards #Comrades4Bibles and those names in that envelope pinned to the back of my race number. This elevates your wanting to get at that finish and all the doubt, the pain and suffering and even moments of self-pity, and let’s be real, even the thoughts of taking the easy way out and quit, disappears into thin air as you refocus and remind yourself why you are actually doing this.

In closing, again the words of Shosholoza”, Go forward, go forward on those mountains, train from South Africa. Go forward go forward, you are running away, you are running away, on those mountains, train from South Africa

THANK YOU

I want to thank my family, friends and even strangers who have so faithfully supported me over the past few months but more so during the last few weeks, days before and on race day. It was you believing in me when I didn’t and I guess even the unuttered thoughts and moments of doubt, that made me push myself to limits that I did not even know existed. To God, all the glory, all the honour, all the praise and my deepest gratitude for allowing me to continue on this 2018 Comrades journey, for using it as a tool to not only make a difference in people’s lives through Run for Bible Rands and #Comrades4Bibes projects, but for using it also as a tool in my own life to bring healing and a better understanding of who I am as a person with God compared to who I am without Him. Today, more than ever before, as I sit here typing this document, I cannot imagine my life without Him.

Comrades foor Bibles Final Amount

Final amount raised for Bibles during 2018 #Comrades4Bibles charity drive. Thank you.

MESSAGE TO FELLOW ATHLETES

Last but not least, to every single athlete who have conquered Comrades Marathon 2018, The Ultimate Human Race, congratulations and well done. Whether it was just a finish, like me, a personal best or personal achievement like a green number or even double green, way to go, you’ve done it. To those who did not finish or maybe not achieved their planned goal, for whatever reason, it does not matter. Congrats to you for making it to the start and for pushing yourself to places you’ve never been before. If it was a tough day on the road, and it certainly was for me, then that is what Comrades brought to your day.  Please remember though, whatever it was that prevented you from not achieving your goal or not making it to that finish line does not define you. What defines you is the fact that you stayed true to yourself and you had the mere guts to line up for this iconic race. It was Colin Powel l who said, “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure”. Ten to one, not reaching your race day goal or not finishing, had nothing to do with you not preparing and or not putting in the hard work.  The fact is and remains, race day is always unique in every possible way. Learn from this experience and do it different in 2019.

Editorial support : Karen Clouter, Madoc, ON, Canada

– the end –

OTHER

You can still use this link https://form.myjotform.com/81141565181553 if you want so send me a personal message, or if you supported the #Comrades4Bibles cause then please tell me why you did. Get in touch, I love to hear from you guys.

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Run for Bible Rands continues and we as athletes, runners, walkers and Park Runners, will continue to make our miles and moment count for more than just a medal as we donate R1 for each kilometer we do in official races every month to the Bible Society of South Africa.  So far we have raised R 9, 076.10 though this charity and this will make available a total of 153 FREE Bibles to those who needs it most. You can join us in making a difference. Just follow the link above and sign up.

 

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2017 is around the corner…

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Are you ready to welcome the New Year ?
Are you ready to step out and take a new chance on life ?
Are you ready to push your boundaries and challenge yourself to living your best possible life ?

People, this is probably going to be my last post for 2016 and I want to take this opportunity to first thank everyone for being part of my life and my journey throughout this past year. Thank you for your love and support and for believing in me, even when I didn’t. It is so amazing to always feel the love and support form everyone, whether it is in person or via social media, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. I really appreciate all the support.

This year was a good year for me with so many wonderful moments and experiences and the good definitely outweighed the not so good. Thinking about all the races I did, it all went well and I was blessed not to have too many injuries or stuff holding me back.

I did my third Comrades Marathon this year and it was an honor to do it this year for the Bible Society of South Africa’s Run For Bibles project and Cornelia Hutchinson and I managed to raise more than R14,000 for this awesome charity. We were so blessed with the awesome support we received. This was also my best Comrades run to date – it was just a really good day on the road.

I also won the Discovery Vitality #MyVitalityPB competition during September and the trip I won to Athens Greece made it possible for myself and Pieter Venter to not only travel to Greece but also to run the Athens Authentic Marathon, celebrating 120 years of the marathon as we know it. What an awesome opportunity ! Feeling so blessed !

There were many other races, Two Oceans, Forever Loskop, Cape Town Marathon and many more – all wonderful events where I was able to share the road with my awesome running family and friends. Part of the highlights of all these events are always the people we get to share the road with. Thank you guys for making each event a special one.

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#Road2Comrades2017

During this year, a very special individual also entered into my life in the form of Christo Kris Lourens. I single this out because Christo has entered for his first Comrades Marathon and I will be his wing man during this special event. The #Road2Comrades2017 has started and you guys will see us on the road at around 40 official races as we train together in preparation for the big one scheduled for the 4th of June 2017. Together we will take on Comrades 2017 and I trust that we will be blessed with a great race, Christo’s first Comrades and my fourth. Also once again looking forward to share the road on that day with so many other passionate runners from all over – turning ordinary into extraordinary !

This year will be another year of #MakingMilesAndMomentsCount and I cannot wait to share it with you all; lots of races, loads of early mornings, traveling, hundreds of traveling and running kilometers and off course lots and lots of photos !

People, as per my previous post, I hope it will be a year of growing, evolving, taking on of new challenges and pushing on to make dreams come true. Always remember this – this means we will have to make mistakes, we have to fail sometimes so we can succeed later. Don’t be afraid to try new things, don’t be afraid of challenging yourself and don’t be afraid of making mistakes, because this will make the difference between staying where you are and rising from above the rest.

Here is to wish everyone a blessed 2017 !

Visit [ http://myownjourney.co.za ] to link with me form there on all social media platforms

Athens Authentic Marathon : DONE !

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Here is a quick look back to my 2016 Athens Authentic Marathon. Funny I use the word “quick” in a post about a marathon I did. Ha ha ha.

Anyway, running this race was such a blessing, a trip back into history, 120 years back into history to be precise. Sometimes during the build up to Athens 2016 I sometimes could not believe I was actually going to run it.

According to organizers interest in “Athens Marathon. The Authentic” was again high this year with around 50,000 runners expected to participate in all of the events’ races over a range of distances. But my focus, and the focus of around 17,000 other runners, was on the premier event, the international officially measured marathon (42.195 km) scheduled for Sunday morning, the 13th of November at 09.00am when all of us were going to follow the footsteps of the legendary Pheidippides from the town of Marathon to the finish line at the 1896 Olympic Stadium, also known as the Panathenaic Stadium also known as Kallimarmaro. Like I mentioned, this year marked , celebrated, 120 years since the first Modern Olympic Games of 1896 and the first ever Olympic marathon finished in the same stadium where we were going to finish and we were going to be part of it.

First thing Pieter and I did after checking at the YES! New Hotel in Athens was to find our way to the Athens Marathon EXPO & Registration Centre, which is hosted in the Faliro Indoor Hall & Exhibition Centre of Athens. We found other runners on the tram and together we found our way to the registration centre. Picking up our bib numbers, timing chips, and race packages was quick and efficient and the expo was really huge. We decided to make the most of it and walked through the whole expo, twice. I had to go back to by the 120 year souvenir and limited edition t-shirt. I only decided I wanted it when we were already at the exit.

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Saturday was just a day of lying low, we did some exploring close to the hotel and the rest of the day was really just focusing on the task at hand, to get the most out of this amazing opportunity to run one of the most sought after marathons in the world, and not only that, also the only “authentic” marathon in the world, measured at 42.195km. Well, I managed to do it in 42.74km. Ha ha ha. They just never work out quite right so they ?

Race day. 13 November 2016. Our hotel was located literally just around the corner from one of the bus pick up points at Syntagma Metro Station, line 2 & 3. Getting there took us minutes by foot and the whole process there was so well organised and handled to the point, the best I have seen actually at any race. About an hour later we arrived in the village of Marathon and had ample of time to soak in the whole vibe of this iconic event. We were able to also take some great pictures before the race and one specific highlight is the pictures we took at the Marathon Flame Tower and another with our South African flag that was also hoisted along with the flags of all other participating countries.

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Just to interrupt myself for a minute. You guys might know that I have decided to sit out on the Kaapsehoop marathon on the 5th of November, just before we left for Athens. That was a really tough decision for me because I love Kaapsehoop and it was also my first marathon ever, but when I stood there at the starting line of the Athens Authentic, I knew that that was the right decision. The rib injury I suffered two weeks before we left was still very present and the pain was still there, intense but bearable. I was still worried about the marathon and how the day was going to play out, but I was determined to ride this wave to the very end, no matter what. I was determined to start and finish this race, no matter what.

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We started in batches and the first group of elite runners started at 09.00, sharp. After them the groups were moved forward and started in groups one after the other. I have to say what really stood out for me was that there was no pushing of shuffling or people trying to push in because they were late – the typical South African race start scene was not present. Everyone waited, patiently, for their turn. Maybe it is because the race was a mat to mat and not gun to gun event, but still. It is really nice to start like this where everyone is just calm and disciplined, enjoying the moment.

From the village of Marathon the route replicated the route followed by Pheidippides to announce the victory of Athens in the Battle of Marathon.

From the start we headed south for around 17 kilometers, offering a rather flat profile with little graduate climbing here and there, and then we turned in a western direction where the serious climbing started – not too steep but steep enough to test and try the legs. The first descent only starts at around between 32km and 35km and then we entered the valley where the city of Athens is located in front of us.From there the run was easy and rather effortless.

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The spectators along the route were amazing. We passed through various small villages and eventually suburbs of Athens until we reached the city of Athens, and one word echoed through the air all the time, “Bravo”. It is my guess that Phinnepeades carried an olive branch with him when he did this route because the locals came out in their numbers to hand out olive branches to the runners to carry with them to Athens. It was a lovely touch and yes, I carried mine all the way to the end and I am glad I did. It even shows on my pictures.

Along the route water stations were very frequent but boy, did they waste water. Unlike at the races we do where they hand out cachets, we were given bottled water and one can only drink so much water, so the rest goes to waste. Obviously they do not have problems with water like we do and every time I had to throw a bottle of water away I thought of SA and how much we need that water. Anyway, when in Rome do as the Romans do I guess ( in this case, when in Greece… ) so I had to make peace with that. I have to add to this though that I have read that they were going to recycle an estimate of around 25,000 kg of plastic, so not all that dim and grim I guess.

Friends, the whole race was amazing, from beginning to end, but nothing could prepare me for the moment when I made that left turn towards the Panathenaic Stadium and saw the banner that said, “250m to go!” and then the full view of the stadium was suddenly in front of me and I knew, “Athens Marathon – The Authentic was done and dusted! I crossed the finish line at 04.34.01. Happy. No, ecstatic, grateful and really blessed ! When I threw my arms in the air I saw the olive branch I carried all the way with me and this is when I welled up. Yah I am a softy, sucker for “a moment”. I suddenly missed my mom and wondered what she would think of me, doing all this; me changing my life, losing all the weight, started to run, marathons, ultra-marathons, Comrades, international marathons ( this was my third one ) and now, the one and only authentic marathon in the world where it all started 120 years ago, the Athens Marathon. I think she would be proud of me.

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The moment I’ve been waiting for, entering The Panathenaic Stadium, Athens

Looking at that medal in my hand, the medal I have been dreaming of since I started to plan this trip, was suddenly lying in the palm of my hand. Mission accomplished.

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Pieter and I both had good runs ( he did 04.14.39 ) We were 44 South Africans on the starting list, 32 finished the race. Pieter finished in 13th place out of the group and grabbed the 17th spot. This was definitely not about racing, but rather to have and enjoy the experience. Both of us were going to have better times, but we took a lot of pictures, so that definitely wasted time, but with this event not time was wasted. It was just plain awesome.

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We also extended our time in Greece for another ten days, and believe when I say, the experience was magical. We have seen and done so much and got to be around the most amazing people; they are friendly, helpful and so respectful. Greece is a stunning country, disciplined, clean and despite of the challenges they face as a people and as a country, things are still working in so many ways and when I say that I immediately wonder, “What is South Africa’s excuse?”

It will not be fair for me to boast about this wonderful even without thanking the people who made this possible. I want to give a BIG shout out and thank you to Discovery Vitality for making this trip to Athens possible. If it was not for me winning the #MyVitalityPB competition, none of this was going to be possible. I had six months in which to make use of the prize, and when I saw that the Athens Marathon was on, that instantly convinced me not to let this opportunity pass, and we entered, and then booked the trip around those dates. To Discovery Vitality, “Efcharistó polý” ( Thank you very much )

Everyone ask me, “Will you go back?” The answer to that question is easy, “…next year this time you will ten to one be reading my review on my second Athens Authentic Marathon” So YES, I want to go back and not only that, I intend to take a few friends ( specially running friends ) with. This is a MUST RUN marathon !

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Greece is calling !

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Acropolis, Athens Greece

In the beginning of September I was informed by Discovery Vitality that I was the winner of the competition they run during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and the prize, a trip for two to Athens, Greece. The prize includes flights, accommodation for six nights, seven days, transfers and a full day city tour including a visit to The Panathenaic Stadium also known as Kallimarmaro.

So, right now, excitement is building as I count down the days to 9 November 2016 when I will jet off to Athens, Greece for this amazing trip. I have decided to also extend my time in Greece with a few days and will only return on the 26th of November 2016.

Like a typical runner, when I started to look at possible dates of travel I consulted “Doctor Google” for some help in this regard and saw that the Athens Authentic Marathon will happen in 13th of November 2016. Needless to say, even before my dates for the trip were confirmed I was entered for the marathon. Pieter and I will run this very iconic marathon between Marathon and Athens on the 13th of November 2016 in the colors of TeamVitality. We are so excited about this. We will run this race with tired legs because the week before we will be in Nelspruit for the Kaapsehoop Marathon, but hey, maybe this will force us to hold back and take in all aspects of the Athens run. Many runners describe The Athens Marathon as the ultimate Marathon experience; recreating each year the incredible run that started it all 2,500 years ago. This year we will be part of this amazing experience.

During my trip I will definitely keep everyone updated and you will be able to follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

As a last thought, during the Cape Town marathon two weeks ago I managed to qualify for Comrades so that one is also ticked off the list. Now I can just hope for a better seeding sometime, somewhere. Kaapsehoop is a good opportunity for that, but will see what happens there on 5 November 2016. During Cape Town marathon I was once again reminded of two realities of running. Firstly, you should always run your own race, and secondly, race day will look after itself; you can be well prepared and in top form and have a terrible run and you can be uncertain and in doubt and not so prepared and have a great day on the road.

Friends, I will touch base with you all again soon. In the meanwhile, be inspired to live your best possible life and make every moment count and have no regrets !

Commitment and perseverance is key to success

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2016 Comrades done & dusted !

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 ?

“Definitely!”

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.”

Meet Bernita, “The Butterfly Lady”

bernita

So what’s up with the “Butterfly Lady” ?

Believe it or not, there is a story behind the butterfly trail.

At each and every race Bernita leaves behind a black and white paper butterfly, always in a tree of some significant spot.

“Why?” people would ask.

“Well, I am doing this for my precious mom who I miss dearly. My mom passed away the day after Mother’s Day 2013, and that night I had a vision of millions of butterflies. Days after I was diagnosed with life threatening blood clots, there was one butterfly in the house for two weeks! ( I still have it ! ) What amazes me, thinking back at all the happy, sad and challenging moments I had in my life, a butterfly was always present.”

Asking Bernita how it came about for her to start the butterfly trail, this was her response.

“When I started running I decided to dedicate my runs to the precious Saturdays I spent with my mom when she was still with us. She taught me that one should always push your limits and go beyond whatever your current circumstances might be and to identify something in life that motivates and drive you. I saw how she always gave her very best; often in days that were not easy at all and this brought me to the very real realisation that one should put something out there to challenge you.”

Running became my escape, my so called “me time”, my time dealing with everything I could not help her with.”

I asked Bernita what this process and running specifically did for her. Again her response was immediate.

“Through my running I met the most amazing people, made friends, created bonds which only other runners would understand and appreciate. My runs are dedicated to my mom, the person who taught me to always just do my best and my running friends now share this very intimate ritual with me at all the runs we do.”

I also asked Bernita if there was a message she wanted so share with her fellow runners with whom she share the road with at all the races and training runs?

“Yes, thank you for supporting me on this AMAZING adventure and thank you for your love and encouragement which you always so generously share with me. This year I am doing my first Comrades, The Ultimate Human Race, and I guess you all now know what will be at the end of the Comrades adventure, yes, my butterfly!”

Since she mentioned Comrades, I asked Bernita why she decided to challenge herself with this iconic race, “The Ultimate Human Race” ?

“The words of Tommy Lasorda I think says it all. He said, ‘The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person’s determination.’ When I decide on something, then I do it. Simple as that. I give it my all, nothing less. I always wanted to run and to date I have completed four ultra marathons, something I would have never even dreamed of doing, but I did. Sometimes things do get in the way in life and hinder or even stop you from doing what you’ve set out to do, but even with the possibility of setbacks and hindrances, I will give my all to make it happen and to realise my dreams and goals because it is something that I can do for myself. Someone once told me that I am resilient,  and I somehow always remember this when something gets in my way, trying to stop me doing what I want to, like doing an important race. Somehow I always bounce back and manage to do it. Comrades has become my next challenge, and I know this race is going to push me way out of my comfort zone, but that is where the challenge lies. Like I said, after the run on the 29th of May, the butterfly trail will continue.”

Any final words from you Bernita ?

“Yes, don’t just breathe, LIVE”

That folks is the story of Bernita Bornman, “The Butterfly Lady”. Look out for her at the races and see if you can spot her butterflies. This is once again such a good example why we should always try to run for more than ourselves. It also underlines my motto; #MakingMilesAndMomentsCount

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/bernita.bornmann

Canada’s 1st ever National Relay for Youth and South Africa joins in…

I visited Canada visited Canada in October last year where he did the ScotiaBank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in support of a local Canadian charity, the Steve O’Brian Foundation.

I also had the privilege to meet and spend time with Canadian pro athlete Steve Obrien and joined him for a short charity run which ended in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Whilst I was there I was also awarded the special shirt of the foundation as an honorary member for my contribution to and support of the foundation. I was involved with keeping the web page up to date as Steve progressed on his cross Canada relay.

Now South Africa gets involved, once again. This time Magnolia Road Runners agreed to dedicate their pre-Comrades Long Run, which will happen this coming Sunday, the 24th of April 2016, as a solidarity run to show support to the Steve O’Brien Foundation’s great cause. On the 28th the foundation will host their very first National Youth Relay where they challenge children all over Canada to match or exceed the 13,225kms Steve completed in his cross Canada solo relay. [ Read more here : http://www.walkrunnroll.ca/ ] It is important, actually vital, to get the youth moving earlier in their lives rather than late and with this solidarity run, we as Magnolians and friends of Magnolia Road Runners, although we are 13,300kms away from Canada, will #RunAsOne to show our support. The kilometres we do at this long run will be forwarded to the foundation in Canada and will be recorded in their logs.

Let’s run together whilst #MakingMilesAndMomentsCount

solidarity run