Sat Oct 22 09:14:08 SAST 2016


By unknown | May 22, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

There is something so poignant about the Comrades Marathon.

There is something so poignant about the Comrades Marathon.

I like to think of road running as a metaphor for life. It comes with enough down hills to either give your knees a break or make them pack up.

The steep hills push you to the limits you never thought yourself capable of surmounting and the flat road surfaces ground you and help you find a comfortable rhythm.

Also, runners come in all shapes and sizes - there is always someone agile and muscular as to evoke serious envy among athletes.

Just when you are about to despair, you encounter a body shape that either makes you grateful for your own body or makes you ask "how can such a huge person complete a marathon?"

By sheer force of will, that's how.

This Sunday, 12890 runners will attempt the ultimate human race, all with the hope of sprinting, hobbling or crawling triumphantly to a blissful end before the 12-hour cut-off. But as with the journey of life some will not make it on foot, from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.

As the clock ticks to the day, my nerves are killing me. Why did I not realise soon enough that there are cars for this sort of distance?

Even driving 89km is gruelling. It's too late now.

Like thousands of men and women who will be at the starting line-up at 5.30am, I have immersed myself way too deeply and the madness has consumed me.

Months of sleep deprivation and strenuous training can go down the drain at the most crucial moment. It is frightening and humbling to know that we are not always in control and our only obligation is to give all our tasks the best we have.

When that isn't enough, being sensible helps. It's easier said than done. Who wants to bail out after sacrificing so much?

Many talented and committed runners have had to watch their Comrades dream fade as muscles ache unexpectedly and stomachs run faster than the legs.

Combine this with the oppressive heat and you have a willing heart but a body that just won't hang on any longer. The ominous rescue bus pulls over and you know you will be driven to the finish line.

And then there are runners who complete the 89km race, but not before the 12-hour cutoff.

I am not sure which is worse - bailing out because of an injury and illness or spending more than 12 hours on the road and not be recognised as a Comrades runner.

In both circumstances you don't get a medal and thus can't secure your place in the annals of Comrades history.

The pain and dejection is enough to suffocate you.

Last year I was a novice at the race. The tension and anxiety overwhelmed me the moment I decided I had what it takes to be on my feet the whole day.

Not knowing what to expect and launching myself into the unknown was exhilarating.

Now that I know what the race entails, I have lost my innocence and perverted my mind with fear and worry. That's what happens when we grow up - we stop trusting, we start seeing obstacles where there are none and we live with the expectation that things will go wrong. It's a dark place to be in.

On Sunday, we will all be running for different reasons but the ultimate aim is to reach our destination.

Our common humanity as we battle the undulating hills is what binds us. It's no different to a symphonic orchestra - each with his or her instrument creating one sound that is pleasing to the ear and soul.

Despite my trepidation, I know that Comrades is within reach. It is achievable.

Physical fitness and dexterity are crucial ingredients but ultimately everything yields to an iron will.

What would life be without tears, sweat, aches and pain, oh ... and the joy of dreams ultimately coming true?


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