Every race runs a different journey

It’s the Comrades marathon this weekend! Eeek! It feels like just the other day that I was waiting for KK at that finish line but I spotted this Facebook memory which reminded me just how quickly time flies! 

Yup, we’re headed back down for KK’s fourth race for which he has trained harder than any of the previous Big C races. Every year has been different with different goals and an entirely different journey to get to the finish line.

2014: The first Comrades race

KK was meant to run with his friend David but injury forced Dave to pull out after Two Oceans. With no coach and following a training programme pulled from a Modern Athlete magazine, KK set out with a goal of just finishing the race before cutoff. He ran a time of 10:37. He always says that with no previous experience and heading into the unknown was perhaps the best run of them all.

The before & after pic.

2015: Year of the pelvis Elvis!

During his training for Comrades, KK started to ache in his groin area. Hours of physio and being instructed to rest meant that he started Comrades with the least amount of training ever. Zero ultras, no long runs and very few kms under his feet, he managed to finish the race in a time of 11:18. The reason for the ache? A cracked pelvis. I know! But he got his back to back medals and that’s all that mattered to him.

Spot the medals.

2016: Training kicked up a notch

KK ran many long hours with Running Junkie Shaun this year. Following a training programme of track sessions combined with weekend long runs, he went in prepared and hoping to at least improve on his 2014 time. He finished strong! His time: 09:51. He was thrilled. It’s realising that he can improve that set his sights on 2017.

That smile! (after 89kms)

2017: Ultras and more ultras

This year has been quite different, training-wise (him) as well as emotionally (me). It’s been much more intense. After many months of training, waking up three times a week at 4am, long runs on weekends, KK is more determined than ever to improve his time and do well. He even took leave from work in order to avoid all the sick people in the building! He has listened to his coach and there’s nothing more he can do now other than rest and wait for Sunday morning to arrive.

I’m nervous, as always. I’m excited too! Supporting is a whole different ball game. Your heart sits outside of your chest for the entire day! But it’s an awesome experience!

It’s time. Let’s run!

Me? Run Comrades? Are you mad? I know I’m not. (Maybe)

In the days leading up to and after Comrades, quite a few people asked me if I was going to ever run the ultimate race. As all runners do, I’d politely reply ‘yeah, I’d love to!’ But if I had more time, I’d give them my real answer because trust me, I’ve thought about it long and hard. 

Here’s how I’ve broken it down: 

  • I’m a slow runner. Fact! My training with Coach Dave has helped me slice quite a bit of time off my running pace but I’m still averaging 7:44 on my runs. This is me, giving it all I’ve got. To run Comrades, I’d need to run a hell of a lot faster so that when I take on my walk breaks, I’d still be able to average just over 8 mins/km. To slice off another minute and a half off my current pace is a massive task! 
  • I’ve never run a marathon before. This would then need to be another goal to achieve. And to qualify for Comrades I need to run it in under 5 hours which means I need to average 7mins/km. I’m nowhere near this kinda pace now. I’m struggling to get down to even 7:30! Another goal. 
  • To accomplish these goals is a massive task which would most probably take a a few years I’m guessing. Do I honestly want to commit that amount of effort and dedication into my running at this stage of my life? 

So yes, it’ll always remain a dream. But for now, it’s baby steps. My running form is wrong, I still slouch too much, my core needs strengthening. This is what I’m focused on for now. Getting the basics right and focussing on smaller achievable goals. 

So the question again, am I ever going to run Comrades? Highly unlikely. But then again, you never know. 

The entire bit above was written with my head. But here’s what my heart wants to scream out: 

   
 

Two coins to win a race

I wanted to give KK something special for his Comrades race, something meaningful. But he’s not the soft, fluffy teddy emotional kinda guy. A rather introverted engineer, he’s not into deep quotes. He’d rather watch cat videos on YouTube than a motivational TED video and Hallmark cards aren’t his thing.

His face went blank when I even suggested that we watch Chariots of Fire together the week before Comrades, so I really was torn as to how I showed him my support & that he knew I understood the significance of his race and what it meant to him.

I knew he wanted his back to back Comrades medal more than anything. This is a medal only given out to those who run the Up run and return the next year to run the Down run (or vice versa). It wasn’t even about beating his previous time. All he spoke about was these two medals and ensuring he finished in time because this would be his only opportunity to get it. Comrades medals and coins

So the night before the race, I packed two coins into a tiny plastic bag which I gave to him to run with. The two coins symbolized his two medals and I told him that each & every time he felt like quitting or when it got tough out there along the route, that he should reach into his running belt and feel the two coins. Feel and envisage what he was running for.  

KK finished his race and got his medals! He didn’t say whether or not the coins helped but I did notice that he never threw them aside. When we packed up to go home, I caught a glimpse of the coins, still in the packet, tucked away neatly with the rest of his running kit. That said it all…