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!

A run down of our Comrades 2016 marathon

This was KK’s third Comrades marathon. He has successfully run the up and the down run, receiving his back-to-back medal, but one thing I’ve learnt is that even if you’ve run Comrades before, each year is different. The training was different, the build-up was different and yes, even the weekend down in Durban was a different experience this time around.

We stayed at the Fairmont Zimbali Resort for the first time. It’s beautiful and when I forgot the stress of the race that hung over KK’s head, it felt like we had escaped to Bali for a getaway weekend. The resort was nice and quiet too which was good for KK to rest his legs and head before the race.Feet up Zimbali Resort

First things first, the Expo which was packed with both nervous runners and excited supporters. It was a bonus to pick up KK’s race pack in record time.Comrades marathon 2016 expo

Back at the hotel and I forced KK to put his feet up and relax. We did lots of napping and snacking and just walking around the gardens of the hotel. And yes, wine for me. It was bliss.File 2016-06-05, 7 12 12 PM (2)

Preparation on my part meant packing a bag of sunscreen and more snacks. Mapping out my supporter’s route was to ensure that KK knew exactly where to look out for me. Here’s me being all clever with my Comrades route map but KK knows I can’t read a map. Thank goodness for Waze. LOL!Mapping out my supporters route

The morning of the race is always incredibly tense. As much as you’ve prepared for the race, it all comes down to how you feel on the day. KK had been battling with an Achilles heel injury which weighed heavily on his confidence to predict what time he would run.Two very nervous runners at the start of the Comrades marathon

Only runners are permitted beyond these gates which somehow looked like once they were through, they were trapped in a cage with no escape!The starting line of the Comrades marathon

The first stop was Cato Ridge. I must admit that finding the right spot to stop was tough because it was pitch dark. I have serious night blindness and even though it felt like I was sitting on the dashboard trying to see the road, my supporter companion Linda, looked very nervous!Cato Ridge Comrades stop

Cato Ridge Comrades marathon down run 59km mark

The first batch of runners started to trickle passed. I was amazed at how fast they ran! And then I even spotted a partially blind runner. Amazing!Blind runners running Comrades

The first stop where we met KK and Shaun W was at the 30kms mark. I have run 32kms before and felt like death. But they looked fresh and were still smiling – a good sign!The first Comrades stop at Cato Ridge

It’s hard work being a supporter but one family had a good idea. While standing on the side of the road, a runner ran up to me, handed me a card and ran off. On the one side of the card was a beautiful motivational message from his daughter. On the other side, a message to me with a cellphone number, “Please can you send my wife a message and tell her where I am and that I’m fine.” Brilliant idea and of course, I sent the message with pleasure and a smiley face!Updates for family

After a while, we shot through to our next stop, Hillcrest. Here we were able to find some toilets, a Woolies and a place to grab some lunch. #priorities

Somewhere along the way, KK and Shaun W had split up. When KK reached us at Hillcrest, he was still smiling (still a good sign) and felt strong but running alone. I knew that once he had reached this spot, the head was required to take over the work as the legs had done all they could. Comrades is a mental race after about 60kms…I was nervous!Meeting KK at Hillcrest 60km mark

The advantage of the down run to Durban is that there is ample place for spectators to sit and watch the runners finish the race. It looks much bigger on TV and we chose the spot where we could watch the runners enter the stadium as well as run down the last strip to the finish line.Comrades finish line

I don’t know how people were able to track their loved ones during the race in previous years, but with new technology, we were able to watch all our family & friends who were running via the Ultimate Live app on our cellphones. It helped to know exactly where KK was and allowed me to be ready to see him enter the stadium, still smiling!Ultimate Live Tracker app

He did it! My heart leaped when I finally found him on the field. It was a PB and he was thrilled with his run.Comrades finish

To take on an ultra marathon such as Comrades means you have to not only have done the hard physical training, but your head needs to be right. Many of the Comrades runners have admitted to dropping into a very dark head space along the route when they were overwhelmed with with negative thoughts. To pull yourself out of this and not quit must take incredible strength. For me, this is what stands out as the most inspiring and amazing quality a Comrades runner possesses.Comrades medals

It’s been a week and KK is itching to go run again. He was told to rest for at least two weeks but every now and then I catch him checking out Strava and looking at trail running sites. He loves Comrades and I know we’ll be back again next year. I can’t wait!

It’s all in your head

There’s just one more week to go before the Comrades marathon and life at home has started to mirror the actual race day. The many months of training has prepared KK for the first 60kms of the race. But it’s the last 30kms or so where his mind needs to take over and he will have to rely on mental strength to get him to that finish line.

These last couple of days has felt like those final 30kms and KK has gone through every emotion possible. But he’s not alone. I’ve seen other runners going through the same thing, many of them posting to social media. Here’s a few which I know both runners and supports will relate to.

  • The struggles with tapering and worrying if they’ve done enough trainingcomrades
  • The nightmaresComrades nightmares
  • Trying desperately not to get sick
    Comrades flu 4 Comrades flu 3
  • The false niggly aches and pains in the legsComrades niggly
  • The inability to concentrate on anything non-Comrades relatedComrades days off work
  • The fearsComrades leave it there
  • The joysComrades rest days

As supporters, we feel it all. But hang in there! Keep calm. You’ve We’ve got this!Comrades countdown

Tapering for the “BIG C”

After months of intense training, KK has started tapering down for Comrades. It’s a relief for sure, especially since the recent weeks have involved nothing else but running, sleeping and eating and running and eating and running, then sleeping. Aiming to run between 100kms and 120kms each week has been insane and I could sense the exhaustion setting in.

Running shoes

We ‘park’ our running shoes at the front door when we return from our runs.

I’m thrilled! Tapering (for me) means:

  • Not having to wake up on Sunday mornings in an empty bed
  • Less water bottles stacking up on the kitchen sink
  • The freedom to go to Saturday movie again, even if we do go to the 5pm show
  • Hopefully packing less lunch for work?
  • KK not falling asleep as often in front of telly at 8pm in the evenings
  • Less ‘what time are you going to bed because I need to sleep’ comments
  • Eating curry again and not having to worry about the “consequences”.

The dedication to his training regime has been quite impressive and shows his dedication and commitment to what is required when tackling a race of this magnitude.

gas mask to avoid sickNow begins 3 weeks of avoiding any sick people and ‘overdosing’ on vitamin C.

The mental prep and countdown has begun.

The excitement is starting to build!