The goal of Comrades

Most runners will be familiar with the question from non-runners people, “Are you running the Comrades Marathon?” It’s as if all runners just do, right? So when KK decided he was going to attempt to run his first Comrades this year, I didn’t think much of it. I mean, he runs twice a week and we usually enter half marathons on weekends. So how bad can it be? But as his training started, I soon realized there was a lot more to Comrades training than what most people think.

Mornings have been characterised by KK sneaking out of the bedroom at 4am to go and run (while I snuggle deeper under the duvet). The training has been relentless. A typical week involves running two hours on Tuesday, two hours on Thursdays, core training with a personal trainer on Mondays and Wednesdays, then 90 minutes on a Saturday followed by a marathon on Sundays. The next week, it starts again but this time with bursts of hill training and speed work.

Comrades training

His commitment to the training has impressed me the most and is where I have learned the biggest lesson. Firstly, he has a printed out & laminated training schedule of what distances to run and when lying next to his bed as well as in his drawer at work (thanks to his running partner DSM). He has followed each week religiously. By keeping the schedule in front of him at all times, his eyes are set clearly on the goal and he is doing what needs to be done to achieve that goal.

Secondly, when KK talks about the Comrades marathon, it’s always positive. His excitement oozes success. He discusses his race plan with confidence. I can see that in his mind, he envisages that finish line. He talks about the medal and going back next year.  The vision of victory is there!

I think in life, most of us want to go out and do great things, conquer those mountains, be awesome. But it takes hard work, commitment and keeping your eye on the goal. Too many people drop off eating plans; quit hobbies, give up on their dreams because it’s just too hard and too much effort required.

But in actual fact, to achieve big goals in life takes big commitment and lots of dedication. More importantly it’s to believe you can do it! To believe you can win! In my eyes, KK’s already there. He’s my champ!

The trip counter

Ever since I started running, there’s a habit I’ve picked up when I drive my car. I re-set the trip counter to “0” to see how far certain distances are if I were to run them. For example, it’s 3.4 kms to the gym from my house; 4.7 kms to the highway on ramp and 14.8 kms to get to my office. In the run up to any half marathon races, I typically use this exercise to prepare myself mentally. Passing that 21.1 km mark in the trip feels amazing.

So when KK entered the Bonitas City 2 City ultra marathon I started checking exactly how far 50 kms was and discovered that it’s a hell of a way! It’s pretty much the same as driving to my offices, then back home and then half the way back to the office again! *gasp*

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In his 22 years of running, he’s never attempted such a far distance before, having previously stuck to half marathon distances. I don’t know who was more nervous, me or him? From the time I wished him well at the start of the race, to seeing him coming up to the finish 5 hours and 22 minutes later, I was shattered!

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Well done on a fantastic run babes! I’m so proud of you. Comrades, here we come! (well, you…but you know what I mean.)

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Everyone has their own Comrades story to tell

It always amuses me when I chat to (mostly) non-runners and they ask, “Oh, so do you run the Comrades marathon?”  (Runners will know what I’m talking about.)

The ironic thing is that as the Comrades marathon draws closer, I might not be running it, but I still get *goosies* and feel the excitement building. It’s one of the highlights of the year for me.

I’m one of those types of people that wake up at 5am on the morning to watch the start of the race on TV. I migrate to the couch later in the day where I veg with strict instruction that no one is allowed to visit. I follow all the runners I know who are running, every step of the way.

I also confess to being one of those types of people that never miss the excruciating cut off guns. I scream and shout urging runners to hurry up and run faster. I’m a bag of nerves watching the hours count down and in that final 10 minutes, when that last bus of hundreds of runners enters that field, led by the legend, Vlam, I’m overwhelmed with emotion.

In my answer about whether or not I run the race, I do tell people that Comrades blood does actually run in my family. My dad ran the race in the 80’s. How fabulous is this old photograph! I’m so proud of my dad! (He’s the one with the black cap.)

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My dad was running the race during the 80’s when Bruce Fordyce was the nation’s hero. I often see Bruce at the races now and wonder how such a tiny man could win such an enormous race 9 times!

I guess, in a way, most South Africans grew up with their own Comrades marathon memories – either as a runner, or a supporter or spending the holiday watching the race on TV. Radio DJ, Ironman and my running friend, Brad Brown (@bigbradbrown), is hoping to capture people’s memories of Comrades in a book. Go check it out at: http://www.mycomradesjourney.co.za/. Maybe you have a story you’d like to share!

21 days to go…. just 21 days! *gulp*

My dad runs. #fact

It hit me the other day when I saw a photograph of my dad that there’s a part of his life that I know nothing about. To get you up to speed: my dad is a fireman by day/night and in his free time, he builds houses, landscapes gardens, feeds the birds and has an enormous love for wildlife.

He’s also a runner. I’ve known this for all my life and in fact, just recently he ran the 2009 Two Oceans Half Marathon. But it’s the running stories from 20 years ago which are a complete blank to me.

It’s Comrades week and as many of my close friends prepare to run the biggest race on South Africa’s race calendar, I suddenly remembered that my dad has run Comrades. He has also completed Iron Man. Twice. This was many years ago. But still.

(I’ve promised myself to do a separate blog post on his achievements and I’ve already tasked my mom to pull out any photos of my dad.)

I’ve never shared stories with him. I don’t know what he went through, his experiences, his running trials and tribulations. In fact, since I’ve started to run, I mainly get my running tips and motivation from KK and other running buddies. Yet, I’m sure my dad has lots to share.

I know that at the time when he was running, I was young, in primary school and perhaps didn’t take much interest then. I wish I had. I wish I thought about running then like I do now. I wish I had paid more attention.

I’m going to stop telling people that I am a newbie runner and instead announce: “the running gene runs in my family”. Because it does.