Article by Bruce Clark on Boston Bombing

In some small way, this article, written by Bruce Clark, expresses my feelings on the Boston Marathon bombing.

“I wrote this at the request of Pieter Malan, the editor of the Rapport Weekliks.
It appeared in yesterday’s copy. The link is at the bottom. Below is my original english version. It was translated for me by a very talented person at Rapport.

Boston Marathon.

On Monday 15th April, on Patriot’s Day, in Boston, a lunatic announced his or herself. The announcement itself was typical of madmen. With no concern for the resulting carnage, a homemade bomb was detonated near the end of a marathon. The target was no corporate giant, no symbolic building, no head of state, no particular race, colour or creed. The target was people’s happiness. In a single second, tens of millions of people were outraged, many thousands were severely traumatised, hundreds were critically injured, and several were dead. For the runners and spectators in the vicinity of the bomb, the result was apocalyptical. A running shoe, still with a human leg in it, flew through the air; a man saw his family all but wiped out in front of his eyes; an innocent eight-year-old boy was murdered; two siblings each lost a leg; the list of horror goes on and on.

No-one could have expected this fun day to be ruined like this.

No-one could have expected this fun day to be ruined like this.


For me, thousands of miles away with only Twitter to rely on, and no alternative news coverage, it was an awful but uplifting experience. Long before the politicians began reading their scripts, the public was already speaking. ‘Why must we mourn Americans when Syrians are dying every day?’, ‘Why do American tragedies get televised when others are ignored?’ were words that appeared, briefly, on my phone’s small screen before being swamped by scorn from all corners of the world. The smallest running club in the furthest corner of the world all tried to get their message of support across: ‘How can we help?’ I lay on my bed, with tears in my eyes, and watched the marvelous people of Boston, America, and the World, swing into action.
Running took on a new meaning

Running took on a new meaning


I speak entirely for myself when I say this, but the reason for this orgy of destruction is of no interest to me; I am beyond rage, way beyond contempt, and well into the realm of cold disinterest. The ‘whys’ of these madmen should never see the light of day; we – the rational world – should block our ears and divert our eyes when the first, ‘I did it because of…’ is articulated. Whatever grudge, or whatever flame of discontent these people harbour, they do not deserve one puff of oxygen we may unintentionally blow their way. This barbaric and cowardly act deserves two things: swift justice and our eternal silence; that is all. Nothing more, nothing less.
I am a runner. I always have been and, health willing always will be. I do not need to paraphrase the saying made famous in the immediate aftermath of 9/11: ‘today we are all runners,’ because I am already one. I can say without fear of contradiction that even measured against the scale of madness, the bomber, or bombers, got this completely, utterly, and spectacularly, wrong. Running is the sport of peace and, in runners across the globe; you have a giant army of passionate pacifists. Our army is everywhere, in every single part of the world; it cuts across, and makes a mockery of, every single false distinction you care to mention – or dare to make up.
One cannot express one's feelings when we think of this event

One cannot express one’s feelings when we think of this event


I have no beef with other sports, or the many friends I have made who participate in those sports, but it’s not even vaguely close. The beautiful game? I think not. Two teams in opposition where their supporters gather hoping the other team lose. If it’s such a beautiful game, why are spectators kept separate by wire? Why the police dogs? You do not need to protect runners from runners. Rugby? Cricket? Golf? Cycling? Swimming? Each of them – to a greater or lesser extent – with a financial, mechanical, geographic, socio-economical filter preventing others joining in; each of them, in their own way, an elitist sport.
Running is the sport of the humble and the sport of the poor. Poor in bling and glamour but not in substance. In the field of human recreation, you will not find a better metaphor for life than running. With the soles of our feet planted firmly on the spinning rock we inhabit, we have been indulging in this most simple of pleasures since the dawn of time. Initially running without knowing we were running; stumbling with toothless smiles towards a maternal form waiting for us with open arms; on and on through years continuously going through the process of leaving and arriving and dealing with whatever happens in between. We were running long before we learned to judge and long, long before we learned to hate.
If you care to stand at the end of a running race – particularly a marathon – I will tell you what you will see. You will see more concentrated kindness than in any other sport. In no other sport is it so common to be physically picked up be a fellow athlete and helped to the finish. In no other sport will so many spectators endure hours of discomfort just to encourage people they don’t know – and never will. I absolutely guarantee that if you stand at the finish line of a marathon you will see snapshots of human nature, which will enrich your life. In numbers far beyond any other sport you will find the most racially, politically, sexually, economically diverse group of people imaginable; they will be standing next to each other, empty handed, rubbing shoulders, and engaging in that fine human quality of talking and, the even better one, of listening.
I have not had the pleasure of running the Boston Marathon but I have run many others. I have stood in the starting pens of the Comrades Marathon twenty times and have crossed the finish line eighteen times. I am often asked why I keep going back; I’m not getting any younger and I am most definitely not getting any faster. My answer is quick and simple: I return every year because the winding stretch of tar between Pietermaritzburg and Durban brings out the very best in me, and very best in my fellow runners, and the very best in the hundreds of thousands of spectators we see along the way. For a few shared hours we live in the caring world, as we would like it to be.
One bomb, two bombs, a thousand bombs. It will cause us to shed rivers of tears for our fellow humans but it will not change us. They will not turn us into them. They will not steal our smile. The center will hold.”

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All Is Forgiven….

I’m hurt! Not emotionally, physically. Although, if I were hurt emotionally, the person responsible for that hurt would know who he is and he would know what he had done!

You know what you did!

You know what you did!

But I’m not emotionally hurt, I’m physically hurt. And I’m hurt from what was otherwise a reasonably forgettable 21km race. I learned two very important lessons today. I learned something I already knew and I learned something about last week’s race that I needed both last week’s race and this week’s race to teach me.

Lesson #1: They’re not joking when they advise you to slowly and gradually run in a new pair of shoes. I got a new pair of running shoes a few weeks ago. I’ve run about 6km in the shoes and today I donned said new shoes for a 21km run. Not wise. But more about that later.

Lesson #2: Don’t help others! What a dreadful lesson! Let me explain. Last week, I helped two or three or eight ladies through the second half of a marathon. At times, I knew I could have gone so much faster, but I stayed with them. Admittedly, when I was at a low point, they were there to….well, I suppose, keep me company. But I think I missed qualifying for Comrades because I helped them. I think I could have qualified on that route, but I didn’t because I felt guilty and I felt afraid. Guilty for leaving them when they might have needed me and afraid because I thought I’d need them to repay the favour when I hit a low point, which they did. The reason I come to the stark realisation today that I shouldn’t help others, or let me qualify that, help others at the expense of achieving my own goals, can be found in how I came to be in Boksburg on a freezing Sunday morning on my oldest brother’s birthday. Happy birthday Graham.

Happy birthday my brother

Happy birthday my brother

I had seen this race on the calendar and had decided to give it a go. I’ve got a few marathons under my feet now so 21s are a pleasant distance for me. Mike, coming back from injury and illness, was going to do back-to-back 21s this weekend, the second of which was going to be this, the Birchwood Hotel something or other, the name of which escapes me now because Vodacom’s hideous excuse for signal at my house is not allowing me to go onto the Internet. So I don’t know what I ran today. I just know it was in Boksburg where there are no trees and too much pollution. I told Mike I’d run with him today. I’ve been getting faster and faster while Mike has been injured and sick and so I’ve been faster than him in the last few races we’ve run. But a nice easy run with Mike to support him on this mammoth task of back-to-back 21s was a decent gesture and would make for a pleasant run this birthday Sunday.

And so I found myself shivering at the start of a 21km race at 7am in Boksburg. Mike and I were chatting to some of Mike’s friends (lots of “G” names, which always confuse me – Greg, Geoff, Grant, Craig, Graham, Gavin, Garth….) and so we set off in a jovial mood. I was taking small steps so as not to go far ahead of Mike and when he walked, I was able to keep going at a similar pace to him. What a pleasant run. Mike is incredibly friendly and I think he is so partly to goof off or to have an excuse to walk. He talks to everyone and specifically seeks out those that are walking or running slowly so that he can amble alongside them. I think he is able to run much faster than he does….but this is not a school report on Mike and his ability. I hardly worked up a sweat or even a discernible heart rate. I was really going slowly, but it was very pleasant. I’ve been so obsessed with getting better and better and getting to Comrades, that I’ve never really just done as little as possible, but here I was, purposefully underachieving. All for a good cause. (I know Chrissie has spent one year doing the same for me. Thank you Chrissie. I now realise how frustrating this must have been for you, albeit very pleasant.) At 9kms I got grumpy which I always do at 9kms. At 13kms I wanted to give up which I always do at 13kms and at 15kms I started to limp. I think the new shoes, combined with the smaller steps I had been taking to keep up with Mike were too much for my fragile frame and at about 15km I needed a hip replacement. The reality, however was that my gluteus medius and right hamstring were the cause of my troubles and I began to limp. Mike also started complaining about a paining hamstring and we took a lamppost approach to a few kms.

Then Mike started to do time calculations. He had been doing them periodically throughout the race and I had just nodded silently, knowing that, if he wanted to go faster, I could go faster. At this point though, he started talking about doing 2:45, which I could have done if we had been running at a decent pace from the beginning of the race, but now, with an injury and a limp, I wasn’t sure I could suddenly start hurrying. Mike usually finishes very strongly and I was aware that, at some point, he may get bored and want to go faster. But I was hurt and I want to run Wally Hayward in 10 day’s time so I didn’t want to do any serious damage. And then, to add insult to injury, literally, a car shot a rock off the road. It flew past Mike’s leg and straight into my ankle. If I wasn’t limping before, I most certainly was now. I stopped and rubbed my ankle. You know how near the end of a race, you can’t bend down because your quads and hamstrings just don’t wanna? Not me, I had been having such an easy race, that I just stopped, bent down and rubbed my ankle. But my glute and hamstring were aching. And now my ankle was throbbing. My compadre didn’t notice and he ran ahead. He suddenly had a goal. He started out with a total underachiever goal of less than 3 hours. Suddenly, close to the finish, and realising that he had kept a good pace throughout the race (no thanks to me, of course), he made a goal to beat 2:45. So he ran ahead, leaving me limping behind him. He’d turn around occasionally to give me a thumbs up which I thought meant “Are you still able to move forward?”, but which he later explained, meant “Would you like me to slow down so you can catch up?” I kept nodding because I was still not coming last and not dead yet so “Yes, I am able to move forward.” Not “No, please slow down.” I caught him occasionally, because he was doing lampposts while I was able to run the whole time even if it was slowly and with a limp. Eventually, however, his strong finish and desperate need to beat 2h45, had him speeding ahead. Mike did indeed finish in 2:44 and I finished three minutes later in 2:47.

And so there were my two lessons:

  • #1: Run in a new pair of shoes properly and
  • #2: Don’t help people at the expense of your goals (even if you make up those goals as you go along). I feel depressed now.

I must admit, the post race massage,

Pabi's post race massage rocked! Click on the pic for their website

Pabi’s post race massage rocked! Click on the pic to go to their website

the Springs Boys’ Marching Band,

Springs Boys Marching Band

Springs Boys Marching Band

and the fabulously friendly people along the way

Friendly People All Over the Place

Friendly People All Over the Place

made the race a total hit with me.

Loads of friendly people along the way

Loads of friendly people along the way

The aeroplanes coming in to land as we ran underneath them also made for tons of squeals of excitement.

Aeroplanes along the way

Aeroplanes along the way

You see the strangest things on Boksburg races.

You see the strangest things on Boksburg races.

I will definitely be back for this race next year. Hopefully they’ll have medals and t-shirts for everyone next time and hopefully Boksburg would have planted some trees by then.

There were many people running today that had run Loskop in the pouring rain yesterday. You’re idiots! Well done. Aha! Birchwood Cross the Line. That was the name of the race.

Yours in the love of running……
Brenda

Thank you Shaun Horsepower for the amazing photos!

 

Is He a Photographic Runner or a Running Photographer?

Is He a Photographic Runner or a Running Photographer?

Shaun Horsepower takes his camera with him to every race. He takes photos along the route and his facebook page is legendary with narcissistic runners looking for a glimpse of themselves in each race’s folders. I know! I’m one of them. Thanks Shaun for capturing our memories for us.

Shaun always seems to be in the right place at the right time to get a picture of us actually doing something.

Shaun always seems to be in the right place at the right time to get a picture of us actually doing something.

In any kind of weather

In any kind of weather

And all kinds of places

And all kinds of places

With all sorts of pretties...

With all sorts of pretties…

And all sorts of funnies

And all sorts of funnies

Running Late

I was asked to write a race report on my most recent “race”. I say “race” because with me it’s never really about actual racing. It’s really just about not dying. Today’s race was not conscious involvement partly because I was very irresponsible last night and went out with my friend to celebrate her birthday.  That I was the only one not taking drugs at the party meant that I had to have more vodka than would ordinarily be advisable the night before a 15km race. When I had my first sip of vodka last night, I hadn’t even decided yet if I was going to be running the 15 or the 32.  Sanity prevailed by the end of the first vodka and I decided to do the 15km  which meant I could have one or two or so more vodkas.  The only reason I didn’t snooze my alarm just one more time today was because I knew Andrew was expecting me. Damn him! So I dragged myself from my 3.5 hours of sleep and made my way to another planet, Germiston. Andrew has this friend, Dave. He’s way too fucking happy at 6am on a Sunday. In fact, I think he’s always way too fucking happy. I always look forward to seeing him at races, though, because I don’t have to talk. He does all the talking. Just like Mike. I realised at 6am that there was a real possibility that I would see Mike and I looked forward to that. Dave and Andrew are much faster than me, but I can usually stick with them for 2kms or so. I saw Dave at the start. He whined a bit about how Andrew’s always so late or arrives at the start as the gun goes off. As Andrew walked up 30 seconds before the start, so did Mike and we all set of together. Mike is starting from scratch, so Andrew, Dave and I set off much faster than he was comfortable with. Actually, I’m sure we set off much faster than I was comfortable with, but I didn’t want to seem like a wimp by complaining.

I have a new footpod and, what with Dave distracting me with his happiness lauding over my hangover and lack of sleep, I had forgotten to synch it with my watch and so for 2kms I ran on the spot according to my watch. That irritated me a bit and I lost Andrew and Dave in the ensuing technological challenge. As could be expected, I never caught up again. Today was the first time I used a GU. Everyone’s been advising me to use them. I suffer from terrible hypoglycaemia and so I like to avoid ridiculous stimulants (except vodka, of course) because they make me sleep. At about 4km, averaging 6:44/km, I decided to try the GU and, as suspected, at 10km, I wanted to sleep and my legs managed a tragic 7:12 which worsened to 7:27 for the next kilometre. I can remember the point at which i pictured an abandoned mattress on the side of the road becoming my home for the day. The GU must have helped, because my time got much better and for the remainder of the “race” I averaged a 6:56/km and I felt good afterwards. That’s what I recognise as being attributable to the GU – feeling better after the race. The rest, I attribute to vodka. The fuel of champions. To date, all my personal bests (aside from the marathon) were achieved after rock concerts. My best 15km was after Linkin Park. My best 21km was after The Prodigy. My best 10km was after….Oh, I can’t remember, I just remember I had a lot of vodka in my blood and so it was this morning when, once again I achieved a personal best for a 15km – 1:43:38.  So I’m guessing the common denominator is not rock music so much as vodka. (Although the music last night was very pleasant.)

 The “race” itself was fairly boring. No real challenges except one 150m vertical which saw most people in my category walking. Like I said, I wasn’t really conscious for most of the race, but I do remember everything being grey. The road, the walls, the buildings…were there buildings? All was grey. Oh ja, there was a very funny scene as the first 32km runners came in. It was a real race between two guys and, as they came into the stadium, they were neck and neck. Coming around the bend, they were held up slightly by some 15km stragglers and one particularly enthusiastic man who I had passed at about 8kms who thought he would do himself and his family proud by attempting to race the two 32km winners from 80m to go to the end. Lol! They only just beat him to the finish. Only just. I’m sure he was very proud. Everyone else was very amused.

I only remember that because the GU had finally replaced the vodka.

I’m looking forward to running the Slow-Mag marathon next weekend and so I’m sure I’ll have a race report full of tears for you then. Have a great running week.

 Remember: Just when you think you can’t go on, it turns out you can if you try.

 Love

Brenda

It Can Be A Lonely Road to Comrades

At 3.30am on Saturday 23 March, while you were sleeping, I was on my way to eMalahleni in Mpumalanga. I love the name eMalahleni because it’s the newer name of the municipality previously known at Witbank. So essentially, it went from White Ridge to Place of the Black. Pretty funny, don’t you think? I think it’s named place of the black now, not for poetic justice reasons, but because of the black dust that is to be seen everywhere as a result of the coal-rich soil that prevails in that part of the country.  What I didn’t realise was that I would be making that black dust part of my person later in the day as I breathed it into my lungs and as it stuck to my sweating legs.  The race – Xstrata Impilo Wellness 3-in-1 was a 10km, 21.1km and double lapper 42.2km around the block of a coal mine. Yes, in those parts, a run around the block takes on a whole new meaning! “The block” as it were, started at the back gate of the Tweefontein Golf Course and stretched for 5km at a time in front of you. We travelled in an anti-clockwise direction with the traffic behind us, so that was a bit unpleasant to begin with as large trucks carrying their loads of coal, blasted towards your back. The water tables were phenomenal and had loads of interesting things to occupy your mind as you went through them. I met a nice young woman at the start (the race started 10 minutes late). She was from Anglo running club. What an amazing story she told me. She missed Comrades cut off last year by 3 minutes and now she’s back fitter than ever and ready to finish her first Comrades. While out on a training run on 24 December 2011, she was raped. Still, she went back to running and ran her first Comrades last year, just 6 months after that dreadful ordeal. And even though she didn’t make the cut off, she didn’t give up. What an inspiration. She was much faster than me and, when I wanted to walk at my usual pathetic 2km mark, she sped ahead. I stayed with the pack for about another 5km and then the field thinned out. It was getting hot and the scenery was dull and grey. Seriously, there was nothing to see and there were 3 patches of trees along the way. Hot and dull. I spoke to a lady at about 15km, but she too sped off. It certainly looked like speeding compared to my pace. I was quite close to the back of the field by now and I was hot and tired and lonely and again, that overwhelming desire to give up began to creep over me like a dark summer afternoon cloud.

At the water point at about 14km an Adam Lambert song was belting out of the speaker in front of the plastic blow up rhino and it made me cry. “What do you want from me?” I just didn’t understand. Why was I doing this? Why was I running? Why do I run? Why don’t I give up? I want to give up. I always want to give up. Lots of times I do give up. Why couldn’t I just do that now? Whatever it was, I knew that I could give up in just 7km and be finished for the day. 21km isn’t too shabby so I’d just give up. I was close to last and so another 21km wouldn’t be possible with a cut off time of 5:30. At this point, however, I had run a 32min 5km, a personal best 10km and a personal best 15km and I was on my way to run a personal best 21km. Did I want to give up on finishing my first official marathon when I was clearly doing so well?  I thought about it many times on that 7km journey. It was getting hot. I knew I was almost last and I was running with 21km runners….if i started on a 2nd round at this point, I would have, without a doubt have been last. Did I want to come last? Oh my word! I never come last. How humiliating. How awful to know that everyone wanted to go home, but that they’d be stuck there waiting for me to finish if I started another round of this marathon. And what about my objective of not dying and not coming last? Holy cow! What if I died doing that flipping second round and what if I came last? What if I came last? What if I came last? Yes, Brenda, what if you do come last? What will that feel like? What it will be, Missy, is a little humbling. You could probably do with a little humbling.

The marathon winners weren’t very fast. They came breezing past me as I approached the 21km mark in about 2:20. That’s not very fast for a Comrades qualifier, I thought. Although the winners were slow in comparison, the overall field was quite fast, clearly lots of people trying to qualify. The field was very small, probably no more than 600 people. As I came to the finish of the 21km, I asked the marshal if I was too late to go again and he said “Why don’t you just try?” so I did. And then at every marshalling point, at every water point and at various other points, I cried like a stupid baby because I wanted to give up every time I saw another person. I was alone and lonely. I am always alone and I never feel lonely because at least I have prayer. But now I felt like even God had gone and was somewhere kilometres ahead of me. At the first watering point at about 25km, I took my water and coke, thanked everyone for waiting for me and started to cry behind my glasses. I was so slow and so feeble. My knees hurt and I wanted to give up, but something, someone wasn’t letting me. That Adam Lambert song raged on in my head. “What do you want from me?” Then I looked to my right and there was a fat, colourful man from the watering point running next to me with a boerewors roll in his hand. He just ran next to me and then looked surprised. “Are you crying? Why are you crying?” he asked. “Because I want to give up and I can’t!” I bawled at him. “And you mustn’t give up. You must just zama. Just zama! Okay? Just zama!” I nodded my head because that was all I was doing here, was just zama’ing! He left me and I kept on trying.

Mr Zama's water point. The water points on this race were legendary!

Mr Zama’s water point. The water points on this race were legendary!

About 2.5km ahead of me on a long, gradual uphill, I could see another human. That was my angel. I knew that person was on the same journey as me. He probably also didn’t want to come last. He probably also had sore knees and he probably also cried every time he saw another human being. At 28 km I thought, only 15km to go. I can run 15km.  It isn’t that far. I was getting slower and the heat was burning me. My back was starting to ache and my fingers were swelling, a sure sign I was starting to dehydrate, but I kept on like Mr Zama had told me. I could feel the packing-up going on around me and I felt guilty every time I came to a water point or a marshal point because i knew everyone was waiting for me. They had been in the blazing heat since early in the morning and I felt guilty that I was greedy and wanted to do a 42 instead of just stopping when I was at 21 or 23 or 25 or 28 or 30. At 30km I stopped. I was done. And then I wasn’t done, I was p*ssed off because I just wanted to get home. I was hot, tired, slow, burned, dehydrated, lonely, angry, guilty, grateful, gatvol! So I ran on. I told a woman at the water point that I was probably last so they could pack up. She looked surprised. She said something I will remember forever. “You only come last if you don’t finish!” She was right. Everyone who had given up. Everyone who hadn’t zama’ed. 98% of the people in the world were behind me in that race. That thought just made me cry more. I used up an entire packet of tissues. The tissues and the sunscreen wipes were the only things I needed to have with me, but I had been stupid enough to take some dried fruit with me. I’m sure that was what led to my sore back. It’s amazing how an extra 200g can throw you off balance and stuff up your back.

I was very sore. At 4.5km to go, the marshal told me, only 4.5km to go. He may as well have said only 180km to go. I was so sore and tired and depleted. Even the next two steps were more than I thought I could manage. But the Adam Lambert song was fading. All I could hear now was Sphonono’s story of how she came back from rape to run Comrades and Mr Zama and the lady who told me that I only come last if I don’t finish. My angel was still in front of me and he was in a lot more pain than I was. I knew that because I had closed the gap from 2.5km to just 150m. When he walked, I ran. When he ran, I was walking. But he was my angel. I knew that while he wasn’t giving up, we were still okay and we were still not coming last. Everyone’s generosity of spirit and kind patient waiting for me overwhelmed me and I cried. An ambulance stalked me like a vulture at one stage until I turned to them and told them, “Unless you have a new pair of legs in there, you cannot help me, so you may as well move along.” Every truck that flew past just centimetres from my back left in its wake, a cooling blast of air and I welcomed them with some fear and some excitement.

And then it was there. The sand road into the finish. I had made it. And I’d made it in 5:55. My personal best marathon. And I wasn’t last. Okay, I was last, but I was in front of all those others….Actually, on the day, I wasn’t last, but the woman who came in last had run a 12-hour race the day before and a marathon the day before that. The fact that she hadn’t died, meant she deserved a spot in front of me! Lol! Everyone was waiting for me at the finish. Sphonono, Mr Zama and the lady. They embraced me and congratulated me like I’d won the flipping race. I hadn’t won that race, but what I had won, was a medal to officially put me in the ranks of those who have run a marathon in their lives. I never saw my angel again. He just disappeared. I may have imagined him.

I’m not sure I see Comrades in my near future. I can’t do that twice in one day. I’m not even convinced I can do that again. I’ll probably try to stay away from a double-lapper for the time being. Muscles are all good. Back’s still a bit sore, but it’s to be expected. I ran further than 98% of the people in the world will ever run.

All distances take us on the same journey. Good luck on yours. My wish for you is angels like Sphonono, Mr Zama the Finishing Lady and my angel. We are nothing without them.

Lots of love

Brenda

Thanks Shaun Horsepower for the always beautiful action shots!

I Won My First Marathon

I’m going to start off by saying that I won my first marathon! Yes, I won a marathon. Isn’t that great? Sadly, I also came last in my first marathon, because I was, in fact, the only one running this particular marathon, but I’m trying to focus on the positives here.  Look at this picture:

Image

That was what I ran. This is how I ran:

 

By the way, when I made this route on my Garmin map, I didn’t really look at this picture. I knew that around 13km I’d have a big downhill (which scares me because my knees don’t really like the downhills). It didn’t even occur to me that where I had a massive downhill, I’d have to get back UP to home at some point. (Lesson 9 of running: For every downhill, there has to be an uphill. You will pay for foolishness!)  I was running with a backpack stocked with sandwiches, 500ml of water, 500ml coke, an ice pack, nuts, an energy bar, dried fruit, sunscreen wipes, sunscreen spray, tissues, peanut brittle and jelly beans. I had taken advice from many quarters on this and made sure I was prepared for any eventuality. Of course, it also meant that I started off my run with more of a handicap than I have inherently in my couch potato self. Carrying a bag of sugar on your back as you run is not really in any of the well-researched journals of running.  

 

For those of you have been to my house you’ll know that I appear to live in a ditch because whichever way you start a run from my house, you’re going to go up an appalling hill which for the first month that I was running, always made me vomit. So now I start a run from my house by walking the first 300m. Which, in this case, was probably a good move, considering what was to come. Sadly, I didn’t start my watch until I was at 300m so I started my run by cursing myself. Good for the self-esteem.  The first 5km was a familiar route out of Northcliff onto Gordon rd and up to Ontdekkers rd and down the gradual slope of Ontdekkers. I stopped at a garage at 4km to buy a coke which I added to my handicap on my back.

 

I took a short detour into an area called Florida Hills so you know what you’re going to get there. I had noticed that when I was planning the route so it was a small detour in and out and over Ontdekkers into Florida. West is best, as they say which proved to be true in this particular part of the route. It was a pleasant diversion through the leafy suburbs of Florida Park.  Florida being what it is, I wanted to get out there as soon as I could so I ducked out onto Golf Club Terrace and up into Constantia Kloof. Nearly vomited so ducked out of there quickly too into whatever that area is called that runs up Mulder Ave. And so I ran. For 2km, I hated my life. I prayed, I walked, I got cross, I desperately wanted to turn around and go home. At just over 9km, I thought, if you turn around and go home now, you’ll have done 20km for the day and that’s enough and you can be proud. As I thought this, my prayers for renewed legs were answered in an unexpected way by the sound of footsteps approaching from behind me. A man run up next to me and obviously slowed down (as people running with me have to do). He is new in town and very rarely sees people running in his area so he was glad for the company on his Iron Man training. Barend was an unbelievable help to me and we ran along talking about running and training. He dropped me off at about 12km and turned back. If it weren’t for his miraculous appearance, I wouldn’t be typing this right now.

 

He ditched me right before an abomination of a downhill began. Nothing much to say about that except a strange realisation began to dawn on me. I’m going to stay in Northcliff because drivers in Northcliff have a semblance of respect for runners and cyclists. Roodepoort people, not so much. I’m convinced that many drivers would have smashed into me in order to dodge a pothole! They drive like they’re Batman attempting to get their car into the nearest gutter and they speed and don’t care that you’re running in that gutter. Northcliff people are a little more subtle. West, when it comes to this, is not in fact, best. Getting out of that long hill down meant running up Wilgerood rd. Its notorious for its deadly accidents (not surprising considering the driving skills of the locals) and it was a long lonely boring uphill in what was now starting to be a very hot sun. I got through it and headed down to Christiaan de Wet which is the road that goes to Clearwater. I turned right up there thinking I had another horrific uphill ahead of me, but was glad to notice that Jim fouche was in front of me at the next intersection. Jim fouche was short but abnormally steep and I walked up most of it.  A pleasant downhill to Constantia Drive was up next and I was glad to see a garage because I was just about to run out of water.  I bought some water and carried on down Jim Fouche.  I missed the turn off to Constantia hill and found myself at Hendrik Potgieter. So I had to trudge back up the hill and get into Constantia Drive (By the way, It is sign posted Constantia Drive from the Hendrik Potgieter side, but it’s sign posted Wilhelmina Drive from the other side. I wasn’t delirious just yet.)

 

At this point there had been a fair amount of walking, but I was learning to use my hamstrings to my advantage. (They don’t do much so my knees and ankles take a lot of strain.) and, as bored as you’re getting now, so was I on the road. Och! I just wanted this to be over. I was only at 22km so I still had half the run to go. And now, as I crossed over Hendrik Potgieter onto 14th Avenue I knew that I was only 5km at most away from my house. This proved, mentally, to be the most challenging part of the run because I just wanted to give up. I was hot. I was tired. My knees were sore. I was bored. Most of all, I was bored and a delightfully cool and clear swimming pool was just around the corner for me. It was almost impossible for me to believe that I could be so close but still so very far. I tried to offload some of the handicap. I realised that I wasn’t going to struggle with hunger and i gave an old man sitting on the side of the road the sandwiches and I ate a handful of dried fruit and nuts. Northcliff was surprisingly flat compared to the first part of the run so I ambled along being grumpy about wanting to give up. At 34km it occurred to me that this was the furthest I’d ever run. I did a little air punch and carried on. Was I going to be able to do a marathon today? Wow! Imagine my doing a marathon.

 

It was very hot at this stage. I had probably been running for 12 hours….that’s what it felt like. At 35km I was done. I was 3 blocks away from home and I was done. My feet were cramping and on fire. I could clearly see myself crossing over Gordon Rd into Kirstenbosch and arriving at home in just 20 minutes. I cried a bit because I really just wanted to give up. I sms’d Mike to let him know that I was still okay and that I hadn’t died, but that I was sore. I was strolling. Even my walking looked like I was ready to die. As it turns out, I didn’t cross over Gordon Rd. I just carried on trudging up the bloody road. Cursing myself for not giving up. I mean really! 35km was not shameful. I should just have quit! And then just as I was about to give up and go home, Mike appeared like an apparition out of nowhere and offered to take my handicap away from me. Honestly, that freed up my back and I got a new lease on life. He kindly and patiently followed me for the remainder of the run which was up treacherous hills like Lange Ave, Storm Ave, Drakens Ave. I must have been drunk when I made this route. But I made it home with a great deal of walking and some good strong running. My neighbours screamed encouragement as they drove past me at about 39km (not actually knowing the magnitude of what I had been doing all morning). Mike gave me some left over chips from his car because I was craving salt.  I think they’d been in his car for 12 days. He claimed they were “last night’s supper”. And then I was sprinting for home. I was about to complete my first marathon.

 

I was elated. I knew that I had finished a marathon which is no mean feat. I had also done so in less than six and a half hours. Only 2% of the world have ever run a marathon (that’s what Nike claims, although I’m sure it’s more like only 2% of the world who have fancy sports watches have ever run a marathon). I knew that running a marathon was big, but what I knew was much bigger than that, was that I had done it mostly on my own. Yes, I was physically on my own, but I was also acutely aware of a group of God travelling along with me watching me go and sending angels to me at my lowest points. I know for sure I have the chutzpah and the spiritual connection to God for Comrades. Now I just have to focus on getting faster and most of that has to be before the end of February when I run my qualifier. Wish me luck.

 I won my first ever marathon. That’s what I’m going to tell people!

 See you on the road.

Lots of love to you all.

The Slow Coach