93. You know, my gran died at the age of 94. On Christmas day, a few months before she died she had taken a soft tumble down a carpeted stair onto the very soft buttocks of my sister, Saskia, which had at once left Saskia incredibly surprised, me roaring with laughter as I untangled the two of them and granny most embarrassed. I cried that afternoon as we helped her into the car and she said: “I’m sorry I was such a nuisance today. I was fine until I was 90, but I’ve kind of gone down hill since then.” I miss her regularly on my runs. She was a very righteous woman. She was very kind to me and she was incredibly interesting. Unfortunately, I only realised how interesting when she died and we were packing all her stuff into boxes. I’ve kept most of that stuff as a reminder of where I come from and how I should be remembered when I die. She was formidable. Ridiculously independent. She lived on her own for 25 years after my grandfather died. She walked to the shops, she played bowls, she crocheted, she had tea. She died one day as she was preparing to take a bath. No suffering, no deterioration, except of course, from 90 to 94 when she felt she had become a nuisance to all of us.
As I started the 10km and the cold air had sufficiently cooled my muscles, I felt like gran must have felt that Christmas day she fell on Saskia. My legs just wouldn’t do what I wanted them to do. I was shocked at the rapid deterioration. I had walked to the start okay. What was this? It’s like someone had removed my legs’ oily bits and they’d seized up. I tried to run a few steps, walked, shuffled, groaned and resigned myself to the fact that they did not want to run and so I’d have to walk. People streamed past me on the sand road. As I reached the tar, an ex-colleague, Maurice, run up next to me and encouraged me to run forward. I started running and he and I ran together slowly for 2kms. He was much faster than me and I could tell I was keeping him back. I told him to go ahead as I was going to walk. And that’s what I did. I tried to run. Seriously, I tried to run, but either my legs or my brain were having none of it. I walked to the 5km mark. When I saw that 5km and realised I was only half way through this race and I was just pathetically walking like I had done 1000s of kilometres ago when I had first started running, I started crying. Sobbing. How had this happened? My glute was sore. My ankle was sore. My achilles was sore. And those were the parts that were still working. Was I ever going to run without pain? Was I ever going to be a super athlete like the Illuminati? Hahahaha! Well we certainly know that answer to that last question, now don’t we? It’s funny how you lose perspective when you’re tired and miserable. I had run 42km without an ounce of pain and I’d managed a decent time. I’d only started to suffer half way into the 21km and it was still manageable pain. I was 68kms into the day at this point and so I lost all perspective and I cried. I put my head down and I cried into my sunglasses. Joseph came running up behind me. He called my name as he approached. I ignored him. He asked me if I was okay. I shook my head silently without looking up. He asked me if I was crying. I nodded without lifting my head. He asked me if he could help or if I needed anything. I shook my head silently without looking up. Still sobbing. Misery certainly didn’t love company on this one.
Many more people streamed past me. People who really shouldn’t pass me. Ever! They all passed me which didn’t help my misery. As I neared the 6km mark without a watch still, (but I think the kilometre from 5km had probably taken me 10 or 15 minutes) Rick and another friend came running up to me. Rick greeted me and then with surprise asked me, “Are you crying?” “Yes.” I whimpered. “Why are you crying?” he asked, still surprised. “Well….I um….well…” A million good psychological reasons filtered through my brain, but none of them were able to provide a logical explanation to myself or Rick about why I was crying at that point in what was proving to be a phenomenal personal victory. I really didn’t know why I was crying and, not having any logical reason to cry, I decided to carry on running. I started running and ran and ran the rest of the way. I passed Rick and his friend. I thanked them. I passed other people and thanked those who had asked me if I was okay as they passed me. I thanked Joseph and Caroline as I passed them. I ran 3kms very well and, as I approached that last kilometre, who did I happen upon, but my dear friend, Diepkloof Harry. It was so wonderful to see him and we greeted each other with surpirse, joy and love. I was briefly reminded of the scene from Lion King where Nala and Simba reunite for the first time since Simba had run away. (Obviously without the “I just tried to eat your best friend” part). I’ve missed Harry. Since I’ve been going to track, my speed has improved and I’m running much faster, so friends like Harry are now about 5 or 10 minutes behind me on races. I wish he would come with me to track so that he, like me, can become faster and run with me.
Harry and I finished the Kosmos 3-in-1 together. It was appropriate to do so. As I approached the timing mats, Justin asked me where my hop, skip and jump were. I laughed and managed a pathetic hop as I went over the mat. My head had pulled myself together, but my legs were just hanging in there so I couldn’t do my previous elated, exuberant jump in the air. It didn’t change the feeling. 73.3kms for the day. What an amazing thing to do! What a totally crazy thing to do! Everyone who is preparing for Comrades should do that race. It’s a lovely day out. Picnicking, swimming, running, sleeping in the sun. It’s a truly South African day out and it’s probably a better benchmark for your Comrades readiness than an ultra of 50-60kms. I think. One should probably ask anyone who knows anything about that.
The past week has been euphoric with many people congratulating me and showering me with love for having completed the whole day’s running. I came back to earth with a massive bump on Saturday when I returned to track (since the race, I had only managed a 10km on Friday) and was reminded about how average I am! Lol! Halfway into the warm up run with Illuminatis, I felt like my chest was going to explode and an aneurysm was brewing in my left brain. They were motoring along chatting and breathing slowly. I was panting like a large dog with it’s head hanging out a car window! Michelle and I were given similar track programmes except she was given 4 sets of 1200m. I was given 3 sets. She lapped me on set 2. Lol! I had made a rookie error at Kosmos and worn my freebie Adidas shoes for the marathon and changed to Asics for the shorter races. It occurred to me on Saturday during the post track session 8km time trial that my achilles has been getting worse and worse since the addition of the Adidas shoes, even though they are ridiculously comfortable to run in. So no more long or hilly runs in the Adidas. Asics will be my Comrades shoe this year and I’ve got a few more weeks of rehab for the achilles and glute. Rookie lesson learned. But no-one can take this away from me.
And at least I don’t have to give the shirt back……
Yours in the love of running and running