The Tortoise and The Hare is an Actual Thing

Yes it is! Check it out here.

The Tortoise and the Hare in Real Life

I found that funny and somewhat comforting. Anyway!

Hey! Today I ran further than I have run in 5 months. How far is that? 7km. Remember when I joked about going from Comrades back to the couch? My Journey From the Couch to The Comrades Marathon…and Back to the Couch Well truth may be stranger than my non-fiction. Last time I really ran a race was in May (that’s when I hopped the last 2km of RAC 10km race). I also ran the Take 5 relay in June, but I really shouldn’t have because I couldn’t walk at that point and it was just a few weeks later that I became imprisoned in a moon boot, with the horrifying news that I would not be running SOX, my goal race for which I had paid an obscene amount of money. I could still go to SOX with EP, but I couldn’t run. I couldn’t even take a leisurely stroll in the forests. I hobbled a bit into forests in my moon boot, but that was about it. So I was very diligent while I was in the moon boot and I went swimming. While others were running, I was swimming. But swimming is so fucking boring, I was starting to hate my life. And so I turned to that ultimate comforter, food, snacks, coke, chips, biscuits, CUPCAKES. If it’s on a dietician’s list of things to avoid, I ate ’em! And lots of them! It made me feel better about things, okay! I was still going to Satan’s Sister for gym, but what with me confined to my boot, there were only some things that I could do. And so I ballooned. I now weigh the same as what I did before I started training for Comrades 6 years ago.

So the moon boot came off and, even though I had been swimming, I was totally unfit. and , what’s even worse, I was still in pain! I could hardly walk, never mind run. So I decided to do something different. I had heard good things about a physio in Fourways. (I know it’s hard to believe any good can come from Fourways) But if he was good enough for an 8 times Comrades gold medallist, then I was sure he’d be good enough for me.

I’m quite open-minded, having studied iridology and always been interested in homoeopathy and other quantum sciences, but I was still amused at what greeted me at my first ‘physio’ appointment with Adrian Stevens. He drew me a picture of my body. Well it wasn’t my body, but a decent fascimile of my body showing it all curvy. It was not curvy in the picture because of all the cupcakes, although in real life it was curvy because of all the cupcakes. It was curvy because, well basically, my alignment was FUBAR! So Adrian sat down in front of me with his legs crossed like a 6 year old listening to the teacher read a story. He did all these tests on alignment by pressing and pulling and pushing and going “Aaah” and “okay, strange”, and “aha”. Then he pulled out a telephone directory and a pair of scissors and some sticky tape and proceeded to fashion a wedge for my shoes. It was literally like watching a 6 year old. Then he told me to lie on the plinth and he proceeded to shake and pull and push and flick various parts of me, but not my actual foot that was sore, strangely enough. I will say that it was an unusual experience, as have been the 3 or 4 subsequent appointments, all complete with telephone directory and sticky tape and scissors.

But today I ran 7 kilometres which is 7 more than I was running 2 months ago and 5 more than I was running 3 weeks ago. This week I ran 17 kilometres in total which is a lot more than I have run in the past 4 months. Yesterday I ran the very difficult Albertsfarm Parkrun in just 33 minutes. I realised, as I volunteered after my run and as many people came rushing over the finish line in 50 minutes and more, how very fortunate I am at this very time in my life. I can’t run far and running is very hard because I’m carrying my extra bag of dog food (which looked like cupcakes when I picked it up) and I’m just basically unfit. But all the gym I’ve been doing and the disciplined return to running and my kindergarten physio has clearly been beneficial and I can look forward to even longer distances and faster times.

Another thing I realised while I’ve been getting fatter recovering: We have a ridiculous benchmark in South Africa. I’ve had so many people say that they recently ran a race “But it was only 5km/10km/21km.” I get very sad when they say that. 5km, 10km or 21km are incredible achievements. They are all distances which most people will never run. People say “only 21km”! People actually say that! I challenge you to get in your car and drive 21km and then imagine running that far. That’s very far! Especially to run. The Comrades Marathon has given our country such an unfair benchmark by which we judge ourselves as runners. It’s a stupid distance run by stupid people and although every South African should run the Comrades Marathon, no-one should run the Comrades Marathon. I want to say to you today, if you are reading this and you’ve run a Parkrun or any 5km (but really run it, not strolled around like a loser looking for your Vitality points), you’re an amazing athlete and you can be proud of your achievement. If you’ve run a 10km, keep at it. Keep trying to get your 10km time faster. Many people in other less crazy places in the world will train their entire lives to achieve a 10km race. If you’ve run a 10km, Well done! That’s a remarkable achievement. If you’ve run a 21km, I am humbled by you. Half a marathon is a ridiculous distance which most athletes will never attempt because it’s really far to run and it makes a person dig into human reserves which go way beyond the physical.

I truly appreciate these thoughts now as I can only just manage 5km or 6km without pain. And I really respect people who go out to strive for a goal that isn’t the Comrades Marathon because I realise how hard it can be to run 5km or 10km or 21km. By the way, 21km seems totally inaccessible to me at the moment, but I have one or two more sessions with my kindergarten physio, so I’ll keep it in the back of my mind. Right now, I hope to one day be able to run 10km. That seems like a reasonable stretch goal for me.

Yours in achievable milestones.


Oh by the way, on a somewhat related note, today I saw a baby goat riding on a tortoise’s back. Yes I did!

Illuminati to Cool – The Starting Pens at Comrades

I’m so confused now. I just shouldn’t read. I’m less confused when I muddle along ignorantly. But I’ve been reading and now I’m confused. Yesterday I ran the 20th Sasolburg marathon. Not MY 20th Sasolburg Marathon. Just Sasolburg’s 20th Sasolburg Marathon. Sasolburg is so named for the petrol-derived-from-coal industry which exists there. Sasol is the name of a company in South Africa which began as a fuel manufacturing business, manufacturing fuels from the rich coal deposits in the surrounding areas. Truth be told, it’s a pretty crap place, air-wise. Grey smog covers the whole place and from the highway, as you approach the town, you notice an enormous furnace producing noxious smoke which spreads like a blanket over the entire area. The people are incredibly polite in Sasolburg, in spite of the poison filling their lungs and homes all the time. A couple of observations from my marathon yesterday:

  1. They have low walls around their houses. For the most part, the houses have low walls which is a beautiful contrast to the high walls and electric fences visible in Joburg. The only thing I really hate about Joburg is the wall around my house which imprisons me. Not a problem in Sasolburg.
  2. People obviously don’t need their shoes in Sasolburg. There were many abandoned shoes on the road as I ran along. It was quite noticeable. I saw at least 20 shoes. Okay, it was a double lapper (sort of), so I probably saw only half that number, but still. It was a very peculiar phenomenon and I was reminded of the horse shit which was similarly abandoned at the Kaapsehoop Marathon.

So why am I confused? Well, this whole Comrades seeding and medals thing is very confusing to me. I always tell my students, if you are confused about a topic when you’re studying, try and teach someone else and that way you’ll understand it better. So here goes:

At the start of Comrades, there are 9 batches. You have to qualify to run Comrades. One way to do that is to run the previous year’s Comrades Marathon. If you simply use last year’s race as the qualifier, you get dumped into the crappy batch H-group, no matter how you fared in the race. The other way to qualify is to run a qualifying marathon. There are several all over the world. So there are 9 batches: A-H. You see! You’re also confused now. Let me break it down like this (sounds like an old-school hip-hop song):

  • H (Hope to finish) – batch: These are people who, as I explained, either use last year’s Comrades as the qualifier or who run a qualifying marathon in less than 5 hours, but more than 4:40. The average pace for the qualifier must be less than 7:06min/km.
  • G (Getting better) – batch: These are people who run a qualifying marathon at an average pace of less than 6:38min/km or under 4:40 but more than 4:20.
  • F (Flipping fast) – batch: These are people who run a qualifying marathon in under 4:20 but more than 4:00 or at an average pace less than 6:09min/km.
  • E (Elders) – batch: This group is reserved for the Green Number Club which is made of those people who’ve completed 10 or more Comrades Marathons. A very well respected group of people of which I will never be a member. Never!
  • D (Diabolical pace) – batch: Qualifying marathon pace = less than 5:41min/km (a pace at which I would be haemorraghing by 4km into the race) or 4 hours for the marathon. 4 hours for 42.2km. I’m getting nauseous just thinking of it.
  • CC (Charity) – batch: Not “Charity” as in “We feel sorry for these people.” “Charity” means people who’ve raised over R5000 for any of the various charities supported by The Comrades Marathon Association by 2 May. Also known as the Amabeadibeadi Race4Charity group. (Essentially, you can buy a spot higher up in the rankings.)
  • C (Champions) – batch: So these are the people who Chrissie and I refer to as the A-team. 5min/km required to finish their qualifying marathon. I run 100m at full sprint at about 5min/km! Their average speed is 12km/h for the full 42.2km. On 1 June when you see them go, you’ll know that at some point during the preceding year, they ran a marathon in under 3:40.
  • B (Best) – batch: These are people who work and run and nothing else. People like Justin. They run a ridiculous number of kilometres every week. For example: Justin is, as I type this on the Sunday after a marathon which he ran in a comfortable 3:22, out for an easy 15km. I have my feet in a foot massage thing hoping the fire will leave them soon. The Best Batch run a qualifying marathon in less than 3:20. I’m thinking about that and I think I should go lie down now. Average pace for the marathon? 4:44min/km for the whole 42.2km.
  • A (Illuminati) – Group: Marathon time of less than 3 hours. Pace = 4:15min/km. I’m not going to say much more about this except to add that generally, these people have 3 training sessions per day. Often, an average daily run for a Comrades runner in this group can be 30km. Hahahahaha! Imagine! Running 30km per day. Just imagine.

This table is a breakdown of the various qualifying times. Comrades allows you to use other races longer than a marathon as a qualifying time as detailed below.

Comrades Marathon Qualifying Races.jpg

So what’s with the seeding batches? We found out yesterday the real “Why?”. Seedings are there to stop early birds who are walkers or just really crap like me from going and lining up at the front of the race, only to be run over and trampled by the masses behind them as the race starts, thereby injuring themselves, endangering, holding up and frustrating the much faster runners behind them. We found this out in Sasolburg. Chrissie, Janine and I ambled up to the start from the parking yesterday. We though we were at the back and just early. We were, in fact, in the front, facing the wrong way and early. As we became aware that we were standing surrounded by A-teamers and Illuminati, we became nervous and laughed at ourselves. Unfortunately, by the time we realised, we were trapped inside that heaving mass of sub-3s and had to come up with a strategy to get the hell out of the way as soon as possible as the race started. When the gun went off, Janine and Chrissie managed to do that. I squealed girlishly and tried to make myself very small by putting my head down, holding my arms as close to my body as I could and running at break-neck speed for 200m. I’m not joking. That’s what I did. My aorta shrieked and eventually the marauding mass thinned out and I could edge over to the side as we’d agreed to do. Chrissie and Janine caught up with me and we carried on together at an abnormally fast pace of 5:15m/km. Janine then sped off towards achieving a 4:10:59 for the marathon.

This time I had a timing chart on my arm so that I could check my progress towards a 4:20. That’s a ridiculous stretch, but I thought I should aim really big and see how I did. My confusion comes from thinking that G-group had a qualifying marathon time of less than 4:20. So that’s why I was aiming for 4:20. I knew I wouldn’t achieve it in Sasolburg, but I had to have a stretch goal. I had to try and be in a better group than H because H group starts Comrades, on average, 12-15 minutes after the gun goes off, leaving you 12-15 minutes less to finish that 89km between Pietermaritzburg and Durban. A handicap I could certainly do without, knowing what I know. So on Friday night, when I was putting together my timing chart, I aimed for 4:20, knowing that I had to work harder to get closer to that higher batch number. Knowing what I know, I scheduled my first two kilometres for 7:00m/km, giving myself a little time to warm up. With the marauding masses and Chrissie and Janine, the first two kilometres flashed by in under 10 minutes.

I’m a Project Manager by profession, but generally keep the planning nonsense out of my private life. This time I had planned. And if I had planned, the world was just going to bloody well stick to that plan no matter what! (The first lesson I learned from this planning was: Timing Chart goes the other way around on your arm. Oops!) Unfortunately, I didn’t send out the memo to the Illuminati at the start of that race, nor the Cool Kids, Chrissie and Janine. I whimpered: “I’m going too fast,” to Chrissie. Nothing changed. Half a kilometre later I whined again and still nothing changed. So I grew up and took responsibility for myself and told Chrissie to run ahead, I’d catch up later. I needed to slow down or face burning out at 36km. As I slowed down, a lady came running up next to me and started running with me. She told me she was going too fast. Having something in common, we carried on together. And so began a mutual Angel relationship. Chantel and I ran the entire first half together. She was such a blessing to me and so much help. She kept me focussed on the timing as I had planned. She claims I was the same to her as she was returning from recovering from an operation. She was behind in her preparation for her first Two Oceans Ultra, but she’s doing well. She was also a real trouper. She was struggling with sore feet, but she kept running according to my timing chart, not wanting to affect my timing for the marathon. By the time she turned off for her 21km finish, we had drifted 3 minutes behind my schedule, but I was happy. We had run a very fast 21km, with Chantel crossing the line in 2:10:36. That’s by far my fastest 21km. Even faster than the mineshaft, Kaapsehoop.

As I ran through the 22km mark, someone or something pulled up my handbrake and for 8kms, my legs felt like they were running through treacle. And I was hungry. These days, I’m always hungry. I dewormed myself the other day cause I thought there’s no way I can be eating all the time and still be hungry all the time and still be losing weight. I’m told this is normal. I’m told this by Illuminati like Megan and Michelle so I’m being circumspect with the word “normal”.

The rest of the race was largely uneventful except I kept falling behind schedule. Not too badly and it didn’t demoralise me because I knew that I was going to kick my Kaapsehoop time in the butt! That was more important to me than G-batch. Everyone had told me that Kaapsehoop would be a fast downhill marathon. Having qualified with only 3 minutes to spare, I kept telling myself that I hadn’t really qualified. I knew that Sasolburg was a respectable marathon and I was going to make sure that I did my best for 42.2km to comprehensively beat 5 hours! I crossed the 32km mark in 3:25:30 which was a whopping 35 minutes faster than my fastest 32km race. I punched the air and gave myself a high five and a whoop whoop. I ran my best 32km in 4:01 at Tough One in November. (You know, November which was the other day!! November 2013!).

Several of the remaining stories I have about this race begin with: “I came up behind this guy…”, or “I was running past this woman…”, or “As I ran past this couple…”. The second half of the second 21km was very tough, but I know I ran the last 5km faster than I had run any of the preceding 5kms in the second half so I’m very chuffed. I passed a very Iron Man-looking guy at about 40kms who had beautiful legs (as Iron Men tend to do). As I passed him I complained, “I wish I wasn’t passing you because you have very beautiful legs.” He laughed and said, “I just wish they’d work!” “Well they’re still taking you forward, so they’re still doing okay,” I reminded him. I hope I never lose the perspective I have now. I am so lucky to be running. I know that a thoroughbred couch potato lives in this skin. The fact that I can run a marathon means that anyone can run. Really! Anyone can run if I can run. I will remain grateful for every step I’m allowed to take. I was buoyant as I approached the very nasty beach sand in the last 500m. As I came running into the stadium, I looked down at my watch. 4:38:50. Kaapsehoop, KISS MY ASS! Chrissie and Justin were standing just beyond the finish and they were cheering me on.

And this is why it’s important to know what the batches are about….

Seeing my buddies, I relaxed and hopped down the last 50m, dancing and cheering with them, ecstatic that I’d beaten my PB for a marathon, but blissfully unaware that I was about to miss the cut-off for G-batch or rather that I was about to upgrade my Comrades seeding to G-batch! I looked up at the clock: 4:39:30 (official time is 20 seconds less than that so finish must have been earlier). Justin and Chrissie greeted me with as much excitement as I owned at that moment. They are such great friends. They appear to derive immense joy out of other people doing well and improving. I love them for that and so many other things. Justin proclaimed the news to me that I had improved my seeding for Comrades by coming in under 4:40. I burst into tears! Lol! And since then I’ve been giddy with joy and excitement. Justin, as I said, had finished the marathon easily in 3:23:46 and Chrissie (who did the Half Iron Man the weekend before) finished in 4:22:18. One day I might be cool like that…

And if all that awesome news wasn’t enough, I won the shoe draw at RAC Time Trial on Tuesday. Today I went and got the proper size. I now have a great pair of brand new running shoes to add to my new pair which I bought on Friday (yes, I ran a PB marathon in brand new shoes! Sometimes I just can’t do rules.) Thank you The Sweat Shop and Adidas and Asics.

I’m still going to try for under 4:20 at Kosmos 3-in-1 in March, but my focus for that day is not speed but distance. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Gratefully yours

P.S. Internet issues have prevented me from finishing this in one day, so although the first part was written on Sunday, I finish this off on Thursday! Better planning for next time. 😉

Don’t Dis Me!

In my preparation for running the Comrades Marathon, for which I have already qualified, (can I get a whoop whoop?)I have been in the enviable or unenviable position of becoming friends with and running partner to total legends when it comes to running. Chrissie (my favourite of these legends) has been nagging me to join her Northcliff morning group. Just the mention of some of the names involved in that group makes my eyes fill with tears. Speeds for 21.1km races range from 4:50m/km to 6:33m/km. So I’ve politely told her “No thanks, Chrissie.” rather than the much more honest “Hell, no Chrissie!”. But on New Year’s Day, I was happily running along with John. John asked if I was the Slow Coach that Chrissie had been trying to enlist in the Northcliff group and I admitted that yes, I was her. I politely waved him away with a “No thanks, John.” He bravely stated the case that I am not, in fact, the slowest person on the planet and that, seeing as I was running at roughly the same pace as he was on this bright New Year’s Day, I should be able to keep up with the majority of the group which wanders around Northcliff and Fairlands most week days for 10 or so kilometres. (By the way John and Graham, how many points do I get for enlisting people via this medium?) At the time, I think John was hungover. I, not being a New Year’s reveller, was not hungover, I was just grumpy… usual. So I considered it, John added me to the Whatsapp group and on the next Friday he and I set off on a roughly 10km run. It was pleasant. I had a momentary thought that maybe I could be one of the cool kids and join this group. I’m starting to realise that I’m just not one of the cool kids, no matter how I look at it.

You know when people send out mails to the whole crowd and then some kind Samaritan in the crowd forwards it on to you because you were forgotten off the mailing list? You know how a mail goes out inviting the crowd to an event and each addressee gets a separate mention in the mail, but you’re not mentioned, although you’re on the mailing list this time? You don’t? Then you’re obviously one of the cool kids. Blech!

But, it seemed with the Northcliff group, I had an iota of a chance of being in a group of cool kids. So on the Tuesday, we all set out. For the record, that day started out abysmally. We’d had a power surge raging through our neighbourhood from the night before which was still going when I rushed off to run. I hadn’t slept much as a result and I had left the house early in the morning, worrying about the extent of damage which had been wreaked on my home by the cable theft criminals. So I set off with these new cool friends a bit stressed out. The stress on my mind was soon forgotten because the cool kids in this group are simply delightful. The stress on my mind was also soon forgotten because the massive coronary which began to rage in my chest was taking up all my thinking ability. I had missed the memo that we were attempting PBs on this route today. I would have slept in or stuck my finger in the power surging plug hole if I’d known this was what I had signed up for.

Tanja and Lethabo made pleasant conversation and chatted merrily as we raced along. I wheezed mono syllables in return. Chrissie and Graham and Duncan regularly had to turn around to come and fetch me, making their run twice as long and filling me with guilt and shame. Feeling totally uncool, I struggled forward. They would all get to the top of one of the disgusting hills and either walk or wait for me and so were nicely rested by the time I joined them barely managing a trudge. They’d all take off again, strong as anything after their brief rest and I’d have to carry on muddling along behind them. The more experienced members of the team assured me that my times would only improve by running with cool kids like them. Oh just shoot me now! I am just never going to be cool. Never! Ag!

I signed up for Dischem 21.1km. So had they. In fact, this was to be Tanja’s first 21.1km race in several years. So we all fussed over her and made sure she was prepared. The Whatsapp group gave her some tips and ideas and then they went quiet. They probably didn’t go quiet. They probably continued their cool kids conversation without me on another medium. So when I arrived for Dischem today, unbeknown to me, we were seeded in the same group and we started off together. I should just tell you that cool kids can be bald-faced liars. All my cool kid friends told me that Dischem is a “nice” run. Undulating, with a terrible hill near the end and then a very steep downhill to the end. I usually don’t look at race profiles before a race because that just scares me, but I believed my cool kid friends and arrived as a very unsuspecting idiot to Dischem this morning.

This is the treachery that awaited me

Dischem Elevation

Dischem Elevation

I should also mention that the number with which I had been issued was a painful reminder of the potential underlying cause of my decision to run Comrades.

My Dischem 21.1km number: a not so subtle reminder of why I shouldn't expect to be a cool kid

My Dischem 21.1km number: a not so subtle reminder of why I shouldn’t expect to be a cool kid

Which meant, that like a 54-year old man dating a 23-year old performing arts student, I really shouldn’t be doing this. My therapist says not to call it a crisis!

By 2km into this race, I knew it was a crisis. My cool kids from the Northcliff group had set off at a surreal pace of 6:30/km. In my defence, I’d like to mention that I ran 19km yesterday. I hadn’t intended it to be a hard run, but it ended up with my being so finished after that run, that I immediately slept for 2 hours and then proceeded to eat my own body weight in food from midday to bedtime. I had a hunger that overcame me like a heroine addict’s first hit in 3 years. You know what I say: “You’ve only had too much when you vomit!” Well I nearly overdosed last night and nearly puked from all the food I ate. It was ugly, I tell you. Just ugly! I think the food probably helped me until 19km, but more about that later.

I tried to keep up with the cool kids from Northcliff, I really did. Oh! I forgot to mention that there were Northcliff kids who were not seeded with us. They were finished when I hit the half-way mark, total underachievers that they are! But I was trying to keep up with the other cool kids. I was wheezing now. That familiar looming coronary from a week ago was trapped in my chest, threatening to break my rib cage open and spew itself out onto the tar and the other runners around me. I hadn’t cried by the 9km mark, but I was close. Look back at that route elevation profile. More than one person told me this was a “nice” run. They’re probably the heroine addicts I referred to earlier. Someone who hasn’t run it before asked me earlier, what was it like. “18km uphill, 2km cavernous drop down hell’s throat, then a flat 1km along which to drag yourself, 500m of which was on grass.”

You just go up and up and up and up and upper and up again and then upper again and then up. All the time, I’m praying: “God, I know that I have to get back to the stadium. I’m afraid of flying and of skydiving and of parachuting. I’ve no other fucking idea how you’re going to get me down from here, but please don’t let it involve me throwing myself from an unholy height as I didn’t pack a parachute.” So it made sense, therefore that the strains of Depeche Mode were playing in my head as I reached the top of the notorious Fisher’s Hill. My knees were sore from the previous day’s outing, and I had a stitch. Why did I have a stitch? I’ve read that a stitch could be caused by a contracting liver or spleen. This could be a plausible explanation considering all the shit I ate yesterday. Only alleviated by rest is what they say. Hmmmmm….. okay so 50 paces down Hell’s throat I stopped. I never stop. I walk and I cry and I trudge and I stroll, but I never stop. I stopped. I put my hand on my right side and I bent forward in agony. Not once, but 4 times, down that mine shaft of Fisher’s Hell. I mean Hill. You cannot find anything good about Fisher’s Hill on the Internet, except people wanting to sell their property and move away from there. That’s what I wanted, but my knees and my liver/spleen were the only things able to do that for me. I nearly gave up. Seriously. I nearly gave up. This was a 21km race. I run these things every week. Sometimes 2 a week! I just couldn’t go forward. I was in excruciating pain, I didn’t know if it was appendicitis or a coronary or knee replacement surgery that was waiting for me at the bottom of that hill. I cried. And, as usual, when I wanted to cry alone, an angel appeared next to me. And he was so young and pretty and so well suited to my mid-life non crisis, that I couldn’t help but try and keep up with him. He’s doing the 70.3 (Half Iron Man) in two weeks’ time and was taking it easy on this one. We ran together for the last kilometre which was flat flat flat. My legs were really giving everything they had for that last kilometre. I was astounded. This is exactly how I’d felt at the end of Kaapsehoop and that was double this distance and way more treacherous. What the hell?

A steep ramp rodeoed us into the stadium where another 500m on grass (you know how I love running on grass) lay between us and the end of this hideous affair. I clicked my tongue at the longevity of the grass section and then I was done. I finished in a time of 2:28:something, 5 minutes behind the Northcliff cool kids. That’s not a totally disrespectful time. It was better than the 2:40s that I’ve been managing lately but it wasn’t a comfortable 2:28:something at any point in the race.

I hobbled to the car like I hobbled to the car the day after Kaapsehoop and you’ll remember that I couldn’t walk the day after Kaapsehoop, never mind walk to the car. What was this? I’ll tell you what this was not! This was not a cool kid. This was not the cool kid shuffle. This was a race that I can say “Been there. Done that.” I’ll never have to do this again. Later this year, when I’m swept up with the competitive spirit to get a Dischem entry before everyone else, remind me of this day and remind me to not try so hard to be a cool kid because I just am not! Blech!

Yours in the love of running
The Slow Coach (not one of the cool kids)

A One-Legged Santa Passed Me On The Way…

Running is the ultimate leveller. When you’re on the road, there are no CEOs, there are no housekeepers, there are no housewives, there are no gardeners, there are no managers. There are just a whole lot of people on the same road experiencing the same pain and the same sense of achievement. Even those that are winning the race are experiencing the same pains and same worries and same fears. It’s such a beautiful metaphor for life. I really love that about running.

On Sunday I ran the Wits Kudus 21km. I think its the most difficult 21.1km on the Joburg running calendar. I’m led to believe by those who see more than the tarmac under their feet when they’re running that it’s a very pretty run. I’ll take their word for it! I was lucky to meet up with Jean at the start of the race. Jean and I met the week before at the Old Eds 21.1km and we’d run together for a short while. So this time, we started at a pace which we both found comfortable. Along the way, Jean met a client of hers who, as it turns out, is also a client of mine. Very strange, I know. The client, who shall henceforth be known as “The Client” Lyndon because he’s a Pinnock lawyer and well….you know lawyers…., ran with us the whole way and it was while we were discussing that we love running because it is, indeed, the great leveller, that The Client told me this story:

The Client has run several Comrades Marathons and it was on one Comrades marathon at a time when he was really struggling up a dreadful hill that he was passed by someone. That someone was not only dressed in a Santa suit, but that Santa had only one leg. Well, I never! A one-legged Santa? A one-legged Father Christmas passed me on a hill at Comrades!

I laughed so hard, I had to stop running. The Client told me he wanted me to go away. I wasn’t making fun of him. I was just astounded at the magnitude of the analogy for running being the great equaliser. What a surreal moment that must have been for him. What an incredible runner that one legged Santa must have been. The Client is no running slouch at all and that one-legged Santa passed him.

Thank you The Client. When I was crying behind my glasses at my usual 18km misery mark (he and Jean couldn’t see), I simply pictured the one-legged Santa passing The Client on the way to the Comrades finish line and I was smiling behind my glasses again.

I love that running is the great equaliser. I wish life was more like running. I love that there is no status on the road. Even the top runners know the suffering of the bottom feeders like me. Life is like that. We’re all muddling along in this life, but somehow in life, unlike running, we place some value on status and wealth or power or coming first. If only life were more like running. We’d meet people on our journey and make friends. We’d help those people we saw suffering either with an encouraging word or with a helping hand. We’d be grateful. We’d be patient. We’d win sometimes and other times we’d lose and we’d go and do it all again no matter what. Wouldn’t it be great if life was like running?

Yours in the love of running and life.
The Slow….slow Coach

The Chinese Gave Me a Pain in My Ass

“This isn’t chicken,” said Frantz. “Of course it’s chicken. Don’t be ridiculous!” I told him, knowing full well that I had made the better choice by buying sushi for my pre-marathon supper, while he had turned to Ye Olde Chinese Shoppe next door to the sushi place for his supper. Unfortunately for him, he ordered beef chow mein but got pseudo-chicken something or other. I felt so sorry for him, that I let him have the sushi and I took over the pseudo-chicken something or other. (By the way, the best sushi in Joburg is to be found 5 blocks from my house at an insignificant fish delicatessen called My Fish on Gordon Rd. The worst Chinese food in Joburg can be found at the Chinese restaurant next door to My Fish.) Not a good idea to eat something foreign the night before a marathon. A marathon? Yes! I had planned to run The Lifegain Wally Hayward Marathon today. This being the last qualifier before Comrades. At Slow-Mag I came to terms with the probability that I would not be running Comrades this year and I’ve been okay with that. A little disappointed, but I’m a big girl. But I still wanted to try and The Wally was my last chance to achieve that.

You’ll remember that two weeks ago I was limping through the latter part of a 21km which you can read all about here. Yeah. So my physio (and best friend – Clare-Anne Kilroe) said it was an overuse injury so I was to diligently rest. She didn’t advise against The Wally. She didn’t tell me to run like the wind at The Wally. So I used my initiative and entered The Wally. But then I ate the pseudo-chicken something or other and a new journey began.

I wasn’t only looking forward to my first Wally because it was my first Wally, but I was also looking forward to running my first marathon with my running buddy Chrissie and, best of all, my beautiful son, Frantz, was going to come and support me. (it was easy for him, he had the sushi!) Jacqui, Jess and Tasha were also going to be there, cheering Chrissie and me on while they cheered on their hero, Daniel.

Jess and Tasha out early with Mom to support Dad, Chrissie and me

Jess and Tasha out early with Mom to support Dad, Chrissie and me

Centurion is miles away. I left home at 4.20am. 4.20am! That’s ungodly by any measure. My son would agree! I was worried that there’d be traffic and, having started Slow-Mag neurotically because of traffic, I didn’t want the same for The Wally. We arrived there at 5am and I realised that Centurion is the exception to the “Pretoria is always warmer” rule. Sheez! It was frikken freezing there. I collected my number and went back to the car for a warming power nap before I was due to meet Chrissie.

The Lifegain Wally Hayward is a 42.2km, a 21.1km, a 10km, a 5km and a 1km race. Masses of people descended on the start to be part of this and soon after the start, those masses were in front of Chrissie and me. Obviously that was my doing! Chrissie is like a damn pitbull. She just doesn’t let go once she starts. The Couch Potato, however….I’ll admit that I did quite well this time. I went 4kms before I felt the need to walk. I was quite surprised and I was happy. It was lovely to have a friend with me that I knew had no objective other than to spend some time running with me. Chrissie took, what has been described by those who witnessed it, a spectacularly Ninjarly fall at the Two Oceans Marathon when she encountered a legendary catseye. She broke a couple of ribs in the process. Although she seems to think it’s really just bruised muscles, but 4 weeks on she’s still in pain and can’t cough or sneeze or, as I later found out, laugh without discomfort. I’m no doctor, but that sounds like something more than bruising. So she was coming back from injury and I was doing my first Wally and half-heartedly trying to qualify for Comrades 2013. I hadn’t given up altogether, but I am a realist. We kept ahead of the sub-5hour bus for a few kilometres, but at 8km, that Chinese food reared its head and I got a pain in my ass akin to that which I experienced at Birchwood 21km two weeks ago. Okay, so maybe the Chinese food wasn’t to blame for the pain in my ass, maybe just the wind! At 9kms I did a good stretch which had a similar effect to a hip replacement (I’d imagine). I felt much better and could run a bit without limping. Chrissie was doing plenty of patiently waiting. At 9kms I got my usual grumpy self. I’m not sure if particularly irritating people always happen upon me at 9kms and then I get grumpy or I get grumpy at 9kms and then ordinary people just irritate the crap out of me. 2 assholes came running up behind us telling everyone to get a move on and gloating about how they had started so late and it felt great to be passing all the slow coaches at the back. I hope they get cramp in their toes tonight. Shitheads! At 10kms I wasn’t grumpy any more, but I was sore and the sub-5hour bus motored past us as I limped up a hill. This was a really pleasant route. The pain in my ass (and I’m not married, so I’m talking about the real deal here) was making the race unpleasant. Oh ja, Chrissie is also not the pain in my ass. And I say it reluctantly, but the Chinese food wasn’t the pain in my ass either. It was something else.
My brain was a bit slower in the second part of the first lap because I only started crying at 15km instead of my usual 13km. I wanted to run the marathon, but I knew this time, there could be a will, but I’d do long term damage if I did two rounds. And I knew that Frantz had got up at a ridiculous hour to watch me run a marathon and I was going to disappoint him. That spurred me on a bit, but I was very sore. I was making Chrissie and I go so slowly that Mike passed us and then, horror of horrors, even Dean and Myer passed us. Holy shit! Was I going backwards here? At the split for the marathon and the end of the 21km, an apparition appeared in the form of my Frantz and Jax and the girls, cheering us on. I had managed to muster up a pathetic limping shuffle so it looked like I had been running. We stopped to talk to them and I confessed that I was going no further than the 21.1km. I felt a bit tearful as my son gave a somewhat disappointed smile (although I think he was relieved to not have to wait for Chrissie and I to shuffle around the 21 again which would probably mean his having to wait for another 7 hours, the rate I was moving.

And then I was going backwards! That’s because at the end of this rather pleasant little course, there’s a sonofabitch of a hill. About 1 kilometre of 60° hell. (lol! My brain just typed hill, but my fingers typed hell!) hahaha! I was in so much pain that I ascended the hill backwards to give my butt and hamstring a break. The pain in my ass had descended up and down my body into my lower back and down into my hamstring and my calf was starting to complain too. Chrissie was so underworked for the day that she was going up and coming back to fetch and going up and coming back to fetch. Ag! How humiliating! And then we were finished. Not a metre too soon. My ass was on fire and the pseudo-chicken something or other was ready for an encore. Blech!

My body is slowly metamorphosing from a couch potato into an elite athlete (my easy to impress chiropractor – Clifford Mead – claims that I am already an elite athlete. And the crowds fell down laughing!). The pain started in my foot and toe. Then it moved to my ankles then my shins got it. Then my knees got it. My hamstrings and quads. Now my glutes. Clare-Anne, the physio says I can look forward to pain in my back next. Yay! The pain medication has progressed from Panado to Mypaid. By Comrades 2014 I’ll only have my head to worry about and of course the heroin addiction! Lol! Just kidding. I know I can’t take heroin if I want to win Comrades.

Hey! I’m a realist, but a girl can dream can’t she?

Lots of love from the slow coach.

Always good to remind myself

Always good to remind myself