Are We Having Fun?

Yes indeed! Running is fun.

It has come to my attention that this might not be the case for everyone. Running races are especially fun for me. It seems that races are even less fun for these poor buggers for whom running appears not to be so much fun. Who are these poor creatures for whom running is not so much fun? The poor creatures who are not having so much fun are, in fact, the Illuminati. I know, right? How could the Illuminati not be having fun? What wouldn’t be fun about lapping your fellow runners multiple times at track? What wouldn’t be fun about winning a prize for running? What wouldn’t be fun about taking a nice easy run and still averaging a pace of 4:05/km.

The first time I heard of this ludicrous concept of an Illuminati that might not find this whole thing fun was when I was talking to a Grand Master South Afrian champion. She is invited to run all over the world. Her entries are paid to all the best races in the world. Even in her 60s, she’s winning money and getting admired everywhere. But she told me a while back that, with her sponsorship comes an obligation to attend press conferences and stay behind at races for hours after she’s finished and showered and dying to get home to her couch or family just so that she can have her photo taken with the sponsors’ logos and brand ambassadors and so on. Okay, I got how that might make me a bit grumpy. But still. That’s a small price to pay for the accolades and privileges that come with the territory of professional sport.

The real reason, however, became apparent to me last week as I stood in the parking lot after track. I was talking to the Illuminati about running Spirit of Flight. Now, as far as running goes, this race is fun. It’s fun, damnit! Allegedly, you run 10km on the runway of a military airport. There are old army planes and trucks and hangars around the place and it’s flat and fast so you can manage a PB if you try even just a bit. Doesn’t that sound fun? Yes. It sounded fun to me so I was going to run it. I asked them if they were going to join. One was keen and the other was less than impressed with the suggestion. She told us that she’s not at her best yet and someone else will be there and they’ll beat her and she can’t handle that because she’s already getting enough abuse from her running friends for her “out of shapeness”. And that would be terrible. I wondered for a tiny moment if she has such friends who would mock her about her “out of shapeness” (she still laps me 4 or 5 times at track and I’ve improved tremendously!) or if that was the voice in her head beating her up. My friends would never make fun of me for being in bad shape… because…my shape couldn’t get much worse than it is so it would be like crying in the rain. What I’m trying to say is the Illuminati should get other friends or different voices.

I walked away from that conversation with a heavy heart and I felt guilty. You know how I’ve been whining about not loving running so much any more? I suddenly realised that my running is a much nicer illegal marriage than the Illuminati marriages. I asked one of them why they hate racing so much and this is how they explained: At Illuminati level, you’re always on show. You’re always competing. Your best is never good enough if on the day someone else’s best is better than your best. My running is hard because it’s against me. When I do a crap time it’s because I did a crap time all on my own. My own voices made me walk. My own saboteur arrived on the day. But I’m only competing against myself and a clock. Even when Illuminati do a good time, it might not be good enough and there’s no-one to blame for that except… well… you’re just not good enough to beat the best on that day. I would hate to be married to their running.

And so, because I view it as my personal mission to fix everyone’s life (I’m especially good at fixing marriages), I told the Illuminati that they shouldn’t run Spirit to compete. They should run it for fun. Ringmaster Dave, the coach, frowned upon that and came up with a most elaborate plan to have them compete first, have fun later. The plan sounded unfun on all fronts and he ruined my attempts at making this a fun event for at least the Illuminati. My plan had them arriving at the race and telling their fellow Illuminati that they would not be racing but that they would be pacing some of us to get personal best times for the 10km and then, if they felt like racing, they still could do so, but without any pressure, knowing, of course, that if they decided to race, they would leave all of us half-bakeds languishing in the doldrums without a clue.

They both seemed like they took the bait. When we (Christien, Liezel and Illuminati Michelle and I travelled there together) arrived at the race on Saturday, one Illuminati had a pacing chart for me and a big smile. One was already standing at the front, frowning and bouncing nervously from one foot to another. She did not look like she was about to have fun. Other Illuminati came running up to us all similarly uniformed and looking famous and intimidating. I wasn’t impressed…because I didn’t care. Even if I stripped 25% of my personal best time for a 10km I still wouldn’t have a hope in hell of beating any of them. That’s hilarious when I type it like that. Hilarious to me. I’m sure they must have looked menacing to the other Illuminati there.

I’ll be honest. I did not enjoy running this race. I did not have one single ounce of fun. The route was changed the night before because of an important military vehicle which had to land on the airstrip and so we found ourselves running a trail run, not on a pristine potholeless runway as expected. Add to this the ludicrous hills that peppered this short 10km route and the fact that I was afraid of disappointing Illuminati pacers and several people who were expecting me to run a PB, I was not having fun. There was also a very sneaky, deceptive finish. To be fair, I ran my little toes right off the ends of my feet and so it is to be expected that I might not have been enjoying the running because I was at the edge of my ability. The Illuminati helped me to run a personal best 10km of 53:01. It was probably more than that because the route was actually 9.63km long and not a full 10km, but I’ll take it anyway. I’m going to pretend I didn’t have a fancy Garmin bossing me around, making me feel shit about myself. I ran a PB 10km in 53:01.

Everyone ran PBs and not because the route was 370m short, but serious PBs – 10 minutes faster than their previous PBs, some of them. One of my Illuminati came 2nd and, when I finished, both were smiling like they’d had fun. We all were. So during the run I didn’t have much fun, but that was only 53 minutes of my life that were not fun. Everything before and everything since has been fun. I didn’t lie awake the night before stressing. Okay, that’s a lie. I stressed because I felt like I had to do 53 but thought I was only capable of 55 so sleep was restless. But I didn’t feel the pressure that the Illuminati seem to feel. I had fun standing waiting for the race to start. I had a laugh as we crowded round the first corner and got squashed against a gate. I made a joke about a hangar/er. I smiled as we turned a corner and I got to see all those people who were behind me in the race. I had Illuminati encouraging me all the way. I had fun ambling forward chatting the few monosyllables I could gasp out as we lined up in the medals queue at the end. And of course, there was that PB. I had fun!

I’m going to keep getting better and maybe one day I’ll be able to compete with really phenomenal runners. That’s my 2053 Octogenarian Games plan, anyway. But I will first ensure that I always have fun. I will make having fun more important than winning. Maybe I can say that with conviction because, until 2053, I won’t win, but I don’t want to win at all costs. Running must be fun for me. I know I’ve been whinging lately about not having fun, but I realise now, that I have been having fun and I’ll keep having fun until 2053 when I must get serious about this stuff and stop having fun!

Yours in the fun of running
Slow Coach

P.S. Illuminati reading this, I hope you find the fun that I find in every race.

Trust the Process

When someone says to me, “Trust the process, Brenda”, they’re usually a brain-injured hippie or they’re an asshole. So when the voice in my head said it to me on Saturday, which was it? I think all the track has made me into a brain-injured hippie and so that’s probably what it was. I’m supposed to be tapering, for the love of Pete! Not running until my eyes bleed! I had a “tapering” track session the other night and I had gone deaf in both ears before I even finished the flipping warm up. Illuminati Michelle apologised for the pace of 5:10/km for the warm up. I don’t even run my fastest 5km at that pace and here I was warming up. That session was another ELE. But this time, instead of a 1 minute break between treacherous intervals, we were mercifully granted 45 seconds break.

You want to know the funny part, however. At the end of my final 5km interval, the Illuminati were on their cool down and our paths crossed. Actually, they sauntered up to me while I was running the end of the 5km which was supposed to be at my marathon pace. It was at my marathon pace until they caught up with me. Not only was I afraid of what was now a dark night, but I was also kind of afraid of looking like a total loser as these Illuminati ran next to me. So I ran at a nosebleed pace. And then they “helped” me through the last 1200m which was akin to being dragged semi-conscious through the jungles of Vietnam by a Jeep in 1964. But enough about me! Imagine that they felt exactly the same dragged-behind-a-Jeep-in-the-jungle feeling after their last 1200m. But still, they came back, pushed me through the end of my 5km and then started another 1200m. All for me! This is The Comrades Marathon. Maybe this is running everywhere, but wherever I go, when people hear that I’m running my first Comrades Marathon, it ignites in them a candle of warmth and caring that it not matched elsewhere in my world. People who just want to see me do well. Here are these sometime total strangers who lovingly care for me. And I’m so slow. It must be so frustrating for them to have to amble along this road of mediocrity with me, but they do. How awesome is that? How has God rained down so many beautiful people on my head? My gratitude to them could never be expressed appropriately. Never!

With 7 more sleeps until Comrades I’m extremely excited. Many of the people I run with are nervous, but I feel excited more than nervous. I’m so lucky I can run. Do you know how I was not a runner just two years ago? I was a couch potato. There was no way in hell that I would ever have dreamed I could do the Comrades Marathon. I’ve watched from my couch and I’ve imagined how wonderful it would be to be part of that crowd of sufferers. I’ve imagined that I would never be able to do something as crazy and awesome as that. But here I am. In 7 more sleeps I will be one of those people that stand in a dark and chilly Pietermaritzburg to hear the national anthem and hear Vangelis and the cock crow and the gun go off. I will run along something called Polly Shortts and Inchanga (and I can say that word properly!) and Drummond and 45th Cutting. All these mythical places will become real to me I will feel what they feel like. In just 7 sleeps, I will experience what every runner who has attempted the Comrades Marathon has felt. I’ve imagined pieces of the race and what they will feel like to me now that I am a runner. I’ll know the answer to the question, so how steep is Botha’s hill? How long is this Inchanga (a Zulu word that I know how to pronounce properly!) If you’ve ever seen the French movie, Amelie, and remember the scene where Amelie figures out the mystery of the guy in the torn up photo booth photos, you’ll know how I will be feeling in just 7 sleeps’ time.

Written on the envelope are all the reasons why I got there and all the reasons I will get to the end.

The pack that Chrissie is going to keep for me at RAC’s halfway table

This week I’m still tapering. Apparently. Sadist Coach Dave told me on Saturday that I should run an easy 10-15km on Sunday, track (for 200m strides which are already making my eyes water) on Monday, 30 minutes on Tuesday, 5km on Wednesday (which is also 30 minutes. He was only making the distinction for the Illuminati and A-Teamers), 30 minutes on Thursday, nothing on Friday and 20 minutes at 5.30pm on Saturday. I had “planned” (using no scientific reference, mind you) to do 20km on Sunday and then sit on my backside on the couch until Sunday. When I told him about my plan, he was quiet. He is not a quiet man. He was quiet. He began to explain to me why I should do it his way with the Illuminati standing there as his Exhibit A when the voice in my head shouted out loud, “Trust the process, Brenda! Trust the process!”. That voice is an asshole!

So today I ran 17.8 kilometres at a lightning pace of 6:03m/km with Illuminati Michelle and Cool Kid Chrissie and A-Teamers Megan and Guy and other people who seemed to be hanging on by their toenails like me. I have cancelled dinner plans for a TV dinner with a friend so that I can do eye-watering strides tomorrow night. I’ll do my 5km on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and then I will be allowed to sit on the couch until Saturday evening when I will run to get sushi, drink my protein shake and wait in anticipation to find out how Amelie felt that day and how tens of thousands of people before me have felt as they transversed those mythical South African institutions.

Yours in the hype and excitement! Can’t wait! Just can’t wait!

Slow Coach

Wind up! Wind down!

Caution! Tapering!Tapering. That’s the word on everyone’s lips at the moment. I’m seeing all sorts of funny clips and jokes about runners tapering. Tapering is supposed to mean slowing down or getting less intense, right? Everyone claims that tapering is what the month of May is all about. Talk is cheap in this liar-ridden community of runners. According to two-time American Olympian Pete Pfitzinger “the taper should be preceded by your last long run. But now, when you’ve run races of 160km (100 miles) or 90km or 42km, what is considered a “long run”? Its ludicrous what people are doing. Anyway. I’m going to tell you what my tapering has been looking like. You remember that I was sick and injured while all other Comrades hopefuls were running all over the place and running and running and running. I was sitting and crying and moping and recovering. So I panicked when I came back and promptly ran the Randburg Harriers Easter 100km. That’s 100km over 3 days. that having been accomplished, I was satisfied that I had completed my “last long run” and I could now taper. Apparently not. I decided that, during my taper, I would increase my attendance at track. You’ll be reminded that I had only been going to track once a week, not wanting to win Comrades and all that. But, still a little concerned about my speed and so my ability to complete Comrades in the alloted 12 hours or the self-imposed 11 hours (10:55:55 to be exact), I decided to up the track. I’ve really got a lot faster since I started track so a couple extra sessions per week wouldn’t hurt.

Bwahahahaha! “Hurt” is exactly what they did. Oh my gracious. God left me. Abandoned me. Just six days after the Easter 100, I returned to track. And Boom! 3 x 1200m at 5km race pace with 2 minutes break in between. I still had that awful flu that I acquired the day after Easter 100 and so I’m sure a piece of my pleura is still lying in the grass at track. Illuminati were given 4 sets and they lapped me….wait for it…..6 times! I was lapped 6 times in 3 kilometres. Running is such a humiliation. And they never even break a sweat. I lose weight at track.  And not just pleura weight, real weight. They saunter around the track and I hear them whoosh past me as they go. Six times. So humiliating. I’m sure they make it a competition amongst themselves to see how many times we can lap Brenda today! And, as if those 3 humiliating kilometres weren’t enough, I was then sent out into the wilderness to run a 5km time trial. My coach Dave is a sadist. And he got worse after this.

The next Monday, Illuminati Michelle wasn’t at track, but Illuminati Tebogo was. When Sadist Dave dished out the sessions, there were Illuminati, “normal” Comrades like me (okay, I’m the only normal Comrade, everyone else is Illuminati) and other normal runners, Illuminati trailers, Illuminati Iron Men and triathletes and other very fast people. I’m always at the back. Always. The faster I get. The faster they get. Anyway. Dave singles out Tebogo and myself as Comrades and he smiles sadistically. 1600m @ 10km race pace, 1 minute break 2000m @ 10km race pace, 1 minute break, 1200m @ 10km race pace, 1 minute break, 600m @ 5km race pace, 1 minute break, 600m @ 5km race pace. Tebogo and my mouths dropped open. Surely Dave is joking. Everyone else stared pitifully at us. I didn’t hear anything else. I went deaf. Tears filled my eyes. I stopped stretching. I stared at Tebogo waiting for him to start laughing hysterically.  He mouthed at me with tears in his eyes, “Why the 2 x 600m?” Why the 2 x 600m? What the fuck? That’s the problem for you? The 2 x 600m are the problem in that whole session? I mouthed back feeling vomit start to rise in my oesophagus, “Why….did I come here?” Everyone took pity on us. You could see how relieved everyone else was to be them at that point in time and not us. It was so awful that they didn’t even laugh at us. Usually we laugh at those who get the toughest sessions. Not tonight. Everyone was humbled into silence by what Tebogo and I had been given. I meekly asked Dave, “What time do they turn off the floodlights?” He smiled sympathetically. I know he doesn’t get that I’m funniest when the suffering’s the worst. I was only lapped 4 times by Tebogo and together we managed to encourage each other through this horrific ordeal. I’m tapering.

Horror of horrors, Illuminati Michelle arrived at time trial the next day and, without my permission, began to pace me through the 5km route. I was dying. I wanted to run away from her, but she would just have kept up with me. I wanted to faint and pretend to die, but she would have made me get up and carry on. This was brutal. She left me with about 350 metres to go at a pace which would have seen me run a PB 5km time trial and, as soon as she was around the corner, I stopped running, thanked God that she was gone and ambled to the end of the time trial. I was still only 20 seconds off my PB, but it just showed me what a lazy couch potato I can still be given the right incentive! Michelle shook her head at me when I told her how I goofed off as soon as her back was turned. I am tapering, after all!

The next day, being a Wednesday, was a track day and I loooked forward with trepidation to the evening’s events. Ah, my dear friend, Bruce arrived. Bruce is not a running friend and so it would be cool to hang out with someone that knew me as something other than just a total underachiever. Bruce is also an uber athlete who goes at everything he does 128%, so I was sure it wouldn’t be too far into the session before he was lapping me. We ran the warm up together and he took pity on me and ran slow as a snail with me at the back. I know he was itching to race forward with the Illuminati, but friendship prevailed and he loitered at the back with me. 800m @ 5km race pace, 2 minutes rest, 1000m @ 5km race pace, 2 minutes rest, 1200m @ 5km race pace, 2 minutes rest 1000m @ 5km race pace, 2 minutes rest, 800m @ 5km race pace, 1 minute rest, 4 x 200m @ threshold pace with 2 minutes rest in between. “What’s threshold pace?” I asked, already knowing the answer. “The pace you’d run 1500m.” “Six minutes per kilometre?” I joked. I would run 1500m the same as I run everything else. Slowly. As it turns out, that’s not entirely true. The session was brutal. I cried during the last 800m but quickly pulled myself towards myself. And then how is this? I was so overwhelmed by the kindness of my Illuminatii Tebogo and Michelle. They finished all their brutal session (same as mine) and then waited for me so that they could run the 200m sprints with me. It was very cool and terrifying all at the same time. Tebogo was running behind me shouting instructions about my style and Michelle ran next to me pushing me to beat her to the 200m mark. I reckon if Comrades were 80 metres, I’d have a chance! It’s the 89.12 kilometres that are my downfall. I ran a couple of those 200m sprints in 3:30/km. That’s fast hey? It nearly killed me. But I’m tapering.

Michelle had told me at time trial that Saturday’s session was going to be ELE (Extermination Level Event). She told me to bring an energy drink, a lot of tissues and a bucket. A bucket? I don’t want to know. Dave had joked about the bucket when I was lining up for my 200m sprints. Surely not? A bucket? I arrived on Saturday with a lump in my throat. I hadn’t slept the night before because of the anxiety. I was so worried. Extermination Level Event. I anticipated death. If natural selection was something that was a factor in an extermination level event, then I was surely the one that was going to die. Surely, if Darwin is to be believed. In hindsight, I think that session where Illuminati Tebogo and I cried together was worse than ELE, but ELE was horrific. Especially because I never got the memo about the easy 5km route. I did the difficult 5km route in this session: (by the way, all track sessions are preceded by a 2.5km warm up which always makes me smile because there was a day not so long ago when that was the furthest I’d ever run.) Warm up, 1200m @ 10km race pace, 1 minute rest, 5km @ marathon pace, 1 minute rest, 1200m @ 10km race pace, 1 minute rest, 5km @ marathon pace, 1 minute rest, 1200m @ 10km race pace, 15 push ups (also a feature at the end of every track session). Illuminati then had to run for 70 minutes. I don’t remember what happened to me after that. Seriously, I don’t remember. I was faint. I felt like I had a head injury. Which is how one is supposed to feel when one is tapering, right? Do runners understand the nuances of the English language? this was not tapering. Torture, maybe. Tanking, maybe. Terrifying, maybe. Tapering? Not so much. And the next day I was supposed to run a 32km race. Fuck that! I turned off at the 15km mark and moped my way back into the stadium for a personal best 15km time! This tapering thing might be working for me.

The subsequent track sessions have been shit, but not as awful as that week. I’ve missed one (okay two now) this week because I’m working in purgatory, I mean Bloemfontein. Oh ja, on the weekend, I ran a personal best time for a 25km race. Okay, so I’ve never run a 25km race before but, I also beat my 21km time at that race by….wait for it….21 minutes! Doesn’t that totally rock? 21 minutes off a 21km time! You do the simple maths on that. Can I get a whoop whoop? But wait, that’s not all. Illuminati Michelle won the ladies veteran race and came 6th lady overall in that same race. In so doing, she also became the fastest veteran lady over 25km in South Africa this year. Awesome hey? And if only you knew how kind and generous with her talent she is and how humble she is. If you meet her, you’re luckier for it, trust me.

So seriously now, that’s my last “long run”. This track/tapering thing seems to be working. God-willing, it’s going to go well for me in 18 days’ time. If I can survive this tapering thing, I reckon the Comrades is going to be a breeze.

Yours in the terror of tapering.
Slow Coach.

Speed Kills

There is me. Then there are the cool kids. Today I discovered that there is another level above the cool kids called the Illuminati. They made me cry! I’m trying to be calm about this and see it all in perspective because, hey, last week I ran 60km. The week before that I ran 68km. The week before that I ran 80km. Admittedly, I took about as long to run all of those as it would take a normal endurance athlete to run 14300km. But I’m a decent runner. How many of you reading this can say the same about your last 3 weeks? Okay don’t answer that. I forgot about all you cool kids. Anyway.

Yesterday I ran a 23km club run. We took it easy and finished in 2:48:23. Afterwards, I was loitering around being my totally uncool self, trying to look like one of the cool kids, when I spotted Francis (cool kid), chatting to a lady I recognised as one of the totally coolest kids, Michelle. I’d never actually met her, but her reputation preceded her and everyone had told me I’d do well to meet her. I would NEVER ever have dreamed of speaking to her. She was near deity from the way everyone had spoken of her. Here’s a clue: When I got back from my 23km along which I had been patiently dragged by Romy (Nedbank cool kid) and John (Northcliff /RAC cool kid) after 2:48:23, Michelle had probably been sitting at that table for 1:25:23 and she also took an easy run. You do the maths.

She was helping Francis with a training regime. They seemed almost done when Francis introduced me to Michelle. Knowing what I know now, I should have fallen to my knees and kissed her toes, but I smiled shyly. I explained my dilemma that I could run for days, but I’m totally shit because I’m slower than a sloth. Michelle smiled with an empathy that clearly had no idea what I meant, but she seemed too kind to ridicule me. She and Francis encouraged me to join them tonight (traditionally couch night) for speed training at “the track”. I was scared, but Michelle explained that quality is better than quantity when it comes to preparing for Comrades. She’d probably know better than me, but I had to agree that something had to change for me to get faster.

So this afternoon I stretched and prepared well for “the track” session. I was quite nervous because although Michelle was nothing but sweet and kind, she looks as though she could beat me at an arm wrestle in nano seconds. She’s tiny, but she looks . . . . better at arm wrestling than me. I got to “the track” which was nothing more than a well kept cricket outfield. You know how I loooove running on grass. I arbed around uncoolly early and waited for any face I would recognise. Eventually I decided to go back to my car and play Candy Crush. As I got to my car, Francis and Michelle arrived. Damn! I was so hoping to get past level 23 of Candy Crush. It was not to be. I was here to become a super athlete, not a super couch potato. You know, at heart I think I’m still a couch potato. I must just prefer real medals to virtual medals. (Only couch potatoes would catch that joke.) Francis and I headed off on a warm up run of 2.5km. I can almost remember when that was the furthest I’d ever run in my life. It still scares me that 2.5km is warming up and not enough to earn a hot chocolate with marshmallows and a piece of cheesecake. While we were warming up, the Illuminati came running in a pack towards us. Good Lord! They were impressive. God had in them created magnificent specimens. To all you cool kids, you’re cool, but this is most certainly the Illuminati.

While Francis and I were waiting for them to return, I met him. That wielder of the tazer. That shambok bearing ringmaster. That. . . .coach, Dave. I was still unaware of how this thing was going to go. I thought Michelle was going to be tazer holder, barking orders at us. It turns out that, as Illuminati as she is, she’s also just one of Dave’s circus animals. Dave is a jolly guy. Somewhat rotund and quite unassuming. The pack of Illuminati returned from their warm up, which had lasted about 4 minutes, even though they too had run 2.5km to warm up. We all gathered in a circle. One of the aforementioned Illuminati, a lady by the name of Paula, who was wearing a very menacing shirt that read: “DEATH BEFORE A DNF*” (I’m not making this up) and who reminded me somewhat of Jeremy Irons’ girlfriend in Die Hard with a Vengeance, took us through what would have been a mild stretching regime. I say “would have been” because either her or Ringmaster Dave thought it was a good idea to squeeze in one minute of planking near the end. I have a grass burn on my cheek from that. If you don’t know what planking is, I can’t explain it to you, because verbalising what I did there is against my religion. I cursed. But. I hadn’t vomited yet and I hadn’t cried. So far. So good.

Ringmaster Dave then had us hopping and jumping and skipping up and down the field. He gave a lengthy explanation about why he was doing it. Something about learning your own natural rythm or something. My natural rythm as well as my name and country of origin were forgotten by the start of the third leg of what was to come next. Dave split us into groups which can best be described in my terms as:

ILLUMINATI
At 10km race pace do 600m, walk 100m, 10km race pace do 800m, walk 100m, 10km race pace do 1000m, walk 100m, 10km race pace do 800m, walk 100m, 10km race pace do 600m and immediately do push-ups.

COOL KIDS
Something like the above, but smaller distances.

US (Francis, not wanting to be seen as totally uncool like me, referred to her lot – which included a 7-year old and a 9-year old – as COOL KIDS A and myself and two other ladies who were also first timers as COOL KIDS B)
8 laps of 400m at 10km race pace with a 2 minute break between each lap.

I looked up at the setting sun and wondered if they were going to put on the floodlights when I was on my fourth lap. Did Dave understand what he was saying when he told me to run at 10km race pace? Did I even know what he meant? Do I even know how fast I run a 10km race? How fast is “Don’t die. Don’t come last”? I figured I better run like I was been chased by lions. I did. Thankfully I wasn’t being chased by lions because apparently lions can run very fast for more than 300m, which they wouldn’t have needed to do to have me for dinner. At 300m I was wheezing and blood was filling my ears and nasal passages. The 400m mark appeared just before my aorta left my body through my neck. I rested for 2 minutes as instructed and set off again with COOL KIDS A. I mostly kept with them for the next 400m. They only rested for a minute, but I couldn’t go with them because I was waiting for the blood to drain from my ears into my throat. So I waited my 2 minutes and set off again. My posture was all a thing of the past. My “natural rhythm” was not unlike that of a warthog. My speed was back to sloth and I wanted to vomit. 400m went by in a day. Dave was running in the opposite direction, regularly shouting encouragement to me. He’s a liar. Maybe he wasn’t lying. Maybe he was genuinely surprised to see me alive each time. I was pretty surprised about that too. At the end of each lap, I didn’t know how I’d manage to go again. The track started to get bigger and bigger. 400m started to feel like 9km. I got to 6 laps and even Ringmaster Dave took pity on me. He told me I could stop and do my pushups if I wanted. I wouldn’t hear of it. I went round one more pathetic time. The Illuminati were all regimentally doing pushups and situps and hand stands and bench pressing one another as I finished off. I managed a magnificent total of 3, count them 1, 2, 3 pushups before I once again buried my face in the allergy-inducing track. Fuck I hate grass! That’s when I cried. Luckily, to spare me further embarrassment, Francis dragged me off for our cool down run of 2.5km.

It was like this was the first time I’d ever run. My legs were weak and had hurt while I was running. I thought I was becoming cool. I thought I was becoming a runner. Sometimes I think I’m just always going to suck at this. It terrifies me that I have to do a session like this ever again if I want to finish Comrades in under 12 hours. I don’t know if I can face that again. Michelle told me I should come on Wednesday again, but I just don’t know if I can. I feel like I’m starting from scratch again. Like I’m going out the door and vomiting 200 metres later. The logic me says: Slow Coach, when change is needed to improve on the status quo, suffering must happen. The couch potato me says: Ag, just give up. Just keep plodding along. You’ll be fine.

Who will win on Wednesday? I’ll let you know.

Yours in status quo.

The Slow Coach

*DNF = Did Not Finish