With it being described as the ultimate human race, opting to run the Comrades ultra marathon this year has to be one of my more questionable decisions to date. Running 89km is a long and daunting prospect, which both excites and scares me at the same time. Should I cross the finish line on the 29th May 2011 however, it may just turn out to be one of the most important and rewarding decisions I have ever taken.
This will be my first attempt at running Comrades. I am a rookie runner and as of yet, I do not even have a marathon under my belt. I can run a bit though, 1:39 for my half marathon back in September indicates that there is something in the legs. Just needs to be stretched out a bit…
My brother-in-law ran Comrades for the first time last year and what possessed him to do it, I am only starting to understand now. I started running just as early as a year back and up until October last year, I had absolutely no desire to run Comrades. I genuinely thought that I will not put my body through the physical and mental extremities associated with running Comrades. I know plenty of runners that have not run Comrades and have little or no desire to do so in future, so I thought I could easily slot into this category.
Then I joined the running group here in Lagos, Nigeria. A fantastic array of people who have been inspirational not only in their commitment to the sport, but also in life in general. Being part of this group has opened my eyes here in Lagos and has given me the chance to see what this amazing city has to offer – if only you are willing to leave your preconceived ideas behind and get out there and look. Our runs are amazing! We duck through the insane traffic on the Lagos streets, dodging Okadas and minibuses; We run through the markets and the villages on the banks of the lagoon; We jump into the unstable (and often leaky and sinking) hand carved canoes, waving to the children and fisherman while paddling across the water; and best of all, we love to power ourselves by feasting on the greatest croissants and pain aux chocolat from our favourite French bakery!
During one of our long runs, our run co-ordinator, coach, mentor, drill instructor – call him what you will – started telling us about some of the great races of the world and how the Americans can put on an excellent race. Now, he has a bit of experience in these matters as not only is he within the circles of the people who organize races such as the New York, Boston & Chicago marathons, but he knows the winners of these races as well! I was not surprised when he listed the American races, or even when he threw in the London marathon, but I was a bit shocked when he said that the greatest race in the world had to be the Comrades Ultra marathon, and how South Africa’s love for it makes it unrivaled anywhere else in the world.
His passion and emotion describing a race that is literally on my doorstep made me question my reasoning for not ever wanting to run Comrades. Maybe subliminally I thought that because I live in SA, I will always have the chance to do it in the future – it will always be there if I decide to change my mind. But if there is one certainty in life, it is that nothing is ever certain, so on the 7th of October, I was the 9573 entry into the 2011 Comrades Ultra Marathon.
I aim to blog how I, along with a small group of South African, British and American runners here in Lagos, Nigeria, will be preparing for this year’s Ultimate Human Race.