There’s a reason they call Comrades Marathon the Ultimate human race
I remember when Feige and I announced to our family that we were planning on running the Comrades Marathon. They thought we were crazy, and after our first ultra-marathon (a 50km) which resulted in two cases of heat stroke, were not very positive about us taking on a race almost double of that.
We were steadfast in our decisions, dutifully logged our training, did all our prep races and by the time we lined up at the start, our entire family was behind us. They made the schlep to Durban and then spent the day tracing along the route to give us much needed fuel, love and encouragement. By the time we were back in our accommodation, you could’ve sworn our family signed up to be part of the Comrades recruitment board. We didn’t have to worry about hobbling around with our medals on the beach the next day, our mom proudly befriended everyone and let them know what we had done. Comrades became our father’s favourite topic to bring up with anyone who ran (or didn’t). He’d tell them that it was something you needed to experience and that if you wanted to see the good of humanity, go watch Comrades and see how complete strangers come help each other.
It’s a race that’s more than a race, different from anything you’ll ever do that gets into your blood and becomes a part of you. It requires months of early mornings, hours on the road and careful planning. It’s exhilarating, fun, hard, tiring, sore and will both humble and break you. You will reach the lowest lows, but also the highest highs.
Like most, it’s hard to pinpoint my favourite moment, but the last few kilometres are always special. It’s there, once your distance to go is in single digits, that you can taste the finish line, and if all went according to plan, can actually savour the final strides getting you there.
With Comrades just a few days away, I asked 4 Comrades runners to share their favourite parts of the race.
There are so many reasons why I love this crazy race. And I have spent many runs here in Basel trying to explain it to my Marathon-running friends here.
I think for me, the biggest reason is that it is so unique. You know you can run a 10km or half or even marathon in most places (even the Arctic!!); and therefore you can run a marathon in one country and then try improve your personal best somewhere else. But there is NOTHING comparable to Comrades – in fact, you can’t even compare one year to the next because of the change from up to down, and sometimes the route gets longer or shorter. And so for me, it epitomizes all the best parts of my home country and it tests my will and determination. The race is just so festive, thousands of people and supporters, but mostly I just love how it is one of a kind! An ultra on the road for thousands of people! Completely unique!
Coming to think of it and reflecting on my very first Comrades Marathon, the entire day was just AMAZING.
Standing at the Starting Line with thousands of other runners from different walks of life is just mind blowing BUT what I remember most is just how UNITED we always are. It doesn’t matter where you come from, your social standing or race you are – we are all are united by a common goal…GETTING TO THE FINISH LINE and collecting that MEDAL.
Comrades Marathon wouldn’t be what it is without the supporters. People give up their day to support runners and help them to dig deep when at their weakest point. SUPPORTERS are wind beneath our wings. Without them, there is no Ultimate Human Race, they are a big part of this race and I’m grateful to each and every one of them for they have seen me through some of the toughest part of the race…many times.
When you are a few kilometres away from the Finish Line and you can hear the cheers and music from the stadium, no matter how tired you are that is enough to push you. You suddenly pick up the pace and at that point emotionally you are a mess – you cry, laugh…even pray. All this because you suddenly realise what you are capable of, if you DIG DEEP. Crossing the finish the line changes your life altogether – the person who stood at the starting line is no more, a new you is born. The Medal seals it #YouAreAChamp
I am about to run my 6th Comrades Marathon and every time I am humbled by the physically demanding, emotional rollercoaster I am about to embark on. This year there are over 21 000 runners, a community where running transcends all our differences, which is one of the many things I love about it. It is called the ultimate Human Race for a reason and I am honoured to be a part of the Comrades family.
My favourite part of Comrades will now forever be my father and how proud he was that me and my sister ran it 3 years in a row. He always supported us running, like he supported everything we did, but he’d always joke that running was for horses. Once he watched us run it the first time he was hooked and understood why people do it, and he would tell everyone what an incredible event it was and how you had to experience it first-hand once in your life. He thought it was amazing how so many different people from all walks of life ran it and he loved the vibe. Because of the amazing father he was, Comrades became a family affair, every year we made a family holiday out of it and my parents were always so excited to come, follow the route on race day and support us along the way. I have so many amazing family memories, and specific memories of my father and extremely special times spent because of Comrades, that I would not have if I had never decided to run it. Knowing that I’ll never have the opportunity to make new ones with him, makes them extra special. When I remember running it, I don’t remember the pain and hard moments (even though I remember having them) I just remember the huge smile on his face.
Main Image: Jetline; Runner pictures courtesy of runners
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