Along with Miss South Africa and Tellyfun Quiz, Watching the Comrades Marathon was a South African tradition I grew up with. There was never a year that passed by by in our house when the TV wasn’t turned on early on a Saturday morning and all throughout the day we would glance up and see brave souls crossing the finish line, and some who didn’t.
I didn’t grow up in a running family so watching that race on TV was the closes I ever got to the actual race, until last year when we drove to Durban to watch a mutual friend run it for the first time. The experience was exhausting and crazy, and for my boyfriend, a challenge
This year he ran it for the very first time, along with his dad who ran it for the 13 th time, his brother in law who has a few under the belt our friend from last year and 10 of our running club crew.
Waking up at 2:30 am to drive the runners to the start set the tone for the rest of the day. Hurry up and wait. I admire Comrades supporters who pour through Pietermaritzburg in their thousands, complete with camping chairs, refueling goodies, skottels blankets and snacks. The role of the supporter is to arrive at a designated spot a few hours before, set up a station and then watch for their runner to come through, screaming and shouting for all the other runners as we do so, then move onto the next spot If I was nervous waiting for Barry to come through the points, I can’t imagine how he must have been feeling. Luckily, armed with woollies snacks and a crew of dutiful watchers, we found Barry and Pierre at all the stops and then headed off to kings mead stadium for the finish.
I can’t begin to describe the noise, the crowd and the vibe when you arrive. Runners.are.everywhere all doing the trademark ‘Comrades shuffle’. To watch a poor runner try and tackle the stairs after running solidly for up to 12 hours is quite a thing. Luckily we managed to find a spot on the crowded grandstand and wait for the guys to arrive. Barry was hoping for a 9 hour time which qualified him for a Bill Rowan medal, and when he hadn’t come through the finish at 8:50 I was in a state. When he did run under the massive balloon arch at 8:58, high giving everyone and smiling from ear to ear I was ecstatic! Our friend Pierre came in under 11 hours and I am happy to report both of them, although quite ‘eina’ and sore today, can live to tell the tale.
You often hear people refer to all athletes as ‘winners’ but when it comes to the Comrades I couldn’t agree more. To see you challenge yourselves in a run which most people believe to be impossible, and to cross/sprint or crawl across that finish line is a privilege. To all 180000 runners who took part this year – you are amazing.