Comrades 2010 was a highlight for many and a disappointment for others. Whether you won a silver medal or finished a second before the 12-hour cut off, one thing bound all of us on the 89.2km long road to Durban… and that was the incredible and unique experience of finishing one of the most gruelling ultra races in the world. Six runners share their race day experiences with Modern Athlete.
Peter Van de Walle, ArcelorMittal AC
Race Time: 7:58:51
About three years ago, my wife and I decided to move temporarily from Belgium to South Africa. But only at the end of April 2008, we arrived in Vanderbijlpark on a two-year work contract. After a few months, I decided to join the ArcelorMittal AC and there it all started…
During the group runs, I heard all those stories about amazing marathons and ultra marathons. In all stories, there seemed to
be only ONE race that counted: the Comrades Marathon! I could not understand that a human being could be that crazy to run
89km. And there was no way that I was going to ever start in that race! My ambition was to run my second marathon before
I turned 40 (I ran one marathon in Belgium when I was 35).
But craziness turns out to be contagious. Before the end of
the year, my running partners convinced me to enter the
Two Oceans Marathon.
And on 30 May 2010, after completing ten marathons and five ultra marathons in South Africa, I lined up at the start of the Comrades. I must admit that it was with mixed feelings. On one hand, I was very motivated to tackle this ultimate human race, but on the other hand I was scared because of all the war stories I heard. “Don’t start too fast or you will pay at the end”; “Your legs will hurt, and probably you will get cramps, but never bail.”
When the gun went off I realized what an amazing experience this was going to be. I started slow, keeping in mind all the good advice. I was quite disappointed when after only 30km my legs started hurting. I could not imagine running another 60km with pain. But I went with the flow and after 60km I still didn’t walk a single metre. However, I made that up in the last 29km. I was really counting down the kilometres and on every uphill, I did a fair bit of walking. In the last 3km, I joined a small group and managed to keep on running. In just under eight hours, I crossed the finish line.
I thought my legs were hurting, but only on Monday and Tuesday, I felt what it means to run the Comrades.
Every step felt like a mile and the stairs were real torture. Only now after two weeks, I fully realize what the Comrades is all about. It is a race against yourself, exploring your limits, investing five months to get that medal. My respect is enormous for those who finished ten, 20 or more Comrades. It requires discipline to go through this process year after year. When finishing my Comrades, my decision was clear: this was my first and my last. However, next year it is an up run and you can only claim the Comrades when you have done an up and a down run. Is craziness really contagious!?
A warm ‘thank you’ to all ArcelorMittal athletes who supported me on the road in the past two years!
Visit our website and read more Comrades experiences from Werner Bremer, Claudia Cockcroft, Zelda Black and other amazing readers as they define themselves!