My Comrades: Modern Athlete Readers share their 2010 experience

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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.

CATHIE VAN ROOYEN,
DISCOVERY ATHLETIC CLUB
Race Time: Did Not Finish

On Sunday I became another Comrades statistic, that of ‘bailer’. So now I have three Comrades varieties to my experience; too slow for the cut off time, medallist and now also bailer.
 
Let me rewind a little. The weekend was a strange one.
Crazy and calm. After arriving at the airport we spent a long time travelling to the expo where we were faced with long queues and lots of grimaces.

We settled in our bed and breakfast just as it turned rather cold and very windy. Feet up, we listened and hoped that the wind would not affect our run.
 
Finally after a long Saturday night of staring at the clock, Comrades 2010 arrived. We followed the even longer than usual line of red car lights weaving their way to Pietermaritzburg.

We all moved quickly into our seeding areas. We had the furthest to walk as I was in the very last group. The gun went off and the clock started. It took us over eight minutes to get to the start line. I silently thought that the front guys were already 2km away by that time.

The large field of runners meant a lot of crowds and I found myself really concentrating on people in front of and behind me. My friend, Marlene, ran comfortably and we got into our rhythm fairly easily.

After around two hours of running, I felt a pain in my hip.
I was surprised by this and tried a few remedies, which helped for a while.

We were running well and had good times over the first half of the race, but I wasn’t enjoying it much. This perturbed
me, as I knew that the second half would get worse. However we kept moving.

Eventually after my pain worsened, I firmly told Marlene that I would not ruin her chances of a medal. She tried everything to get me positive, but I was stuck. Eventually I told her to go ahead, and she listened without argument. She must have seen my look in my eyes!

I knew my head was looking for things to make me stop!
My hip was achingly sore, and it had shifted down to my
knee and shin. This meant that walking was painful and
I was compensating with my other leg.

I realised that I was having one of ‘those’ days that people spoke about. I was powerless to do anything. I almost ignored the outreached hands from smiling kids. This is what I was running for, but cute dogs, schoolboys cheering, none of that made any difference. I thought long and hard about the consequences of what I was contemplating.

Eventually my body said, ‘Enough!’ So around 27km to go, I sat down and waited for a bailer bus. Many people said, “You can still make it,” but I realised later that I chase joy, not medals, and in this race which I absolutely love, I was feeling NO joy.

I did not want to turn Comrades into a race I would hate, and get really injured chasing time with my slow pained walk. I am old enough to realise the medal doesn’t mean as much to me as my happiness, but I had to be sure I would have no regrets.

After a tortured half hour of chilly waiting, an empty bus came along to escort me to comfort and a ‘Did Not Finish.’

Back at the sunny stadium I waited for my sister who I had spotted on the road from the bus, and was pleased to see that she was running so well. I walked about and strangely my hip pain remarkably improved.

So now it’s back to the drawing board. I am going to regroup and get myself ready for 2011. Hopefully the crowd will be smaller, I will be better prepared, and this year will be my only ‘one of those days’!

Congrats to all the finishers, and to all the
non-finishers. I hope you have no regrets and know that you made the best decision that you could at the time.

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