Last year Laurie Lewis suffered a great personal loss just before the Comrades Marathon, and had a really difficult run as a result, but this year he has coached and motivated a team of 18 runners to the 2014 ‘Big C,’ and we want to say a huge thank you – BY DERRYN SHORT
Our journey started this year, runners congregating at Virgin Active in Roodepoort to take advantage of the treacherous hills of Weltevreden Park. It’s a daunting task getting 18 runners of different abilities in sync with each other – but not for Laurie! He believes in us so strongly that he put two training programmes together, one for the speedy Bill Rowan candidates as well as a Bronze programme for the endurance bunnies. After a few weeks, the strongest connection of camaraderie became part of our Road 2 Comrades family. We’re always sharing a race, pushing each other up a hill and celebrating as each of us qualified for our 89km pilgrimage on 1 June.
We always talk about what we had to do to get there, but what we don’t talk about often enough is the support. Laurie is a hero that’s assisted a team of novices and experienced runners alike to live out their Comrades dream, but he’s travelled a tragic road. You see, he lost his son, Chad, in a motor accident just before the 2013 Comrades. It was Laurie’s dream to run Comrades with his son, supporting each other on the route and crossing the line hand in hand, but last year, Laurie ran the gruelling 89km in Chad’s memory, and I will never forget the moment he moved to the centre of the stadium after his finish, with a bunch of balloons, then let them go – his son’s spirit symbolically reaching the heavens.
Laurie motivates us all, religiously sending out training programmes and pace charts at the beginning of every month, and every morning we wake up to another inspiring message from him. He’s advised us on what to do when we pick up injuries. He helps us with eating right and choosing the best supplements to make our journey easier.
Although Laurie wasn’t able to run with Chad, he’s trained and will be running with 18 of his ‘children’ this year, including me. Laurie found me in a dark place last year. I had lost faith because I failed to finish Comrades 2013, and he took me under his wing. He’s been my pillar of strength, voice of reason and gift of hope. This year, it’s all about running the world’s greatest ultra for Laurie and Chad.
LOVE FOR LAURIE
ALAN ROBB: “My wife passed away a week before the 2012 Comrades and my son died in a car accident years ago. Laurie and I didn’t have good runs last year and he caught up to me with 2km to go, and we walked to the finish together. We shared tears and hugs as we remembered our lost loved ones.”
CHANTEL: “I’ve been sticking to Laurie’s training programme and it has paid off greatly. He is always prepared to share his vast knowledge on running and his years of experience. He has been inspirational in my own journey to my second Comrades.”
VANESSA: “Laurie has helped me with info on my injuries. Without his help, I wouldn’t have stayed focused. He is the reason I’m staying on track to complete my 10th Comrades!”
RIAAD: “Laurie has restored my confidence by talking to me positively. Without his help, I’d be out in the wilderness and wouldn’t have a positive attitude.”
FRANCOIS: “Laurie and the team were incredible. Laurie did a tremendous job with the training programmes, training routes, arranging water points and always having a positive attitude in tough times.”