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My Comrades Cinderellas

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This year I was fortunate to make the trip down to Durban to support my third Comrades, and what a day it turned out to be! – BY RENE KALMER

I made the trip down with Andre, my now fiancée, his sister René, my best friend since kindergarten, her husband Francois, and my soon to be father-in-law, Oom Nicky. To be honest, I was not really confident in ‘Team van Wyk's’ ability to finish Comrades this year, because Andre was admitted to hospital two weeks prior to Comrades with a gall bladder infection and was just planning to start the race for the experience, while René had been battling with chronic ITB for the past year and Francois was also nursing a knee injury. I was not looking forward to an awkward trip back home with no medals…

Ready for Action
Race day arrived and it was time to strap René's knees with the help of a homemade video by my friend Magdaleen, who had earlier also suffered with ITB. René was desperate to try anything to help her get further than last year’s 50km. Then I shared the emotions and excitement with all 17,000 runners who were brave enough to start the Ultimate Human Race. What I love best about the Up run is the opportunity to experience the start in Durban, and I can't even imagine the emotions going through the runners’ minds as they play Chariots of Fire.

Our first stop was Pinetown and it was the only time we managed to spot and support all the runners, from the leaders to Andre, who was taking a backseat in Vlam's Modern Athlete 12-hour bus. Next stop was Drummond for the halfway mark, where we waited in anticipation for our troopers. René and Francois came through all smiles, while Andre snuck through halfway just under the cut-off time and was determined to keep going.

Keeping Track
I was really happy for social media and all my friends back home in front of the TV, giving me updates on how well the South Africans were doing, especially Caroline W?stmann. I met her in 2012 at the Midrand Striders prize-giving, where she was the star of the evening after placing 15th at Comrades that year, and I knew she was destined for great things! We have been friends ever since and it is always great to catch up with her at races and see how her joy for running rubs off on everybody around her.

Caroline proved everybody wrong on race day. She won the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon just seven weeks prior to Comrades, and according to the experts she would fade, and she took the lead too soon, then caused everybody watching to choke for breath when she started to walk, but Caroline was just sticking to what worked for her in the past. She made Comrades look like a walk in the park, finishing in an astonishing 25th place overall, after Gift Kelehe had won the men's race by more than seven minutes – the first time since 1992 that South Africans claimed both the men’s and women's titles. I was also thrilled to hear that Charne Bosman finished second, after her disappointing run last year when thyroid problems forced her to stop. These golden girls, along with Emmerentia Rautenbach and Yolande Maclean, really showed that South African ladies can run!

Chasing Medals
Back to the sub-12 bus, and René and Francois cruised through Cato Ridge, Lion Park and Polly Shorts, with René’s smile just growing bigger as they got closer to Pietermaritzburg. Unfortunately, I could not say the same about Andre, but I think the fact that René was about to finish her first Comrades helped him to dig deep and complete the race. I know our primary school coach, Juffrou Maggie, will be very proud of the two of them, as her motto was, “No guts, no glory, no pain, no gain.”

PS: Wedding Bells!
The Modern Athlete team is thrilled to congratulate René and Andre on their engagement, announced just over a week after the Comrades. All the best for you two, and many happy miles together!

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