Comrades Marathon
1st June

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Official Results

Nicholas Beardow 9.52.16
Renette Wolvaardt 10.36.59
Dirk Wolvaardt 11.42.34

Sunday 1st June witnessed the 89th running of The Comrades Marathon (actually it's an Ultra Marathon of 89.28km) and there were three Bedford Harriers that took part - Renette & Dirk Wolvaardt and me. Thankfully we all finished within the 12 hour cut off, because beyond 11:59.59 you don't receive a time, a place, an acknowledgement of having run, or a medal. It's cruel!

The day started early with a 2:15 breakfast, a 3:00 bus to Pietermaritzburg (which I did well to survive considering the enthusiastic driving style of the bus driver and no seat belts) and preparations for the race having to be made in the dark. The cock crowed (a tradition at the start of The Comrades) and the gun went off a 05:30. This was a "down run" from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, but included 1295m of climbing, as well as 1950m descent. Most of the many multiple Comrades runners I met in the days before the race had said that you have to start slowly and run as close to an even spilt as possible. This is not easy for me, as I have never run an even split, not even in a 5km Park Run. It's not in my psyche. However, I did start off at a modest pace, mainly because the number of runners precluded going any faster.

There are a number of landmarks en route, including Polly Shortts, a steep downhill, Umlass Road, the highest point at 810m, and Drummond, the half way point. In training I had never ventured beyond 50km (at which point I pulled a muscle), so going beyond 50km was a new experience. The good news was that most of the last part of the race is downhill - good news so I thought. Little did I know... Many people had told me that the uphill is easier, which I had struggled to believe, until now! I started cramping at 30km from the finish, just a few km before the longest descent, Fields Hill, which is a 3km steep descent into Pinetown, a suburb of Durban. I never would have believed how painful a descent with cramp and blistered feet could be. Knowing there was still 21km to go took a lot of soul searching and damage limitation, but I was determined to finish within 10 hours, which meant I had to keep pushing. Everyone told me I would love The Comrades and be back next year, but I am not sure. There is only so much pain a man can take. Women are better at this pain bearing stuff than men!

But I made it to the end and feel better about the whole thing now. There is a special medal for anyone whose first two Comrades are back-to-back, but rumour has it that next year will be another downhill, and I am never doing another downhill race again! But if it does turn out to be an uphill race, then just maybe... How about making this a Harriers outing at a future date? I am sure Sarah, NoŽl and many other perennial distance runners would enjoy the torture. Just make sure you don't come in after 11:59.59!
One final note: I guess I wasn't the only one to suffer. Because of my cramps, and inability to walk, sit down Well done to Renette  & Dirk. I am sorry I couldn't find you. Let's hope you weren't brought in on stretchers..