It all started on Comrades day in 2015. Watching with a bunch of club mates with a glass of wine. And the question was asked… but Claire, why don’t you do Comrades? SURELY it’s on your bucket list? You just HAVE to do it!
It wasn’t. Ever. But the warm, cozy atmosphere and a nice glass of wine… my ego took over and said “of course I can do that!!!”.
But Comrades 2016 wasn’t meant to be. Some hammie and ITB issues stopped my training in its tracks, and the plan was delayed by a year. In hindsight, this was a good thing. The injuries humbled me and made me realise what a huge event Comrades really is. I am glad that I was humbled during training rather than on the day. I realised that my body is not quite as young as it was when I did my last Ironman…and not quite as forgiving!
So we tried again. Mandy gave me a fairly conservative program which worked out brilliantly. I was able to stick to it (mostly), with nary an injury or illness. She encouraged me, and gently prodded me through the months of training. Before I knew it, hubby and I were touching down at Durban International and Comrades was just a few days away.
Durban was electric with Comrades fever. What an incredible vibe! The start line is everything you hope it to be… bright lights, the National Anthem, Shosholoza, Chariots of Fire, the cock’s crow…and BOOM, we were off!!!
And then you start climbing. And climbing. And climbing. Did I mention that there is some climbing? I have learned the hard way that KwaZulu Natal does not have ANY flat roads. Those hills were just ridiculous!! I kept my head about me and just kept it slow. I’m not a fast runner… in fact, I’m the first to say it’s an exaggeration to call me a runner. But onwards and upwards we went. My hubby was waiting for me with the West Coast support team at 34km. All I could do was cry and reassure him that I was actually fine, just a little happy to see them! I passed the halfway mark (Drummond) 15 minutes behind my goal time. But all the advice I had heard was that this is not a bad thing. Start slow, finish strong. The halfway mark is followed by… yes, you guessed it! Another lovely long 6km hill, the infamous Inchanga.
Somehow things just slotted into place from there. All those long slow training runs paid off, and I felt absolutely fine. The hills became more forgiving. The kilometres started ticking by. Aside from the discomfort one would expect from such a long time on your feet, I felt great. Amazing in fact. I hooked up with a club mate, and we ran (well, walk-ran) the last 30-odd km together, having an absolute ball. Our support both on and off the road was incredible… it did noticeably increase now that I was running with a young, gorgeous blonde!
We finally headed into Pietermaritzburg and into Scottsville Racecourse. What an amazing feeling! The months of training and sacrifice paid off. We had done it! Goal achieved, Medal earned.
What was the toughest part of the day? Probably looking for the rental car up and down the streets of Pietermaritzburg after the race, which my hubby had forgotten where he had parked!
Will I do it again? Well…. There is only once chance to get your back-to-back medal, right?
Pic: West Coast Supporters at 64km…smiling and having fun!