Friday, June 4, 2010

I am a Comrades Winner!

Well I did it - 11h51min. I achieved my big fat hairy audacious goal and it was worth it. I am proud of myself.
I slept badly on Saturday night and had sent my alarm for 3am instead of 4am - doofus! I was a quiet bundle of nerves and very concerned about my very sore bursitis. I was just going to go out there and simply do the best I could for whatever length of time I was able to be on the road for. Doug's encouragement was consistent and sure. We parked near the start. There was a chemist open! Clever business people - it was quite festive in the chemist - never thought I would say that. Doug gave me a huge hug and I went into my pen. I found a place to sit down and simply absorbed the energy and space and excitement. I saw God in the moon surrounded by clouds. I spotted Christine and stood with her. The cockeral crowed and then the gun went off. It took me about 7 minutes to cross the start line. I was being very careful of all the debris in the road. A woman fell and was in pain - some runners picked her up - not sure if she continued. Then I took a fall at about 2 kms. Put my foot in one the disposable shirts that were all over the road. Someone picked me up quickly from behind and someone else passed back my dropped bottle. It all happened so fast that I wasn't sure it happened - except of course for the blood down my leg and stiff bruised knees. I had some energade to calm down and just carried on running.
The 1st kilometre marking is 88kms to go. Then 87km to go. The kilometres just passed on by. I was glad to leave Maritzburg and get on the "proper" road.
It was a day spent quite alone. Seems wierd to say whilst surrounded by 19000 runners and thousands of spectators but I stayed very close to me and really just lived a little fuller. I took in the rising sun and pink clouds on the horizon, the mist on the fields, the noise of running shoes hitting the tarmac, the pungent smell of the chicken farms.
I was starving at about 20kms into the race and there was no food at the tables! I was salivating thinking of Doug holding my cheese, mayonnaise and banana sandwiches and was looking forward to seeing him (and not just coz he was holding the grub!) at Camperdown. I started seeing food at about 28kms - thank goodness. The bananas and salt were absolutely DIVINE! I saw Dave Hodgekiss at Camperdown (25kms in)and gave him a big hug. I managed to borrow a phone when I didn't see Doug at our arranged place. He said he couldn't get to me. No worries this was to be expected - see you at Inchanga. Up the hills, down the hills, off with the warm clothes, drink the coke, eat the grub, up the hills, down the hills.... and the kilometres just ticked on by. I would look at my pace chart periodically but the sweat was making it harder and harder to read. All on track. I got hectic cramping in my feet at about 30kms. So everytime I walked I would wiggle my toes and try kick my feet out differently to stretch the ligaments and what nots. Harrison Flats (35kms) was quite tedious and by the time I got to the bottom of Inchanga I hit a bit of a low. I was feeling quite desperate to see Doug. I borrowed a phone and he described where he was - near some orange flags. I got there and no Doug. I called again. Now I was desperate. But I couldn't loiter I had to keep moving forward. I said to myself I must not rely on seeing Doug and I need to keep focussed. I was crying a little. Then I got to another Inchanga. I found him by the orange flags! Whatever that 1st place was it was not Inchanga. He gave me a huge hug and I cheered up immediately. I ate sandwiches and painkillers and carried on - so much more fortified and not just on food and drugs. I ran/walked up the hills. And the kilometres just sped past under my feet. I felt so alive and very fortunate. I listened to music for chunks of time but switched it off when there were lots of people so that I could hear them and interact. Sometimes the talk around me was so negative - I felt quite sorry for those people and wonder if they finished. I got to 45kms - halfway at 5h40 (11:10). I passed the actual halfway mat about 8 minutes later at 11:18. Shoo some of those uphills were very UP. I did not find any of them very daunting - just run from one tree to another. Up, up, up.... I heard my friends voices a lot. Fiona - run upright, run strong, run light. She simply never doubted I could finish and I felt that from her everytime I thought of her. Bev - she said that if I get into a dark difficult place I must just think of her coz she will be screaming her support. Well I tell you I called on her a lot. My sister - her love is a constant in my life and I knew it was particularly strong on this day. My brother in law - his advice and sense of humour popped into my head frequently. Mari and Wim - their excitement and support for me. Mari and her angels. My own angels. There were times when I called on them saying I need some help. I would then physically engage my core to keep upright and they would lift me a little and make the weight on my body a little less. Beautiful and powerful stuff.
It was great to get to the petrol station in Hillcrest that I had run from at Easter. Yay - familiar roads but the kilometres were further than I thought. My feet were cramping so badly at one point that I had to hold onto these 2 spectators - they were so sweet and supportive (physically and verbally!). He kept on offering me food and his wife would chastise him - "oh no the poor girl can't eat a pork sausage!". Off I trundled again down down down Botha's hill. My music was particularly inspiring at that point. My version of Wind beneath my Wings came on and I thought it was fabulous! Frank Sinatra's "I did it my way" - felt particularly apt.
Field's Hill was hectic. I heard Bruce's voice saying shorten your strides and it will help - I did and it did!
I knew Doug was the other side of Pinetown going up Cowies Hill. And I was running towards him. Well perhaps the word "running" is a little exaggerated! His hug this time was too painful to stretch my back that way but the rest of him was perfect. He ran/walked with me up Cowies. Next time I was to see him was at the finish. I met up with an RAC runner - he was funny and a complete chatterbox - in fact I think he used up the man's quota of 3000 words from down Cowies to the other side of Westville! He also had a brain tumour that was due to be operated on in a month. You know we just never know what life is going to give us. I send him strength.
Ok so Westville seemed to go on a very long time. My energy levels were dropping, my quads were finished, my feet were cramping, my glutes were going into spasm - jurre bliksem! I found my self BEHIND the 12 hour bus - oh bugger! One of the other rules of Comrades - besides no new clothes or shoes - is don't get behind the 12 hour bus! I ran with the back marker of the bus - an old man who was on his 10th Comrades. He was fabulous and so encouraging. I cried down to 45th cutting - the down hills were doing me in at that point. I hobbled on the uphills and shuffled on the flats. 5kms to go, 4kms to go. They weren't quite flying past me now but the numbers were definitely getting smaller. However the cutoff was looming. I kept on waiting for my 2nd wind - but that kept eluding me. And so I shuffled on. The back marker left me - oh bugger again! West street was jolly long. Then it was left onto Walnut I could sense home. But I was still worried about getting there on time. It was taking me 12 minutes a kilometre! There was this huge bus in front of me and what if there were too many people at the finish line.....
Then I saw the lights and the entrance to the stadium. I was there and there was time. As I went under some tunnel I started to cry and sob and laugh. The field section was long and beautiful and amazing. I didn't feel the agony in my body any more. I beeped over the finish mat, pressed the time on my watch and cried a little more. I was my own hero on that day. I had surpassed boundaries I didn't know I had, I had reached deep into my own power and strength and was not found wanting. Everything I needed was within me.
Thank you all for your love and wishes and belief in me.


  1. Beautifully written, you made my eyes leak!!!

  2. Oh Aileen, you have me in tears. I admire your inner strength and power and tenacity. I never doubted them. Well done, sister, not just on your fantastic Comrades win, but for just being one strong, courageous woman. I admire you immensely.
    Much love

  3. Aileen, the wonderful wishes from your friends giving you strength for this mighty feat are a reflection of the power and beauty you give to them. Congratulations on an incredible accomplishment!

  4. Gosh Aileen. You are so brave! Don't think I would ever have made it. Well Done! We are proud of you