A conventional marathon as is known around the world in London, New York etc is a 42 kilometers race. Hard is the name of the game as a marathon will test your tenacity, endurance, staying power, determination and courage.
If stories are anything to go by, many have passed out and never returned to the land of the living while in a marathon. Many of such people are accomplished runners who thought they had the trained legs and experienced guile to go the entire distance. Indeed, only the truly great concludes a marathon. However, as daunting and daring a normal marathon is, it is child’s play to Izokuthoba. In South Africa, Izokuthoba means ‘It will humble you.’ It was the theme for the May 29th 2016 special kind of marathon; known as ‘Comrade Marathon’ (It was the 91st edition). As opposed to the conventional marathon which is 42 kilometers, this is an 89.2 kilometers race. More than double a normal marathon distance! It will test your soul, stretch your will, dare your tenacity, harass your resolve, meddle with your guts and gauge your lasting power.
In many ways, the Izokuthoba is less about running and more about reaffirming the human spirit. It will define you, and it will humble you. The largest ultra-marathon has humbled elite runners. Johnny Halberstadt, arguably South Africa’s most versatile runner who was a world class marathoner met his match in the 1979 up run, where while leading the race, fatigue and depletion saw him drop to the tarmac outside Camperdown, and that was it for him.
Such is life; it is Izokuthoba – It will humble you. Life will throw curve balls at you when you thought you had it together. It will push you so hard you will contemplate the thought ‘Is it really worth it or should I just end it now.’ If you live very long enough, you will discover that every man is fighting his own devils, which you know absolutely nothing about. Some are simply skilled in doing it privately while putting up a cheerful outlook to the rest of the world. Make no mistakes about it, life is a Pandora box, you never quite know what to expect irrespective of how prepared you are for it. Like in Izokuthoba, just when you thought you are adequately prepared for the race of life, it will shock you with the curves and mountainous paths and even for the fearless, it might break them. Life indeed is humbling. It will shut you up, make you mind your business, bring you to your knees and make you pray. One definition of “humbled” I have seen, reads ‘Feeling the positive effects of humility.’ At times, life has to be humbling for the message to sink in.
As you run your own race in life, always remember that no man has it all figured out. Sometimes, it is okay to be tired, to need rest, to seek support systems, to reach out. In Izokuthoba, runners pat themselves on the back and encourage one another. They surge on even when it doesn’t feel like it anymore. Trust me; there are moments in your life when you simply won’t feel like it anymore. It is in those moments that you trudge on, with pain in your heart and your body souring. However, remember that there are times in life, when you will have no support to fall back on and the only one that can cheer you on is yourself. As it is in Izokuthoba, so it is in life; you must learn to encourage and cheer yourself on sometimes.
There is a cliché among the comrade marathoners that goes thus ‘A smooth race never made a skillful racer.’ In life, you will go through paths you never envisaged and when you think the finish line is in sight, you will discover it was only a temporary reprieve, as there is a bend at the end of that road that shocks you and keeps demanding the last of your resolve. However, to conclude an Izokuthoba, is to have won. Same with life; your victory is not dependent on whether you out-ran the next man. Rather, it hinges on whether you met your own goals, finished your own race and cut your own ribbon. The hair rising moment in Izokuthoba is to have crossed the line and this is same with life. ‘Finishing’ your course is what it means to have won in life.
Special thanks my boss and mentor, Obinna Anaba, who inspired this article when he first told me of Izokuthoba.