My Comrades Experience

Comrades Marathon (done but not forgotten), remains the hardest “job” of my running career, and, the most cherished! When it comes to running all I wanna do is inspire! Hope this long epistle gets you pumped up and inspired for your next running or life’s challenge! Keep your mind open… Read… Enjoy!!!!

FACT

I love running so much that sometimes it seems my happiest moments were created just because I run (that’s no longer news). Still news in my world, is the fact that I just woke up from a dream to realize that I did indeed run the Comrades 2016 ultra marathon of 89.7kms distance (So much for The JoyRunner!)

It’s been two weeks since I ran the 2016 Comrades marathon and strangely my inner-man is yet to completely admit that fact! Very few will understand why, when a consistent mid to long distance Runner, like I am say “it hasn’t really sunk in,” honestly, it hasn’t. And to do so, it is taking as much time as my body requires to recover! My body only fully recovered yesterday! Not from aches or pains! My body, mind, soul and mental state only fully recovered yesterday the 9th of June! Hence I can write…..Glory be to God!

MY STORY

Now, apart from Izokuthoba, the popular South African slang for the race, meaning: “IT WILL HUMBLE YOU,” how does one define Comrades to the common man? The first time I ever knew of Comrades was in 2010, training for my first full marathon! Yes prior, I had run many “fake” marathons of 21kms distance and less! (Please learn this ……unless it is 42.2kms or 26.2 miles approximate. It is not a marathon!) So as I was training hard for this scary distance to finally make this lone runner a marathoner, I heard of someone else, Willem, in my then running group, training for a race in South Africa of 89 kms! I swear, I was humbled! But God dey… someday I will grow up. And, I just did!

SO WHAT IS COMRADES?

The oldest ultra-marathon in the world.
Point-to-point ultra-marathon.
Down route – Pietermaritzburg to Durban, South Africa (switches each year).

  • 91.1 kilometers / 56 miles (What my watch says)
  • 9+ hours (how long I ran)
  • 20000 runners (over 19,000 South Africans).

Bronze Medal (gold was for running under 8 hours, silver under 9 hours and bronze under 10 hours… anything else is of popular demand to have finished under the 12-hour cut off time). I wanted any of the three for my age category, 40 -45!

Hurray… I got bronze!!
Fact: In my running Career, I have medaled gold from winning a competitive marathon, but the Comrades medal is my best present to self in the year I celebrated a milestone age! Lord, unto You!!

REGISTRATION

My registration for the race didn’t take the normal procedure. Registration closed by end 2015, meaning running 89.7kms in 2016 was never in the radar. But as a 42kms (26miles) Runner, you know the body and soul always wants more!! Huh???

My first attempt to run Comrades was in 2012. Registered! Structured training for about 7 months, got the race pack, didn’t participate. Forget it, long story. But like I always noted, there is no “happy ever aftering” for marathoners (runners), no matter his or her age. Tomorrow is another race! Another test! Another challenge! You crush one PB or challenge and your body demands another! We endure, we survive and we do not stop with age because we may even grow more skillful at it as the years pass! So we don’t envy the teenagers! Because though much has been taken but much abides and we live to endure! According to Sheehan, the Runner knows better to refuse to rust unburnished and to always want to shine in use! We don’t intend to rust or burn….. Because we want to survive and we will survive!!!

THE TRUE LIE
After running New York City Marathon last November (2015) the one “lie” I told myself and everyone else was that 2016 will be a year to celebrate myself and shall do so by making it a marathon free year! Lies!!!! Of course, largely due to Buharinomics and Slayer compliancy! Only 40th birthday needed no compliance, at least to the best of my ability. Haha!!! (I have never been so happy and must share some of the pics here)!

Ok, before and a bit after February 26th (my birthday), there was no Comrades in view nor any thought in that direction! The JoyRunner Was just running inconsistency as she pleases! This is her year! So for God’s sake, who birth the 2016 Comrades idea??? Lol!

Well, the fun about running (just as life/business) is that you must also learn to be a risk taker! Running mimics life! So with just few words from Dayoga (My used to be Running Mentee now my Mentor) on the day of buddy JF’s crickets match (think sometime in March). The idea was birth! JoyRunner: “So Dayoga, how do I go about registration”? Dayoga: “it’s closed but speak to Alvin”! Fast forward to a week later, got in touch with Alvin after his 2 Ocean 56kms race in Cape Town South Africa! Alvin is South African and has done the Comrades marathon 16x! Beat that if you can! Anyways by April 4th, Alvin got me registered for Comrades via substitution and next I saw in my mail box was an email confirmation! Was on business travel in Owerri, saw the email and screamed in my hotel room! Though a small part of me wished he didn’t succeed with reg? True! My stomach rumbled! 90kms in two months?!!!! Next morning before being A Diamond in Owerri town, I breezed into the hotel gym, did 25kms on the Tread Mill, over an hour metal works and 30 minutes swim! That was commencing my original day 1 Comrades training! I am running a marathon in 2016 after all and the “lie” has become true! It just had to be a lie!

THE TRUTH…..WITH JESUS
Oblige me to tell the truth, which is the same truth I told my running coach in 2012 and recently to my childhood friend… “if I have to run Comrades I want to do it under 10 hours”! That’s for the JoyRunner! I don’t hold less regard for everyone who struggles to finish that race in 11 hours 59 mins before the cut off time of 12 hours! And just like life, we all have our personal and varying goals in all that we do! It could be often easy to mis-understand one’s mundane running ambition, it is also harder to find apologies for doing something so “mundane”!

In 2012 I was prepared, I had a whole 7 months to follow a training plan! But four years later! I am to make do with just two months! Yet somewhere inside the ambition must remain same! Sub-10hours! Why? Because, 1st John 5:13 says,, working in the power of God enables us possess the spirit of God and the manifestation of His word in our lives! I have never taken the glory of my running ability or even any of my life’s progress to be by my power! I always feel the joy to return it back to Sender, G.O.D! When I do, my faith grows in anything I believe in! Because with faith, God will put in your future the things you already have which you knew nothing about! So I was going to work with faith to run Comrades 2016!

TWO MONTHS PREPPING

From April 4th when registration was confirmed for May 29th, race day! And if we factor the usual training tapering period, this leaves us with just over a month! Naaaa…..we have to improvise, beat the body a bit more and taper has to be tweaked! I ramped up training in two months,( not so wise), ran either 60kms, 42kms marathon distance, 48kms, 32kms, every weekend from April 4th. Last run was 25th of March, 21kms the Wednesday before Sunday, race day! Not wise, but training moved beyond man’s wisdom!

Work came with it’s sudden tight schedules and travel plans!!! One week work trip to the North, Kano State was to be 3 weeks before Comrades! Now I needed to put in all the hard work and run at all the spare and available time I find, yet I needed God to compress time for my sake and make my hardwork successful! So I had to add faith to this hardworking! I read that God cares and He must care that I want to run Comrades under 10hours! So by Faith, when my running buddy Gbenga asked again during Carbo- loading on May 28th. So “Whip”‘ what time are you going for, I was not shy nor did I pretend to respond straight away…..anything under 10 hours! I said it and needed the heavens to seal it! Heavens did!
But know this 2nd Cor 5:7….We must be delivered from the nature to gain the reality of the Rhema faith! Romans 1:17 summarizes that everything God is going to give you, he has already given you by faith. To me, achieving my Comrades goal was revealed prophetically by faith and as I remained positive (even after medical report) I saw God work everything together for my good!………”The mindset can keep you in thoughts of your life! The mindset can also deliver you from your troubles!” For Comrades, I had only one mindset!!!

SOUTH AFRICA
Coincidentally, I travelled to SA and returned with one of my best running buddies The Studic Stud! Travel made easy with MA Stud!!! This guy is the Stud! To the best of my knowledge, I would say his best training for Comrades was participating in the 56kms Comrades preparatory run in Cape Town; Two Ocean in March! Same goes for Gbenga (G55)! The Champions! we all ran and conquered Comrades together! 6 of us from Nigeria.. Ok back to me…
Checked blood pressure on arrival at the Expo and was 47′ warned not to run! Rested well and next day 28th checked again and BP was 62, not the best but okay to run! God!!!!….fast forward to race day! Not yet!

Like noted in definition! Comrades is point to point! And we were to travel from Durban to Pietermaritzburg where the downhill race started to end in Durban where we all lodged! To cut it short. All I can say here is….Once again, thanks to Alvin! The best host ever! Logistics would have been a chore without you! Thanks thanks and Thanks! Now fast forward to race day! Lol! 🙂

RACE DAY
The laughter! The talking! The Wish well! The Anthem! The song!…….Oh Comrades! The energy in the air was combustible!

I may not have come to Comrades at my peak’ (coughing and sneezing) but honestly, standing on the epic start line of the comrades marathon and finishing the race to win a bronze medal has remained the proudest moment of my running career! The excitement of the day lights a fire! And with the joys, I was pure energy when the gun went off and there became no easier running for me than the first 42kms ( or so it seemed)! It felt like no faster than a trot and I saw the kms pass one by one! Until I truly got tested! Comrades will test you! Then each kms started becoming either hard work or running at my best. Then I reached half way and felt an exertion not previously felt. Past kms 55, the race was no longer child’s play’ neither was it the confidence 60kms long run on Lekoyi bridge which I had done twice in training! No!!! This is different! I attempted to stay with a 50 year old and remained with her as I said to myself @ESTHER this is all the encouragement that you need”! You must stay with her. She cannot outrun you at 50! But then I forgot it doesn’t work that way, I forgot that wasn’t the trend! I forgot the many 30 years old who can’t stay with me on the run! I forgot the entry level 21 age bankers I twice beat to win the Bankers race at age 34! Never about age! It’s about practice, mind, mental, consistency and determination to survive! The hills crept in, she (50 year old) didn’t stop, she slowed down instead and I sped walk to catch up! I was glad as we continued to stay together and had a chat. It was her 17th and she was amazed how strong I was looking being my first! But she was deceived! I could feel my calves right about then and the shock on my upper thigh!

The hills kept coming and moving the kilometers over hills on tiring calves became slower and slower. Suddenly what I had thought in the beginning I could accomplish with ease and excellence all came down to survival. Where is my 50year old? I couldn’t keep up as I walked up a hill and she left! She didn’t walk, she only slowed down! I felt disappointed just a bit that I couldn’t keep up. But I realized I must “walk my own path” run my own race! And now why did Ecclesiastic 9;11 come to mind ” I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time.” Yes God will be merciful as He pleases! Why He is God! But if anyone needed that special mercy or Favour it was and is me!

All of a sudden, I thought I made a mistake! I questioned if I was actually doing the right thing running a whole Comrades marathon somewhat unprepared! 2 months ramped up, unstructured preparations? Who does that? Oh yes….. I know that even before creation, God established his purpose for us all! Whatever will be will be!!!!

I have run many many races both organized and un-organized and most have tested me to the limits of my ability. But with Comrades, describing the experience will make for a special book! The race does not only test ones’ physical and mental strength, Comrades tells you the whole truth about life and who you truly are! For me, I was broken and shattered after km 77. Much as I try not to be negative with sport and life yet it was the first time, in running, I said “I will never do something again” because of the harshness that set in. I cried, yet my thoughts never left sub 10! I was so “gone” that I couldn’t run the last downhill. I did more walking at this stage. I saw Jesus at many points! Comrades like most marathons, brings out the purity in you that make you appreciate the simplicity of life. When you are struggling at kms 70, given all you got and the signs say 19 to go! Can’t be fun! Yet you draw energy from the every runner round about you, going through the same pain! Walking, gliding, stepping or collapsing and picked by ambulance! A struggling runner passes by and yells your name and a stranger from the crowd offers you orange or sweet potatoes! (No hospitality tops that of the crowds at Comrades – shall evaluate that statement later but the experience is so fresh it seems best) comrades is the utmost mind teaser and I am glad to have been teased to finish!

Even Sub 8:30 and sub 9 used to be at sight in the beginning but towards the end all became very blurred! I had sub 10 left and I must struggle through the pains and fatigue to make it! Around kms 79, I could hardly comprehend how I could walk or run remaining 10kms to achieve my goal! I wanted to burst the thoughts and just finish yet even with the pains, the resolve to achieve became even stronger! Yet that resolve is so personal and has no special attribution to it! Better folks were creating and exploring a cure for Cancer! And here I was almost “dying” because of time!?????

It was now kms 82 and I was walking! No more legs to run! I carried a pair of extra socks and a Cheerer helped me change and iced my calves too! It felt better and I decided to run but could only go no less than a kilometer. I walked again and ran again and walked again until I saw 83! Same for 84! Now I was unhappy and agitated as pain became my constant companion! I had less than 6kms to go! Mostly downhill but all the hills around the middle of the race had built up my lactic acid and my thighs caved in. My blood sugar was getting low and coke became my best race drink! My legs got heavier and heavier as I descend the last 5 kms! I stopped! I had 3kms to go and muscled up all the mental strength that I needed (including calling upon my Maker) to run my final 3kms on very tired legs non stop till I crossed the finish line. And finally I was glad that what I conceived in 2012 was actualised 4 years after! End of story…. God was before the beginning and His word is already formed with creation! Sub10 was already formed with the word in 2012 creation! (Wink)

LESSON
What have I learned from running Comrades????.. ….always take seriously the dynamics of the power of the mind and of the spoken word! Whatever you believe and work on could draw positive energies for the actualization! indeed you have the energy to make the Universe work together for your good!

Secondly, there is no happy ending ever after, just like surpassing my Diamond budget…..The reward for hardworking is increased target!!!! The reward for running sub 10 is to attempt sub 9!

2017
Not sure I would but I truly believe, with structured 6 months training, 2017 back-to-back sub-9 is 100% at sight! No shaking at all!!!

MY ROAD WARRIORS

Thank you for the support we share, for the energy we tap from one another, for the progress we all individually make, knowing truly that WE CAN!
I swear, you too can run Comrades! Let’s do it 2017!!!

Ciao!!!