It was a fresh Autumn Saturday morning and a comfortable energy spread across us 400+ runners as we waited for the start of the 52km run from the foothills of the Drakensberg into the town of Ladysmith. It was my second start of this under-rated race, and I was a touch nervous at the enormity of the task. I needed to get to the town in 6 and a half hours, so I could confirm my entry into this years Comrades. The sun hadn’t gotten up yet when the starter gun went off, and we spilled onto the long tarred road. Manure lay on the ground and some ‘eu de farm’ bid us g’day as we started to spread out in the long snake-like motion with the faster guys running on ahead. I remembered from last time, to keep turning back to admire the view as the sun cracked the horison and spilled it’s pink light on the majestic mountains. Mist hugged some lower valleys as the beauty dazzled in its display. Marlene ran comfortably beside me for the first 15km’s, but I could feel myself pull back while she maintained her pace and I begged her to go and not worry about me. I had to sort this internal running dilemma that was beginning to show itself again to me.
The distance stretched out while the runners passed me by and we growled about the tables running out of water. I could feel myself slide more and more as I began to start doing the maths in my mind.
The Drakensberg’s mesas and buttes, towers and turrets enveloped me in a berg hug, that I almost missed because I was so distracted by the loud ‘tick-tock’ in my head. Butterflies crossed my path, while kosmos twinkled across the landscape shining greenly in the early morning sun. Smiling, cheerful kids, high-fived us with a bright ‘good morning’ while the high school kids walked their teenage way to extra classes. Curious cows, and unaffected horses dotted the landscape. I had forgotten how pretty this route is, and as I listened to my inner debate, I heard a very clear question
‘Imagine how I would be enjoying this, if it wasn’t a timed event’.
I let the thoughts wash back and forth, all the while counting lamposts, and monitoring my body. I heard my hubby’s voice mentally interrupt me
‘why do you always analyse everything?’
I smiled, and knew that I have to go through every thought carefully, as that is how I come to my decisions.It looks to people on the outside (ie hubby) that I procrastinate. Meanwhile I am gathering information and going over it better than a rubik’s cube (it still eludes me though).
I was huffing up a long winded hill, when I heard a ‘real’ friendly voice come up beside me and not from inside my skull
‘so tell me, what is going on?’
I glanced at him and admired his buff over his ears for sun protection and admitted to him that I was questioning my reasons for being on the road today. He smiled, said gently ‘you will figure it out’ and then ran off. As I saw the back of him, I saw his age badge. 70 years old. A part of me wanted to trip him up but the other part smiled. Later I discovered that he was in fact 76 year old Barry Varty who was on his cheerful way to complete his 41st Bergville Race, a new record.
Not long after this encounter I started testing myself about why I want to do Comrades. I love the race, sure, and nothing ever comes close to that feeling of participating, but this year I was just not feeling up to par. My ‘why’ didn’t feel strong enough and after much imaginary thought, I asked myself how I would feel if I didn’t run this year. My body responded with a surprise feeling of glee. So I asked myself again. ‘how will I feel not qualifying, and then not running again?’ Same response. I tried to argue again, ‘but it is a down run, Durban finishes are awesome’. Nope, I still felt excited at the prospect of not doing it. This felt completely different to the year that I couldn’t take part because of injury. That was sadness, disappointment, and envy as I had qualified and everything. As the advantages of me not running began to stockpile up, I started looking for my friendly lady who was stopping at waterpoints in a car waiting for a loved one. I now needed a lift! At 34km, I stopped my watch and my road to Comrades ground to a halt. I climbed in the back of a bakkie, with three other runners and headed for the finish feeling confident that I had made the right decision.
The past few mornings I immediately ‘scan’ myself on waking, to check if I have any regrets and all I feel is a huge inner smile. I know this is the best decision for me this year. Now I can start my game plan on my 800km walk in Spain in July. That is another long beginning to a story… watch this space