The word means a lot of things to different people but in the local running world it means that I am now deemed ‘able’ to take part in the 90km Comrades marathon in June.
I have had a fantastic running season so far. I have been fortunate enough to visit new towns, different races, great running weather and have been healthy enough to do all of them.
The only thing that eluded me was this sub-5 hour marathon or sub-6 hour ultra marathon which would have given me the necessary qualification. I had come close… 5 minutes or 62 seconds but close doesn’t get me the privilege of standing on the Comrades starting line.
This past weekend saw me return to a 50km race last run in 2010. A good race but I somehow refused to do it for all these years. It may have been due to the previous camping experience but I can’t be sure for the reason, so I decided to go and get my ‘qualifier ‘ there. Even though meant more camping but I am getting used to that.
The weather was threatening rain on the forecasts but it behaved and kept the mud to a minimum. What it did do, was keep me cool and comfortable with great thick cloud cover and a pleasant breeze. An ‘out and back ‘ race means we get on a bus around 4am and drive the long dark route with 70 passengers. All of us dressed in our distinctive club colours which helps us identify each other and gives us a hint of individuals’ stories.
A different start location saw us clustered in a now-not-quiet street and wait for the scratchy announcements to set us off before sunrise. The long snake of people started to spread out far in the distance as we were cheered on but some pajamad spectators. The sun stayed behind the clouds but gave us the light of day to see the well maintained roads. A good road means that I can keep my head up and check out the sights and what a view of a beautiful area.
I hit a dull spot around 17km when I saw my watch start going slower but thankfully Marlene caught up with me and helped dull the noise in my head. Around 18km, I took my watch off my wrist and just keep familiar people around me. It was like a switch was flicked. I started to relax with the knowledge that I have this in the bag. A sub 5 hour marathon distance confirmed that I was on track and chatting with Marlene helped keep my spirit high.
On the last bugger of a hill, I found a determination seldom used and just kept moving. I didn’t say anything to Marlene and left her but she knew that I had to qualify. I was now using the road cat’s eyes to measure my run/walk strategy and I got to the top feeling strong with some vuma in my body. I looked up at the now breathtaking view of the dam and I motored the last two kilometres. I ran so fast in the last stretched that Debbie (sister/coach) didn’t see me finish so she went from glum disappointment to sheer glee when she did eventually see me with my medal round my neck.
Now the relief of qualifying and the huge task of running almost double the distance in a few short weeks time. But at least my head is now in the game and I have done it successfully four times before , I think it is time for my fifth.