I started my eight official start to the Comrades marathon a few days ago. The marathon is a long distance run between two cities in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. The distance varies but is around 87km (or 52miles) and for thousands of South African runners, it is the running event of the year.
Eight times I have lined up yet I only have 4 successful finishes. I am fine with this. Really, I am fine.
Many people have offered me condolences about me only doing 42km on Sunday but those people are usually runners themselves. Contrary to my coach’s thinking, I didn’t start off my race thinking that I wouldn’t finish, I had worked on my mental psyche and was feeling quite confident about getting my fifth medal. The day just went pear shaped. There was no huge mental fog on the race (which had been plaguing me during this training season), there was no real injury nor reason for my stopping either. But sometimes we don’t have the answers and I have had to learn that that too, is okay. It is okay to not have a ‘reason’, to not know the ‘why’. This in itself is liberating because I used to suffer from analysis paralysis so I always looked for the ‘why’. This year I am completely okay with not knowing the why, as well as not finishing the race.
Human beings look for reasons, we hate uncertainty as it makes us fearful. Okay, perhaps I need to own that statement. It makes me fearful. But this year, I am finding myself facing so much uncertainty that in a way not having a particular reason for stopping my race is so freeing. In the freedom, I am marvelling at life. Just like I did on my race. People, all shapes and sizes participate. People all delightfully patient, encouragingly support us, cheering us on for hours. I was even cheered while sitting in the support bus-recognised for participating. I kind of felt like a hoax briefly at that moment but I realised that I can take their support whether I finished the race or not. Imagine a world where we just cheer each other on, regardless of what we do. Well, I felt that on Sunday.
Our bus waited for the cruel but necessary halfway cut off point and us 60 or so wounded, nauseous, limping athletes all cheered our desperate Comrades to the line. No matter how sick people felt, they wanted the best for these strangers, fellow runners. This race brings out all sorts of emotions and pain, but for me it brings out the best of us in our gruesome, sweaty glory.
At the finish and for days afterwards we go through the results of friends and clubmates hoping that they achieved their goals and we celebrate their victories even in the face of our own ‘failures’. This running community has taught me so much about the human spirit that I can’t begin to really explain it. I used to be secretly embarrassed by my small medal tally but this year, something shifted inside and I realised that I am not chasing a huge target. I am living and living the best version of my life. I don’t have to go anywhere or do anything to be better/faster/more because right here, right now…
I am enough.
Will I be back next year? More than likely ?