What motivates me to run Comrades? This question has a simple answer and a complex answer. The former answer is because I can. I guess at age 61 I am privileged still to be able to run.
The broader, more complex answer has its roots in, inter alia, the following:
- I greatly admire people who run “just to keep fit”. That self-discipline to get up early in the morning or run after work in the evening on some sort of maintenance programme is something I just don’t have. For me to run regularly, I need an objective and that is what Comrades is to me. All my running, be it training runs or the odd marathons have Comrades as the ultimate aim. (Don’t worry, you’ll find others with a similar affliction!!) So for me
Comrades =Running, just so that you can understand my thinking.
- My early morning runs from Fish Hoek beach with a regular group set me up for the day and afterwards I feel alive and vital. On days when I haven’t had this early dose of running, my wife Terry has been known to chase me out of the house to go and run claiming that I am less “bedonnerd” when I’ve had my run. We’ve been married for 33 years so I guess she kinda knows me!!
- I am a member of the Fish Hoek Athletic Club (FHAC) and they are a great bunch of guys and gals with a strong core of runners who take up the Comrades challenge every year. It is so special to have that feeling of belonging and to have the wonderful memories of tough and bonding times together. We all gather together at the end of the Comrades race, for example, and my family and friends outside FHAC who might be collecting me at the finish know that this is a time I just want to be with my running buddies to share our experiences and compare notes on what happened during the day. (If you haven’t “been there” you won’t understand!)
- Generally speaking, runners tend to be nice people (you do get some nice cyclists too – a few!). Apart from the small elite core, the very nature of long-distance running makes for us to run with each other rather than against one another. Our only opposition is the clock. This makes for a happy reliance on one another and the creation of special bonds.
- Running itself is such a magic sport. As long as you have your togs with you, you can generally run anywhere anytime and running has taken me to the most amazing places. (When my Lotto ship comes home, I can see my wife and I travelling to the 4 corners of the globe so that I can run the marathons of the world!) I have seen much of South Africa in this vein, but one of my very special experiences was an overseas run when one of my sons and I completed the Florence Marathon in Italy – his first!! Remember that in my rationale, Comrades always takes the blame for these sorts of experiences.
- For me Comrades is more than just the run. It is more like an expedition starting with the preparation, the planning, the FHAC motivation evenings that take place on a monthly basis from about February, the registration and entry, the race itself in which one sees many old friends and has a host of wonderful/crazy experiences, the magic of the finish, the wind-down/post mortem with club-mates, the stay with old friends, the trip back etc. The crowd involvement/participation is also amazing. The carnival-type atmosphere keeps the often flagging spirits of the runners up. Comrades does not belong just to the runners, it is their event too.
- Running Comrades hurts !! I have yet to come across someone who hasn’t hurt to some degree on Comrades. Maybe there are those who have showered and got home already by the time I arrive at the finish who might argue this point, but us average mortals hurt, so much so that “never again” is often, often, often mouthed during the race. But don’t worry, cos in the light of day (in)sanity prevails and we go back. Now however comes the conundrum: I can understand why a male is prepared to hurt – the challenge to the male psyche, in simplistic form, probably answers that one. But the growing number of women, very few of whom slot into the G I Jane mould, who are prepared to hurt, continue to confound and amaze me. Is there a woman out there who is prepared to break ranks and enlighten me on this one?
- Comrades changes lives!! No one who walks away with a medal is ever the same again, be it from how they view themselves or how their family, friends or colleagues view them.
- I can wax lyrical too on the Tim Noakes’ arguments for running: keeping the weight down, healthy lifestyle etc., but you all know that. Suffice to say though that it was no doubt the Tim Noakes’ arguments that carried me unscathed through five odd heart attacks (as a result of pesky Cholesterol funnies) that I had in 2006.
- What has changed with Comrades from my first in 1974? Nothing much. The bigger numbers seem to have stifled the banter/communication that prevailed, the quality of the TV coverage is rumoured to mirror the prevailing quality of the SABC hierarchy, but the race seems to have retained its own aura and magic in spite of the (no doubt necessary) increased commecialisation thereof.
- I have been “accused” of being a tout for Comrades, but maybe from the above you can see why.
- When will I stop? I honestly don’t know!!
Jim Harwood, Fish Hoek