Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Comrades Marathon Race Recap

The Comrades Marathon in South Africa is a bucket list race for anyone who does ultra marathons.  It’s one of the most iconic ultra marathons in the world.  It has been in existence for over 90 years and was started by a man who wanted to remember his comrades who perished in the war.  It is not only the oldest running ultra marathon in the world but it’s the largest with close to 20,000 runners.  Another unique thing about this race is the very challenging cutoff time of 12 hours to run 54.5 miles. 

Running the Comrades was going to be the toughest challenge of my life.  Training for this event was special to me not only because of the iconic race, I was also raising money for the dogs at the Nevada SPCA.  I called my cause Run For Fido and I was hoping to raise $3,000 for the Nevada SPCA.  I do a lot of my training for my events with the dogs at the Nevada SPCA and with my two dogs. 
 
We had a bit of a hiccup traveling to Johannesburg when our flight to Atlanta was delayed and we missed the direct flight to Johannesburg.  There wasn’t another flight for several days so we had to get rerouted through Amsterdam, Paris, to Johannesburg.  It was over 30 hours of traveling but at least we got to spend a few hours seeing the sights in Amsterdam.   We made it to Johannesburg and we spend a night there before traveling to Durban where the race would start.  Comrades is unique in that one year they run uphill from Durban to Pietermaritzburg and then the next year they run downhill from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.  We had a few days to relax in Durban before the race.   Several weeks leading up to the race I was having a lot of pain in my hip.  I had tried dry needling, massage, stretching and all did a very minimal amount of running.  I didn’t get much permanent relief so I was very concerned if I would be able to finish this race.  

The race started at 5:30am and the excitement at the race start was unbelievable.  I had to finish before the cutoff time and I had never had to worry about making a cutoff in my life.  In fact it’s not something I have never even looked at when entering or competing in a race.  At this race I had all the cutoff times written down and in my pocket.  It is very unsettling being so unsure of your ability to finish when competing in a race.  With my hip problem I had checked into what I would do if I had to bail on the race.  I mean I am in South Africa and I wasn’t too sure how I would get to the finish safe and sound if I couldn’t finish the race.

As we started the run I didn’t feel pain in my hip. Maybe it was all the excitement or the massage or the rest but it felt ok as we started to run.  There were so many people we were forced to start at a very slow pace, which was a good thing. I ran with my boyfriend for the first half of the race.  The weather was a little humid but very comfortable.  I knew going into this race we were going to have some really big hills but I had no idea just how big and how long until I got to each one.  The hills were like nothing I had ever seen let alone run before in my life.  The first major hill I was trying to run up until I realized I could actually go faster with a power walk.  In this race the people who have completed more than 10 Comrades have green numbered race bib.  Everyone has the number of Comrades races they have done on their race bib.  I realized all these runners who have ran more than 10 Comrades with green bibs were walking these monster hills.  I figured I should follow their lead, I mean lets face it they know what they’re doing if they ran this race more than 10 times!  Power walking the hills was going to be my strategy throughout the rest of the race. 


I was very lucky my hip didn’t give me any problems during this race but about the halfway point my knee started hurting pretty bad.  The awesome thing at this race is they have stations you can stop at for someone to rub your legs with arnica massage oil.  I figured my knee was hurting from my IT band or my calf so each time I saw a tent I had them rub my upper and lower leg quickly.  This helped tremendously each time and enabled me to continue to the next station.  Toward the end it was survival and just getting to the finish before the cutoff.  I knew it was going to be close and was well aware of the pace I needed to keep to get there in time.  On my race bib it had a zero since this was my first time racing.  People running by me must have seen me struggling and new I was going to be close to the cutoff.  As people passed me many of them encouraged me to get to the finish and that I could do it!  As I crossed the finish I broke down and cried my boyfriend was there waiting and the first thing I said to him was, “that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done”.  Competing in Ironman is hard but this was a whole different kind of hard!  The medal for this race is the smallest medal I have in my collection of medals but it certainly is the most memorable.  They have been giving out the same medal for the duration of this event.  Going into the race without confidence and then barely making the cutoff was emotional and a very rewarding experience.  The best part of the experience is all the money I raised for the dogs at the Nevada SPCA thanks to my amazing friends and family!  The dogs will have wonderful new courtyard with splash pads, agility equipment, and treadmills for exercise! The best news of all was that my favorite running buddy Sandra from the Nevada SPCA was adopted a few days before the run!