Good Bye Comrades, For Now

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By Shaun Wewege

I won’t lie to you; I did not enjoy my run this year. I battled from about 30km in till the end. I am certain that when I see my photographs I am going to look like a sunburned version of the Grinch. I cannot put into words how little fun I had and how close I came to hopping on the bailer’s bus. I started strongly enough, but somewhere round the three hour mark I began to get sore feet and my calves felt an uncomfortable pain that, as I write, has not improved a great deal.

To be fair this was all my fault. I didn’t come off a good base and probably was a little shy on mileage. My tapering was inadequate and though I lost weight I was still heavier than I should be. I went from overtrained one year to undertrained in the next and really had a mental battle. Oddly enough the reasons I decided to knuckle down and bare it were a little, well, bizarre. For starters, I did not have my phone on me and reasoned that if I caught a bus trip down to Durban it would create some problems with logistics – how would I let girlfriend know where to find me? I also wanted to get a second opinion on whether quitting the race would be a good idea but with no phone I had no way of contacting her. My understanding of Semaphore is basic at best and I don’t know how to send smoke signals.

Secondly, I figured I would rather not make the cut off than drop out. In my head I would have been less disappointed. It’s rather strange that such a mighty quest came down to a mobile device and sense of pride. I plodded along till I had 30km to go. Until then I had been walking a great deal, slowing down tremendously and faced getting the chop. When, however, I reached that 30km to go board, I decided that all that was left was a training run and that if I pushed a little I would be able to cross the line before the agnosing final cut. Plus, I knew that the eisbein and beer I had promised myself would taste sour if I had them without a medal draped around my neck. I know my blog posts make for light reading but I am deadly serious about food and booze being a reward.

With 30km to go I managed an attitude shift and shuffled along as briskly as my tired legs would allow and complete what I set out to do – obtain back-to-back medals. Despite having a tougher battle both mentally and physically this time I will definitely run a few more Comrades. The atmosphere at the start and finish is unique and the sense of accomplishment is satisfying in ways only those who have finisher’s medals could understand.

I won’t be back next year though. I have decided to do another Ironman, preferably an international one. Time off work and the expense makes Ironman Regensburg the only major event I will be able to complete next year. It is also in June, usually a week or two after Comrades. Doing both would be a big ask and even bigger risk. Given that I may have to sell a kidney to afford Regensburg I don’t want to do anything that could jeopardise a finisher’s medal.

I will most certainly attempt Comrades in the future but with one major difference – I will have a better base and put in more miles. I felt sorry for myself when I did Ironman and Comrades last year but felt a dozen times worse being underprepared and only doing Comrades this year. There are no training short cuts. Catching up on lost mileage is not possible. Training for and competing in the Comrades Marathon is not meant to be easy – if it were, it wouldn’t be worth doing.

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2 Responses to Good Bye Comrades, For Now

  1. anneline Peters June 11, 2012 at 11:17 am #

    I read this article and kept nodding in agreement. Comrades 2012 was my worst race ever. First of all I did not put in the proper amount of training. I was hoping that running on previous experience will see me through the race. That idea is NUTS! and I paid for it dearly.
    Secondly, I ran Two oceans and picked up a niggle as I started down Chapmans Peak. I did not rest after doing Two Oceans, and started running again the very next Monday after the Oceans. The niggle became an ouch by the next weekend. Still I did not use common sense and rest and did a 57km tough road/trail run two weeks later. Where the niggle became a serious injury. With 1 month to Comrades I kept training hoping I could run through the pain. I went to two physio’s who advised me NOT to run Comrades. Stubborn, me went to the doctor for a third opinion the Thursday before Comrades and the doctor told me running on my injury could lead to serious problems. Still I went and attempted Comrades and waiting at the start I knew in my hearts of hearts I will not finish Comrades, but kept hoping.
    Somewhere along the route I boarded a rescue bus and sobbed my eyes out for the next 7+ days.
    Comrades is an unforgiving race and running it with an injury is just plain STUPID!

    • Shaun June 14, 2012 at 9:26 am #

      It is a VERY unforgiving race! I think that’s what makes that finisher’s medal so special.

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