Be Humble. Be Brave.

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On 9 June 2019 I lined up for my 8th, and last, Comrades Marathon. What. A. Day.

It seems so ridiculous to have finished 4th, the 2nd South African lady home; to have knocked more than an hour off my up-run PB, and to be disappointed… but I am. I suppose, rather arrogantly, I wanted to bow out of Comrades in a blaze of glory… but even on my very best day, I would not have topped Gerda Steyn’s outstanding performance – truly, she is the most phenomenal athlete and her run on Sunday was one which we will talk of and admire for generations. I have absolutely no regrets.

It’s hard to say where things went wrong for me this year. Was it the extra 1000km I did in training? Was I overcooked? Was it my nutrition? Did I eat badly in the days preceding the race? Did I take on too little sugar and/or fluids while running? Was it simply that I did not have my head and heart in the game this year? Or, was it as the SABC commentators speculated, that I just started too fast? Did I mess up my race plan?

We may never know. But actually, I don’t need to know. Because what’s done is done. We can’t go back. I’m simply reminded of my own fragility – tough days out on the road happen to everyone. Elite athletes are not immune to the mistakes and hardships experienced elsewhere in the Comrades field.

So rather than dwell on the negatives, I’d like to tell you about what did go well for me this past weekend.

Well, for starters, I was allowed to speak at the elite athlete press conference… and not just speak, to be heard. I was given the opportunity to encourage my fellow athletes to adopt an attitude of humility, charity and mutual respect, rather than sink into our proverbial snake pit.

I captained the Team Massmart Elites to a very respectable 2nd place in the elite team prize competition, our ladies having secured 1 x gold and 5 x Isavel Roche-Kelly medals; and every single athlete running a PB (personal best time).

I shared club colours with the Team Massmart Mentees who won the non-elite OPEN category team prize and the Comrades Women’s Shield – again, every member of the non-elite team running a PB.

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Women’s Shield Winners: Hlompho Mphanje, Tamryn Nicholls and Rashida Obaray (Bathabile Manyaka absent).

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I coached a number of athletes, both elite and non-elite, to secure PB times. These included Renata Vosloo (13th; 7h02); Jenni Kruse (28th, 7h25); Kabelo Rabogale (7h28); Warren Ralph (7h43); Rashida Obaray (8h03); Heidi Kalidas (8h04); Jason Ashworth (8h24); and Henry Oertel (8h36).

I finished with a smile, a wave and a blow-kiss to the crowd, soaking up the cheers and positivity along the home straight, knowing that I left absolutely nothing out on the road.

I experienced the kindness and generosity of Comrades supporters, especially that of the volunteers at the Fourways Roadrunners club tent in Camperdown who gave me creme soda and some words of encouragement during a particularly bad patch, as well as the photographers for Action Photo set up in and around Polly Shortts who wouldn’t let me stop and have a walk. I joked with the crowd over the last 3km, hearing time and again that I shouldn’t worry about not winning the race – my husband would still be making me coffee in bed – you guys were great!

And finally, I was so very lucky to be supported by the very best seconding team any athlete could hope for – Clayton Vetter; Anton Roets; Bruce & Gill Fordyce; Dave & Diane Jack; Steph & Travis Smith; Johan Voster; Melinda Jansen van Vuuren; Dwaine Fourie; Duncan Roderick; Steve Hugo; Pat Hamlett – you were absolutely outstanding. I definitely would not have finished without you.

This year, I committed to running a race without regret. I did that. I wanted to be brave. And I was. I’d hoped to land on the podium… I didn’t, but that’s ok. Because a bad day, is still a day on the road and I was still lucky enough to experience the spirit of Comrades. And really, isn’t that what it’s all about?!

Go well.

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** A very BIG thank you to my sponsors: Massmart and Trojan, for giving me the opportunity to train full time this year. Your generosity and kindness has changed my life. And to New Nutrition, Saucony and Runderwear, thank you so much for supporting me. I couldn’t have done it without you.

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7 thoughts on “Be Humble. Be Brave.”

  1. Maretha Smit says:

    Ag Ann, I’ve never formally met you. But you are absolutely my hero and such an inspiration.

    Just the fact that you used to work a full time job and still continued to outperform yourself every single race gave me the courage to finally ‘up my game’ and take 1:25 off my PB and run a 8:25 comrades this year – as an amateur, with no coach or formal training and while working a full time job.

    You will continue to live on in so many of our hearts. But please don’t stop running. Be brave, be humble, always.

  2. Andrea says:

    Spoken like a true champion, Ann. You are such an example to others and your humility is admirable. Thank you for continuing to fighr, regardless of the negativity from outside sources. People tend to throw rocks at things that shine. Keep shining as brightly as you are. You are still an amazing athlete and I have massive respect for you.

  3. Zama Mkosi says:

    Thank you so much for sharing Ann. This is very insightful and inspirational. Even to us non professional runners. How you respond to the experience and outcome of any race is important otherwise the battlefield of the mind can play games on you and end up sending you on a downward emotional spiral. The perspective you have put forward is indeed inspiring even to us non-pro runners. Wishing you all the best in your next phase of running life. Wherever it takes your i am sure it will continue to inspire us the way it has already done.

  4. Mauro says:

    Ann I met you last year when you addressed Grade 8 and 9 learners at De La Salle Holly Cross College.
    You inspired everyone and continue to do so. Not because you won last year but your message of courage and determination.
    You will continue being an inspiration and I look forward reading all about your next level on contribution to running.

  5. Christine Smith says:

    Hope you will allow me to congratulate you; not just for this year but for the many other years that you have gone beyond expectations. Your Dad would have loved to be there but his spirit was with you all the way. I don’t know what life holds for you now but I wish you well in whatever path you choose.

  6. You will always be close to my heart as an example to many woman and for me as a Single dad with 3 kids I would like or wish my kids can be strong as you. You’re Admired my many mostly I see you as a role model in running and in life you and your husband have shown a good example of support for each other that all of your followers and I will take and cherish for ever.

    Have a good rest hope to see you around. Thanks for allowing your Team to second me at Comrades this year I felt so special thanks a Million May God bless you and your Husband more.

    Much love

    Admire

  7. Travis says:

    Thanks for being a true champion and for all you have done for ladies running especially my Steph, enjoy the rest & all the best for the adventures ahead.

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