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.
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?!
** 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.