Montag, 16.06.2003 | von: mw
COMRADES MARATHON 2003 Or HAVING FUN IN SOUTH AFRICA by Pam Storey
Monday 16th June - Pietermaritzburg S.A.
After months of physical and mental preparation here we are at the start of our epic journey down to Durban. With over 13,000 entries this is the largest ultra distance race in the world. As the cock crows and the Townhall clock shows 5.30 a.m. we are off. It’s dark and very cold so most runners are wearing extra layers of clothing that can be thrown off once the temperature starts to rise. I am wearing a pair of old socks (clean) as mittens thoughtfully left out for me by Gil when I was packing. I wish he was with me but he didn’t fancy the long trip over here. For me personally this is the biggest running challenge I have ever faced and with over £1000 sponsorship money pledged for charity I am determined to finish within the new 12 hour time limit (usually 11 hours). Those of you who know me will realise that it didn’t take long for me to start chatting to other runners and soon we reached the first feed station, there are 51 throughout the route! There was Coke and very cold sachets of water and Powerade. Later, as it got warmer I was glad of the ice cold sachets to keep my hands cool as my fingers swell in the heat! Before long the first of many hills came into view and, following my race plan, I took a short walk. Reaching 20k in 1-54-39 I was on target so far at the highest point on the route. There were lots of spectators arriving on the roadside now and this was a taste of what was to come later. More undulations take us on past Camperdown and Cato Ridge and on towards the half way point at Drummond. As I was taking a steady pace I was able to enjoy some of the fantastic scenery around me. The sun was out now but there was a slight breeze keeping temperatures to a comfortable 23 degrees. By the time I reached half way in 5.19.36 the down hill stretches are taking their toll and my quads are beginning to suffer. However as my target for this point was 5.20 I was very pleased. Good pace judgement eh? By now I was beginning to struggle on the downhill sections and in fact I stopped 3 times in the second half of the race to have my thighs massaged. Once past half way I began to take advantage of the food that was on offer, bananas, energy bars biscuits etc. Along the route families were having a picnic with B-B-Q’s, booze etc. but not once was I ever tempted to ‘bail out’. I never thought I would have to walk on downhill sections in a race but now my thighs hurt so much it became necessary. (come back Jenner Park Stadium-all is forgiven). I can see now why they say the ‘down run’ is harder than the ‘up run’ (Durban to Pietermaritzburg). Meanwhile I was chatting all the way to runners from all over South Africa and met a few Brits too. One South African chap had a son working in Crawley, just a few miles from where we live. Small world isn’t it? Reached 80 km in 10.03.57 and, apart from the thighs, I was quite comfortable and knew I could finish before the cut off time. Jog/walked the last 10 km to the spectacular finish in the huge Kingsmead Cricket stadium with a nice Christian guy that I met on route and crossed the finish line in 11 hrs 13 mins 28 secs. Tired but very pleased with myself. I received my medal and goody bag and met my chums in the International runners area where there was ample food and drink available. We could watch the race live on T.V. but some of the more energetic ones went outside to watch the last runners coming in. There were a few people lying on the floor exhausted but I was my usual ‘chirpy’ self and I even remembered to do a little stretching, whilst chatting to the other Brits. At exactly 5-30 pm an official stood on the finish line with his back to the incoming runners and fired a gun. No one was allowed over the line after this. I could not watch it as some people were very close to the end and not allowed to finish! The last runner crossed the line in 11.59.59 and at 76 years of age, he was the oldest competitor in the race. The race was won by Fusi Nhlapho an unemployed South African runner in 5 28.52 and the first lady was Elena Nurgalieva from Russia in 6 .07.46. She was followed by her identical twin sister who took 2nd place in 6.12.07. The first British runner was my chum Chris Finill in his Comrades debut with a very fast time of 6.41.46. Chris took home a silver medal for his efforts, awarded to all runners outside the first 10 and under 7.30. I travelled to the race with the charity CoCo on a very well organised trip. Further details of the race and full results can bee seen on the excellent website www.comrades.com
I doubt if I will ever take part in this wonderful race again but I will never forget the experience, especially the ‘Comrades shuffle’.
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