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Comrades Mom by Surita

In 2004 my mom decided after 15 years of running to realise a lifetime dream and do her first Comrades in 2005.

Since January all conversations were about training, shoes, what to eat and off course the fear of a serious injury. There were two scares –one was a torn calf muscle and the other scare just 8 weeks before the Comrades was a serious inflammation of her shins which was still bugging her a bit just before Comrades.

The whole family and a big group of friends were all given their instructions by April and we were all just waiting with abated breath for June the 16 th to dawn. Hubby and myself were grilling anybody and everybody about any grain of information because we wanted to be the best support team ever.

At long last June the 16 th did dawn but not at sunrise. We had to get up at 2:45 to leave Durban at 3:30 to get my mom to Pietermaritzburg on time for the 5:30 start. It took all the effort in the world to stay upbeat and positive about the big Comrades dream that early in the morning, especially after hubby left the road map at home and the road we were planning to take was closed by the police. Luckily, we had about 10,000 other cars in the same dilemma so we just followed the other cars. I’m very very grateful that we were not the car in front!

After the gun went off for the start, we raced back to car to get to the first agreed meeting place. However, by the time we left Maritzburg, my mom was already past the first meeting place and everything went a bit haywire after that with roads that were closed and lots of traffic jams.

We then decided to throw all caution to the wind and let the traffic police “guide” us. This basically meant that we took the first off-ramp close to the Comrades route that was not closed by the traffic police. This brought us to Drummond which is very close to the half way mark.

It was about a 2.5km walk to get to the road but it was definitely worth it. The atmosphere and general generous spirit of the people was amazing! We were there to see the first runners come through but I must be honest that I’m not as in awe of these sponsored ‘super runners’ than the normal guys who have a full time job and a family and can still make time to pursue a time consuming passion like training for the Comrades.

For some, it may be a passion but other runners are just barking mad! And I mean literally barking mad. There were a few runners that could bark like big mean dogs and they would run up right next to spectator and then start barking! The poor spectator would almost faint with fright and all the runners would jump up and down and laugh till the tears rolled down their cheeks. They obviously have more energy than the spectators.

The tension waiting for my mom got worse and worse – she was by this time around 15 minutes past the time we expected her. After some more entertaining hairdo’s from runners, and funny costumes – I even saw two chefs running, it was getting a bit old and I just wanted to see MY runner. And at long last I saw the tiny black and red figure and it actually brought tears to my eyes to see and to know that she is realising her dream at long last.

She was walking up the hill and she was so happy to see me she actually grabbed me and hugged me – not a very pleasant experience I must add, after 44km’s of running in the Natal climate. She complained about her knees but we were not too concerned because there was some serious uphills and that is bound to hurt the knees. After a quick chat and promises to see her later on in the race we grabbed our stuff and headed back for the car.

The big dillema now was to find the next place to see her – well once again we were “guided” by the traffic police and this brought us to Westville and the Pavilion. After a nice long lunch we took our chairs and camped out right on the M13. What a novelty – sitting on a highway looking at some very very tired people walk, run, crawl and jump past. By this time all the runners were really looking ‘worst for the wear’ because they only have 13km’s left from the point we were sitting at.

It was heartbreaking to see the pain some people were in but also so uplifting to see the generous spirit of fellow runners and the supporters next to the road feeding the runners anything from boerewors and viennas to Red Bull or Brandy and Coke!

After an agonising two hour wait we knew something was wrong and when I saw somebody from her club I raced up to him to ask him where my mom was. Well actually that was a lie – he was going so slow a toddler could’ve caught him so I was really not racing. Anyway he told me the heartbreaking news that my poor mum had to give up at 65km’s after her legs just gave up completely.

I just could not help myself – I burst into tears because it was so close but yet so incredibly far. At the moment she is saying that she will never attempt the Comrades again, but I’m quite certain that the cameradie and spirit under the runners before and during the Comrades will convince her to try and realise her dream again.

For myself – I think I would stick to mountain biking where you can rest on the downhills but I will definitely be a spectator again next year.

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