The numbers of my run


Comrades Marathon Finishers Medal

The just-one-more-medal medal

Stepped lightly into a cold wind, clear sky for the first run after the big day 8 days after the race. Recovery, a warm bed, gurgling rain, a dash of glory kept me inside before then.

Felt good from the very first step. At even the lightest effort my pace was still faster than Comrades race-pace.

The joy of everything  – life, running, beaming – welled up and burst through me. That rush highlighted the incredible and indelible experience.

Venus nodded, smiled when I showed her the medal … am thinking of having it pierced into my belly button or wherever kids would get it hung.

There is much to tell. Here starts some of it.

What the numbers show

The Comrades experience is always big. A starting point is the numbers of the run. This is how mine look as taken from the Comrades Marathon website at :

Gun Time: 05:30:35 Overall Pos: 9742
Finish Time: 11:43:54 Gender Pos: 7881
Net Time: 11:43:54 Category Pos: 1210


Split Race Time Overall Pos Dist. Done Dist. To Go Speed
Cowies Hill 02:11:43 10751 16.86 70.1 7.81
Drummond 05:32:50 10056 42.96 44 7.75
Camperdown 07:59:37 9807 60.66 26.3 7.91
Polly Shortts 10:43:42 9945 79.26 7.7 8.12
Finish 11:43:53 9741 86.96 0 8.09

What they show is the even effort. It’s how I run. The position number gets better as runners who start faster, slow towards the end. As the run wore my legs, they started cramping – the exercise-induced kind – and that meant walking as soon as the first bites started. It happened on the downhills when I was running. The walking  – maybe 30 to 50 metres – allowed me to run again. The cramping was a bit worrying as it started soon after halfway.

The numbers show in a way that the hardest part of the run was between Camperdown and Polly Shorrts – from 25km to 7km to go. Actually it was the stretch out of Camperdown to the Umlaas Road turn-off, the highest point in the run. Those little hills were hard – 66 km into the run. I used to call that part the soul of Comrades – three-quarters of the run done, the end too far to bring relief. Race strategy called for using the walking to refuel for the last 19 km – energy bar, 150g of peanuts, energy gel, plenty of water, yet another electrolyte pill; jogging where I could.

Stronger for the long down through Lynfield Park to the bottom little Polly’s I got going again and the pattern of the day – running down the hills, as far as I could up the next hill, then runnning mostly two lamposts and walking one up the rest of the hill, sipping water and energy drinks, looking for someone to chat to, going past groups of runners – took me through to the end.

The numbers also show  how many people there were on the road, most of them at the back of the field where I ran.

What the numbers don’t show

  • the hard work. 8 min/km is an easy pace. My regular easy pace had got down to 6min/km. Running that hard would get me to maybe 60 km. So I had to spread what I had over the last 27 km – walking up  hills when my heart rate went too high, walking to ease the cramping, elbowing and jostling at the water tables, twice having a pee.
  • how much concentration it took to keep moving forward at the best pace. Little time to relax and enjoy run.
  • The jubilation that rushed through me when the noise of the finish became a cacophony – heralded by an announcer shouting “Just 600 meters to go.” Nothing could stop me having got that far. Not even a volcano.  A friend had twice got within sight of the finish line when the final cut-off sounded. I used to joke with them that he should have taken off his shoe with the timing-chip and thrown it over the line. So I had thoughts, while deep in training runs, that when I got to the end I would stop at the finish line and through my shoe over it. No chance. I slipped over the timing-mats, didn’t stop until the medal, that focus of so many month, was hanging over my neck. Still more jubilation. The air crackled. Every pore opened and sang.
  • My numbers don’t show the stories of all the other who completed the event, who tried, those who didn’t show up to run even though they wanted to.

The numbers also don’t show all the things that went on in my mind, that went on around me, that it took to make this great run possible. More on that to follow.


  1. Mary Lou Thompson says

    Paul, I enjoyed your post-race reflections. It is a great run, in so many senses.


    Mary Lou