There is something surreal about this event that many runners, including me now, attempt to articulate in simple words. I really didn't "get it” going into this year’s up-run as a novice. I like to think I have a healthy scepticism about stuff people tell me in these modern times of daring do. They would say "you'll end up falling in love with this", or "you'll never want to run anything else", "I've run it X years in a row now and I just can't get enough of it", and I would think to myself; "I have never felt the need to run any race more than once, these dreamers must be soft in the head, what a waste repeating yourself time and again”. The one thing that attracted me to this above those perspectives was the kudos, even with my scepticism, if I stumbled over a Comrades runner I would look up to their courage, this run has a reputation of toughness, I had a definite need to conquer it, especially the up-run, there is in theory no other 55 mile stretch that compares.
Having recently completed an up-run I still feel all the things above, but, I have this weird space in my head where Comrades now lives; it is a special place (quite possibly soft) and I find myself saying strange alien things like; “Comrades is a beautiful thing to behold; it somehow welcomes you with open arms and wants you to succeed”. How can a simple tarmacked road turn into something so human and emotional? Is there some simple psychological truth at the heart of it, a Stockholm Syndrome of the road? I am not in love, but I have a severe need to go back and prove I can do a down-run. I know that will be a very different experience having run up this road, but it really was a simple thing I "knew" I had to do, even before I had finished this year's up-run attempt.
A lot goes through your head in 12 hours, all that time is "yours", nothing else in the universe matters except you and your goal, maybe in writing those few words I've just discovered why it keeps people coming back, there aren't many other instances where I've been so entirely self-indulgent in my life; it is addictive, you are out there doing something you love, being totally supported with supplies to help you succeed, with people lining a lot of the route willing and encouraging you to succeed, and in my particular case I was somehow carrying the knowledge that I “knew” I would succeed? I don't know what I would be writing now if I had failed? But that severity of failure is again part of the enticement of this event; you have to “manage" your run, work out a strategy for practically achieving your goal, that stays in the forefront of your mind, forget any pain, any doubt, if you do not stick to your plan, or modify it through the curve balls Comrades throws at you, you will fail.
In the days following the up-run I got a definite case of "Comrades blues", I needed to be back on that road, deep in the heart of the experience, I looked up other ultra-marathons to compensate, but so far nothing seems to live up to Comrades. There I go again? Me? Romanticising about a simple 55 mile run up or down some hills? If circumstances allow I will be there next year; anyone else climbing aboard?