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I'd run ultras prior, but, Edinburgh was my first "proper" marathon in 2005, I felt conned when I turned up, I'd actually applied for London and got rejected, they sent me a "special guaranteed entry" for Edinburgh as part of the sorry pack. In 2005 you could probably have turned up on the day and entered Edinburgh! These days I hear its a pretty flat affair, in 2005 it started and finished in Holyrood Park, the elites were complaining about the climb back up from the coast into to central Edinburgh - wimps!
That sounds like a nice hill (and beach ) Dubai, based on Bike It's observations you might not need the mountains in addition.
This sounds like we should have an Edinburgh re-union - 24th May - nice flat jog - perfect for last run before taper.
Oh for that weather now Debra!
Max Mladenovic 2 said:
JAR a cautionary tale from me on big hamstring tears, I did mine doing 200m reps a couple of years ago (that was when I had ideas I could still run a fast 5K!). I came back to running too quickly as I could get away with long runs and later tempo runs without making it much worse. 2 years later and it is still sore and a tangible weakness on that leg in terms of strength and lift/push off. Make absolutely sure its properly recovered before you build up your running and get physio to build the strength back up.
Well done Debra - great result in those soggy conditions.
Thanks Max, here I am at work
Its taken a while, I've had a lot of other things on my mind, but although I feel I should work on it some more its time to let it go...
My eardrum is in danger of exploding but I don’t care; her
excited screams fade as I sink deeper into her gently cradling hug. Her
boyfriend leaps into the road too and takes photos of our impromptu embrace. He
asks if I would like a beer? At around 75km into Comrades, this late in the
day, I know I’m not going to make the cut-off at the top of Polly Shortts, he
knows it too. “I’d love a beer please” I grin back at him.
I’d come through the Umlaas Road Interchange cut-off at 68km
with 2 minutes to spare, frustrated that I had easily crested half way in 5h38m
but shortly afterwards my left leg had started the shenanigans where it
periodically cramps up through foot and calf turning it into a dead weight,
causing me to limp to a halt, toe kicking the ground. I can walk it off until I
can run again, but, the closer I try to get back to my original pace the
swifter the cycle commences again and again.
I’m not the runner I used to be, this malaise has affected
me for a couple of years now to varying degrees. I am my own worst enemy. I
should have had this looked at months ago. The problem is I can run a marathon
fine, hardly any symptoms, so it seems there is nothing to treat, but rise
above this into 30 miles and beyond and the spectre arises.
Three weeks prior to Comrades, far too late for anything to
be done, I had seen a doctor, been given a clean bill of health. Strong running
muscles, no obvious defect. That was very reassuring. Referral to a
musculoskeletal specialist, a theory that accumulative fatigue of some
underlying muscle group was the cause, but nothing that a general practitioner
The beer is so cool and flavoursome, my new friends have
clearly had a glass or two. As I passed their house they waved; I waved back and
shouted “I’m going to Pietermaritzburg you know!” I suppose my union jack vest,
cap and glasses may have helped with the fence vaulting and enthusiastic
As I sip the beer I am given a leg rub and we end the short
pit stop with a group selfie as they launch me back on my way down the road. I
wave and shout my thanks to them and mum and dad sat under the canopy in the
front garden as I scuttle away.
The sun falls in a baking caress on my skin as the afternoon
advances. The day flows over me in surreal slow motion. The urgency to proceed
has evaporated, I want this time to last forever; I feel so close to my wife in
this timeless suspended dream. Gone are the crowds of runners, I glide along
part of a single thin thread, a bead on an ever thinning line. Runners ahead of
me fade into the distance, runners behind me slowly haul me in and pass
becoming the new ebbing horizon.
On the rise to 45th Cutting Dannirr had cruised
past me as I stuck to my power walking plan for all the hills. We fleetingly wished
each other well, I patted his drenched shoulder seemingly propelling him
further uphill and my eyes fell on the name of the runner in front causing one
of many emotional highs and lows today; Bertha. Of 16,712 people on the road
today, 2 are named Bertha, and here I am running behind one of them. Bertha had
become the most significant character supporting my wife through illness and
now both were gone. I wanted to talk to her, to encourage her on her way, but I
just couldn’t do it… it warms my heart when I look up the results and discover
both Berthas completed.
I must look thirsty; on Little Pollys a guy packing up for
the day offers me more beer! It goes down great, strong flavour, I wish I could
remember the brand. At both beer stops I only took a couple of mouthfuls, I’m
not rolling drunk, it reminds me of the beer pushed into my hand on my first
down run; I traded it for coke that day. The sweeper buses are creeping about
out here. I’m asked many times if I want to board. I tell them that I want to
climb Polly Shortts if that is allowed this late in the day. They cruise on.
At table 42 a tannoy announcement is congratulating the crew
on a job well done and directing them to start packing away, they cheerfully
pour me a coke and find me shortbread biscuits. A local runner heading away
from Pietermaritzburg on the opposite side of the road crosses into my path
arms held wide and hugs me congratulating me on my efforts, she is amazed I am
not soaking wet; I’ve been progressing so slowly I’m not even sweating anymore.
At the base of Polly Shortts a thug of a marshal draws up
alongside me in a pick-up truck. An accusing finger is pointed at me and a
threating voice bludgeons me. “Step off the road and wait for a sweeper bus to
pick you up.” I stop and step back off the tarmac onto baked mud. “Can I not go
to the top of Pollys?” I ask. As our conversation proceeds another runner
passes between us and proceeds on up the hill. I expect the bully to shout him
off the road, but he totally ignores him and continues to chastise me. “No! I
have another emergency at the top of Polly’s to deal with; wait here and board
a bus.” He drives off. I expect him to execute the same diatribe against the
guy who passed us as he reaches him a few yards ahead, but he just drives on
I stand in disbelief at the randomness of all this, wait
till the truck is out of site, step back on the road and begin climbing Pollys.
There is no sweeper bus in sight; what’s the worst that can happen? I’m already
beyond the last cut off, if he really has an emergency up there he’s not coming
back down any time soon. Oh shit! The truck is not out of sight but it has
pulled over, has me spotted me disobeying, the pause is fleeting and on and out
of sight he goes.
This thing’s bloody steep; my mind wanders back down the
course. I was standing outside at the head of the starting corals; a drummer
troupe was dancing and clattering out a crazy beat as people made their way in.
I lingered longer than I should enjoying the vibe and spectacle; as I went to
enter pen C the dividers were lifted between the pens and a sea of runners
started to crush forwards. Everyone in the queue reacted in the same fashion
and I was lifted off my feet crashing into the pen and swept forwards into the
mayhem. I kept my cool and glided along with the crowd until the crush
subsided. We had advanced so far forwards I almost became a member of the band.
Deeper into the run McHilly passed by, we briefly chatted, the same happened several times, Becca, Seren. “Need a lift?” “What?” Oh no; it’s the sweeper bus; are they in contact with each other; has he been told to sweep me; hang on; he looks like a nice guy; and he’s asking; not commanding. “Can I go to the top of Pollys; I know I have missed cut-off but I would really like to say I made it to the top?” “If The Queen of England wants you to go to the top, who am I to stop you?” We both laugh out loud; my patriotic kit has paid off in the most unexpected way. Ahead, the guy who passed me has disappeared. A horn blares behind me. It looks like a local is being held up by the sweeper bus. I look back at the driver. “Ignore him; you just let me know if you want to pack in.”The bus commences to track me. I hear a revving engine behind me and the local almost brushes me off the road as he overtakes the sweeper bus. More blaring of horns as I struggle on. “Am I the last man on the road?” “Yup! Want to come on board?” “No, no, I’m fine, I’ll make it to the top.” Another blaring horn. In fear I step off the road onto the verge and slow my pace. “Get back on the road; don’t you worry about them!”
I glance back; there is a tailback as far as the eye can see, tens of vehicles; mostly open topped Comrades lorries with deconstructed support stations; but a few ordinary cars, irate locals I assume. “You keep going, unless you want a lift, you just tell me.” “I’m concerned about them wanting to pass; I’m holding them up.” I don’t know if he actually did this, but it felt like he pulled out closer to my side, still a good way off, but nothing else passed me, and no more irate blaring occurred.
Coming through Hillcrest the congestion was crazy, were the roads narrower this year? A sweeper bus. This early in the day? Starts to annoy me; it levels with me, inexorably drifting to the right, tracking my pace, forcing me closer and closer to the right hand barriers. I end up in a confined corridor and all of a sudden there is a young woman proudly walking towards me in a flamboyant fur coat, startlingly red lipstick, jangly oversized gold jewellery, cool shades. Our shoulders collide abruptly; I’m completely thrown off balance. What the hell is she doing in the road on the wrong side of the barriers? It’s like she didn’t even see me? “Don’t mind me! I’m only trying to run a fu**ing race here!” I yell back at her as she staggers from the blow. I sprint on punching the wing of the bloody ridiculous bus as I burst into clear space; and instantly regret my foul mouthed retort, but even more the ridiculous pain in my hand. What the hell is happening to me? I envisage scandalous headlines in the Hillcrest Herald and guilty pictures of me apologising as I am hoiked from the course in this un-comradely display of anger.
I drop out of some kind of trance; the tiny figure is smiling up at me, blue jumper, white shirt, big floppy hat protecting him from the sun. How did I get to Ethembeni? I remember the joy of half way, tipping my cap to Arthur, the battle up Inchanga, my leg starting to implode. Stopping to stretch it and from nowhere ice cold spray hitting my thigh, a weird promise that more people further up the road would look after me. What are they talking about? I didn’t ask for any help?
I shake the tiny outheld hand and work my way down the line saying hello. I recognise “United Kingdom Boy” despite the absence of his flag from yesterdays tour; we laugh and trade extra banter. As the line ends a huge beast of a “child” grabs my hand, I’m sure he’s not with this team, I make a rapid exit breaking his grip. And then it dawns on me; I have missed the World Vision charity crew on the lead in to this point. Last year I did similar and ran back to greet them, this year I fear any further delay will lose me the finish. I am desperately disappointed but I press on. I touch her name tag, she consoles me again. “They’ll understand, you have to keep going.”
This is my triumphant finish; arms raised I almost prance under the red arch on the brow of Polly Shortts. The road broadens out and becomes divided into two distinct lanes with a dividing barrier down the centre. I go left and the angry traffic goes right. Wow! Do I feel a tinge guilty as vehicle after vehicle drives past me in the left hand lane on my journey towards the timing mat. Just as I approach thinking I’ll get recognition of my efforts the support crew roll it up right in front of me! “Oi! Put that back!” I giggle. They joke with me as I plod onwards.I know my next manoeuvre is highly unlikely to succeed, but, with the sweeper bus that was tracking me up Pollys long gone I put my head down and attempt to jog through the check-point. The road isn’t actually closed, but, as I innocently proceed across the cross-road at the very top, sure enough, bemused marshals nicely but authoritatively direct me to cease and desist and board a parked sweeper bus. I step up into the silent prison. It is driverless, a handful of woeful individuals languish inside. I step back outside and commence a cool down stretching routine. No point in roasting and seizing up in amongst that desolation.
A female runner escapes from the bus and joins me. She’s been waiting ages already. No sooner have I advised her that I think we’ll have an even longer wait when we are tapped on the shoulder and directed to a delightful minivan taking remaining supplies to the finish. The final few sufferers from the sweeper bus are decanted also and we speed off down the actual Comrades route, which, of course, is the one clear artery through Pietermaritzburg to the finish.
We chomp on plentiful supplies of ginger biscuits. My new companion squeals with delight into her phone; the last 5 minutes of the run are unfolding; her cousin has made it over the line! We punch the air joining in her celebration. She sobs as the final cut-off ensues, I hear the faint sounds of the last post emanating from her Motorola.
I recognise the harsh voice and the finger pointing at our driver who stares it down with nonchalant disdain. “If any of these people get off this bus and try to make it to the finish line, they, and you, will be arrested!” We have started to slowly and carefully overtake forlorn runners, mostly walking now, about 2ks out from Scottsville Race Course. Mr Shouty must be sweeping them up and we have dared to attempt to break through his cordon.
The people of Pietermaritzburg are still outside their houses, applauding, cheering, encouraging, even though the 12 hour gun went some time ago. They even wave back at me through the van windows, I go all wimpy and fight back a tear; they know the effort we have put in today to get this far despite not making final cut-off.
We are literally dumped outside the race course. When we ask where we should go they say “this way or that way” pointing up and down the road. Everyone but me chooses “this way”, which with hindsight, after seeing how the buses exit, was probably the right idea. Clever me figures going and knocking on the front door and asking for my kit bag will be the quickest route.
It’s dark and I’m cooling off more than I would like. The way in is obvious; I just walk towards where everyone else is coming from. It becomes apparent, after walking for at least a mile, that I am on the wrong side of the commotion. I’m in a stadium overlooking the finish, my kit bag is obviously over the other side, but how do I get there.
Fortunately, no, that is the wrong word, I find another runner in exactly the same predicament as me asking an official how to get to the kit bags. He is about 7 feet tall and wearing some kind of war paint on his face, but it has worn off. Either that or he has been very ill. The official points us up some steps, I kind of befriend “Mr Cleese”, as I mentally name him, with every step he is becoming more and more agitated. I sense he has been trying to track things down much longer than I.The steps lead to some kind of elite bar that we are not allowed in. Steam starts to emanate from Mr Cleese’s ears. In a broad South African accent he expresses a desire to find the official that sent us this way so he can punch him in the nose. I try some small talk asking him if he lives abroad now seeing as he has an international number on. It calms him slightly and he explains that he is a local but lost his chip and so was issued with the only thing available at the expo, but his tog bag will be in with the local’s lot, not international. This all sounds very irregular to me; I suspect he is doppleganging for a friend, so I leave off this line of enquiry fearful of a punch in the nose.
We spot a gate guarded by an official that obviously leads to where we want to go. Mr Cleese aggressively insists he lets us through but the official stands fast insisting we use “the tunnel” and directs us back towards the steps we have just come down. “You just turn right and immediately right again before them.” We go back to the steps and look back, there is just a sea of people, no tunnel? I walk slowly forward and suddenly the ground opens up beneath us. People are just streaming and streaming up the steps from the tunnel below. It is virtually invisible, we must have walked within inches of it several times already.We battle down and into a horribly claustrophobic space about 4 people wide with a low arching ceiling the majority of people are milling towards us, the heat is horrible, the pervading tincture of body odour claws at the back of my throat. I continually have to stop and face off against people irked at me wanting to force through against their overwhelming flow. It is scary how there is no end in sight to what must be the way out ahead. I sense Mr Cleese behind me, anger building, the thought that he will get punchy if anyone gets too disgruntled with me bolsters my confidence as I plough on towards our goal.Finally we break out into the night, cooler fresher air, but we still have a battle on our hands, we are in a gully with hordes of people descending into the tunnel. It’s like a scene from Lord of the Rings. I jump right onto some steps heading out of the gully and Mr Cleese is gone.Up the steps and through a gate I am suddenly all alone on grass. Tall fencing separates me from the brightly lit and surreally empty finish area. The clock still running. I spy a maze-like fenced passage I am sure I could access through to the finish area. It’s mildly tempting but I know I don’t deserve to go and stand there. I stumble across uneven ground into a slightly less intense melee that ultimately leads to my tog bag and the bus back to Durban.