Comrades 2014 – This is my story
Nkosinathi Nkuna, Novice - 18938
I am not a story teller but this is my story about my journey to the 2014 Comrades medal.
my university days I was not active or participated in any sport
activities. It all started in 2012 when my weight was uncontrollable,
mainly due to the constant traveling on business and a bad diet. I then
decided to join gym to keep the weight in check. Gym was boring for me
and I asked myself, what else can I do? Gym was always packed and did
not like the idea of waiting for someone before I could get my turn for
a workout. My friend Andile, an avid runner, suggested that I should
consider running as it may help me to get rid of the excess weight. He
then suggested that I should buy proper running shoes if I was serious
about running. His theory was that if I spend a lot of money on running
gear it will not be easily to quit as whenever I looked at the running
gear I will be reminded of how much money I spent.
eventually joined a running club, did my own training and sometimes
participated in a few races and running became easier. I became fitter
and the weight started falling off.
I was unfortunate in that my
running buddies were already Comrades Marathon finishers and every time
the topic was about me partaking in the Comrades. Since I was a sub
2h30 half marathon finisher and never having done any full marathon
distance. I suddenly found myself coerced into participating in the
2012 City to City ultra marathon. I was excited at having finished it
with 4 minutes to spare, I was still not ready for an ultra marathon.
Finishing was a big mistake as the guys who had coerced me into
participating had more ammunition to use against me to enter the
Comrades. It was simply, “you thought you wouldn’t finish and you
did. Therefore you cannot claim not to be ready for the big C”, this is
what was said to me by my friends bragging with couple of beers. I had
mixed feelings and was excited for finishing.
short, I then entered Two Oceans and did the ultra Marathon just for
the fun of being in Cape Town, I still finished the ultra marathon with
only 2 minutes to spare. I told my running partner that I was not ready
for comrades, but insisted that I was ready.
I am told by many
runners that 2013 Comrades Marathon was one of the brutal races ever. I
was one of the 4000 DNF runners. I did not know that this race was
going to be tough, nor did I know it was going to be the ultimate
challenge of endurance and determination. I felt shattered,
disappointed, and on that day I asked myself why put my body under such
pain and stress? I lost the battle when I allowed the negative thoughts
to take control. I thought was tired as my legs felt heavy. When I
bailed out and jumped on the rescue bus, the permanent marker that they
use to cancel your race bib to indicate that you couldn’t run any
further felt like someone was cutting through my bone though I knew
that I was not ready. But I was not ready for failure. I made a
decision never to run again. Maybe I was disappointed. After
introspection, I remembered that I was I always wanted to take up a new
challenge in life and finishing a Comrades was one of them. After I
have spoken to a few runners at work about my experience during the
race day, Andile and Christine were the two people who shed some light
and told me that I am capable to finishing the Comrades.
The following month I made a commitment to make running part of my life and to complete 2014 Comrades.
for comrades requires one to have a programme and to be committed to
it. More important one needs to be patient. I managed to find a Don
Oliver training program from the internet and from that day I was
hooked. That is where it really started because every-training, every
run, every race, and every gym session, everything I did pushed me
forward to the starting line of the Comrades Marathon 2014. I once
heard that Comrades is a very selfish race as it takes over your life
and soon you will find that as you prepare for it, everything you do,
dream, plan and everything you become, are all aimed at one goal, to
get yourself to the starting line and then to get yourself to the
finish line with time to spare. I suggested this programme to my
running partner Oupa who also loved it. The program is in chewable
chunk as we still had our full-time jobs, family, wife and 3 young kids
that required out attention. For me the most important element of all
was to get buy in from my wife who had to support me on this journey.
This requires early morning run and being in bed early enough to let
the body to rest and a good nutrition
In my preparation for
Comrades, I did 3 standard Marathons (Jackie Gibson, Deloitte, and
Wally) and two Ultra (Two Oceans and Om die Dam).
tapering week, the nerves started to build up and I started to wonder
if I will be able to make it. I was nervous at first, as I remembered
what happened to me the year before. I started to calm down again as my
preparation, mileage and suggested races were all in the bag. I went
through training log since August and I was convinced that I have done
enough. I did enough kilometers, I ran enough races, enough marathons
and enough ultra marathons and I lost enough weight. I read a lot of
articles on the Comrades, studies the down run profile, listened to a
lot of pod casts.
We drove from Johannesburg to Durban (which
I would not recommend) on Friday and drove the route from
Pietermaritzburg, reason we drove was because we wanted to have an idea
what is to come on race day. Hills are no problem in a car, wait until
you have to run it.
We thought that driving the route was going
to calm our nerves. We drove the route and not being familiar with
Durban, we got lost as we were following the Comrades Marathon posters.
We then went to the expo to collect race pack and we headed straight to
hotel. The following morning, we felt that we should go for a 4km
run on Saturday just to calm the nerves and stretch the legs; after all
we have been tapering for the past 3 weeks.
after sorting out the bibs and running vest, I hardly slept as my mind
was thinking the hills that we drove. We (me and Oupa) had to wake up
at 1am to take a shower and eat breakfast and we headed for the
transport to the start in Pietermaritzburg.
The bus journey from
Durban to Pietermaritzburg takes just over an hour. We were calm and we
had one goal in mind, to finish this race. I was prepared for the pain,
I was prepared for the inner battle, the doubt, the questions, the mind
games, the only thing kept on whispering to me was that I do not want
to let myself down. More importantly, I didn’t want to let my wife and
kids down, I sacrificed so much quality time and I had to bring the
medal and to accomplish this journey.
We arrived in
Pietermaritzburg just after 4:15 am and my friend Oupa does not start a
race without visiting the port-a-loo area. I suppose that is his ritual
of dealing with the nerves. Thereafter, we made our way to our
seeding pen. After what felt like only a moment, in the presence of
excited runners, the chanting and singing, the National Anthem was
played. This was followed by "Shosholoza", "Chariots of Fire" and then
the infamous cock crow. Reality sunk in. No turning back. The
moment for months of training had arrived. Before we really had a
chance to comprehend what was happening, we were on our way. The first
few kilometers were fairly slow, as the streets are narrow and the
sheer amount of runners make progress slower than what you would like.
F seeding was approximate 400m behind the starting line. We were lucky
that it took us 3 to 4 minutes before we crossed the start line and we
were able to jog. The roads are packed with runners and early morning
spectators. As you run through the suburbs of Pietermaritzburg,
families sit huddled under duvets out on the pavements with a cup of
coffee in hand, and cheer the runners on. During this time, it is still
cold, and most runners have an old T shirt on over their running vests.
Some have gloves on, and others have black bags over their bodies to
We started to pick up the pace as we left
Pietermaritzburg and throughout that period, we have been shuffling
people and also being mindful of discarded clothing and black bags. We
had to be careful of our surroundings to avoid a fall. 5km into the
race there is a mean little hill, but we were still feeling fresh and
the hill went by almost unnoticed. Little Polly and Polly Shorts
started to separate most runners.
During our training, we had
a strategy or mantra for the day that we will hold back during the
first half of the race as we had enough time to make up for lost time
during the second half. And the other strategy we had was that whatever
we do, we will not stop and every step we will take on the race day is
in the direction of Durban.
We were at Lions Park in 2h01 and we
were at par with our pacing strategy, All of sudden I felt a loss of
energy although I have eating breakfast and drank the energy drinks and
a sip of GU gel. I thought to myself “Please please, not again. I
waited for the whole year to run this race” I realized late during the
day before race day that I had not eaten enough breakfast and the hotel
did not have the usual breakfast that I would normally have each
morning before a race. Normally weetbix, toast with strawberry jam and
banana does the trick for me.
I ran with Oupa until just past
Cato ridge, and we were doing great with our pacing but then he started
to up his pace and I told him to go as I didn’t want to cost him his
Comrades. From there I was on my own and had to rely on my own pacing
and Garmin watch. I continued running at a comfortable pace and ensured
that I hydrate. I kept hearing the voice of Bruce Fordyce saying, "If
you don't slow down in the first half, Comrades will slow you down in
the second." So I took things easy and only fully realized the
magnitude of what I was attempting. Passing Drummond (half way mark) at
5h20 and my legs were feeling good. To think that I still had to do
another marathon in order to complete the Comrades. The climb out of
Drummond is up Inchanga. For me this was the first really serious hill.
This is a mandatory walk and there is no shame in doing so. Though my
pace was not on target, I was not too worried as my energy levels were
low most of the way. I have been eating potatoes and taking my GU’s at
the planned intervals. I managed to get sandwich from the club tent. At
least that propelled me and gave me energy as I walked most of the
hill. The spirit was lifted and there was renewed vigor in my stride.
head started to play games with me and some negative thoughts made
their way into my head and then I realized, the challenge was on and
that is where my Comrades race was going to start.
I joined the
sub 11 bus but they were a little bit fast for me as my quads started
to ache and I was in pain and I thought I will not make it to the
finish. I started thinking about the hours that I went out to train
early in the morning. A lot of emotions started to cross my mind when I
saw the 40km to go board. Although I was in pain, stopping was not an
option. I made a decision that I just had to do this, I had to continue
and I had to finish this challenge. I had to replace every single
negative thought with these positive ones, and I did. I have spoken to
many Comrades runners and most of them have stories to tell of how they
completed this race bit by bit, how they broke it into smaller pieces
to make it more manageable, like only 42km to go, it is a marathon,
only 21km to go, it is a half marathon, only 10 to go, it is a training
run on a Saturday or Sunday morning, only 5km to go, it is a Treadmill
I started walking most of the way, somewhere in the
area between Cowies Hill and Westville I got to the 16km to go sign.
Since I was very tired my thoughts took me back to kilometer mark where
I bailed out the previous year. Fortunate, I met up with my other
friend Andile at 45 Cutting who pushed me hard and kept on telling me
that until I see a 2km board, this is where you should start to relax.
When I checked my pacing chart, I told him to go as I had enough time
to finish comfortable. What kept me going were people that I never met
before who told me that I was doing well and strong. Focusing on others
and other things helped me to pull through.
As you get to
1.5km from the stadium, you can hear the roar of the crowds. There was
no way that I was going to walk into that stadium, and so I dig deep,
and pull out the last reserves of energy. The crowds are on the street
outside and are cheering me on, and so I entered the stadium. All of a
sudden burst of energy, my shoulders and chest lift and the legs pump
the last straight. The noise inside the stadium is incredible. People
are shouting and screaming.
Coming into the stadium and
running in the grass was such a breeze and crossing the finishing line
was one of the emotional experiences of my life; knowing that I have
managed to move my boundaries further than I can ever even begin to
imagine. After finishing or crossing the finishing line, I couldn’t
control the emotions while my friend Andile stood next to me; he
understood what was happening in me. There are 3 times in my life when
I cried, 1) when my dad passed away, 2) when my son was born and 3)
when I crossed the Comrades marathon finishing line. What I thought was
impossible few years ago was now possible. While I crossed the line it
reminded me how much I loved and appreciated my wife, beautiful kids
and appreciated the little things that I have
Back home I had
friends who have been tracking my progress who were permanently
watching the race on TV the entire day just to see me succeeding. What
I have learnt through this experience which I plan to teach my kids is
“nothing is impossible” and that no one should tell you that you are
incapable of anything. And anyone can achieve anything they want in
life as long as they put their mind into it. Most important for me,
comrades Marathon has taught me to be humble. I believe I am now
patient than I was before the race.
This is my story.
External links: Official Comrades Marathon