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Comrades 2011

Colin Adam

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Colin Adam, 37858
Chasing silver
My 2011 Comrades actually started at the end of Comrades 2010 which for me was “the best of times and the worst of times”, to paraphrase Charles Dickens!  On the one hand, 2010 was my best ever Comrades run (33mins better than my previous best) with a 7hrs 33mins finish, but on the other hand, it was so close to the silver medal I was chasing, it was heart-breaking (just about 800 metres behind where I needed to be at the end!). When I finished, I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry! It took a while to get myself sufficiently together to start thinking about the 2011 up-run, but I eventually decided to take on the challenge again.

I planned my training well and had a number of confidence boosting test runs. These included a 2hr 51min marathon and sub-30min 8k which I felt were good indicators of a great Comrades. Unfortunately, work got in the way somewhat in the last 6 weeks before the big day, but nevertheless I was feeling fairly confident when I got to the start. Because of my work, I unfortunately have to do much of my training alone which is mostly ok, but there are also times when I seriously miss the company of other runners to banter with and to be challenged and encouraged by. There is great camaraderie, superb support, and fantastic people at Fish Hoek Athletics Club, and I often feel that I miss out on some of this because of other commitments. 

In any case, I got myself to the 2011 Comrades start and happened to be the A seeding group, which to be honest, is a little intimidating. The guys and girls in the A seeding pen look like “real athletes” – skinny, some of them even slightly anorexic looking, but muscular, and without an ounce of body fat. You even see some of these people warming up by jogging or doing short sprints before the start! All I want to do is sit down on the kerb and save my legs for the onslaught that is to come!  Immediately in front of the A seeding pen is where the so-called “elite runners” assemble and, to be honest, most of them look like they could use a good meal!

I’d been truly blessed by some amazing people who came into my life over the last year who helped me prepare for the 2011 race. The faces of these people mingled with sound-bytes of encouraging and challenging conversations flashed through my mind as I waited at the start. It was the singing of the national anthem and Shosholoza, together with the powerful sound of the Chariots of Fire theme that brought me back to the emotion of the present and the enormity of the task ahead. I remember the feeling of being completely alone in the middle of a massive throng of people.

Over a year earlier, I had the great fortune to be introduced to Bruce Fordyce through a mutual friend and business acquaintance, and we stayed in touch over this time. Bruce started to get involved as an associate to my business and has become a great inspiration and challenging mentor in my running. I also had some fabulous guidance and input from my friend John Burgess. John was a great runner in his day and has finished 17th in Comrades. He was also a mentor to Bruce during Bruce’s heyday. And finally I had fantastic encouragement and guidance from one of my favourite people, Don Oliver. Don has 19 Comrades medals including 2 silvers, and served as the official Comrades coach (which in my view he still should be!). I’m humbled and deeply appreciative of all of these incredible people that have come into my life in truly significant ways. So, you can understand what I mean when I say I’ve been blessed!

Back to the 2011 up-run. The first half of the run went absolutely according to plan. I’d committed to be at half-way in 3hrs 30mins and I was almost exactly on target and feeling great. It was shortly after this that tragedy struck. I tripped over something in the road – I’m not even sure what it was – and I had that sickening sense of losing control. Time seemed to literally slow down and I recall thinking “Stay on your feet!” Fortunately I managed to do so, but in the process I jarred my right knee quite badly and felt a searing pain run from my knee up through my thigh. I stopped, tried to gather myself together, then started walking then jogging. As soon as I began to run the pain came back. I was reduced to a walk/jog and was desperately hoping that I could shake off the pain I felt. I hobbled through the next 11k but the pain got progressively worse until even walking was very painful. I could have cried. With about 32k to go I was worried that I might do permanent damage, and with all silver hopes gone I decided to pull out of the race and get on board the politely named “Runners Rescue Bus” feeling very sorry for myself. (Incidentally, the bus dropped us off at an entrance to the stadium with the much less polite sign over it which proclaimed in huge letters “BAILERS ENTRANCE” – just to make us feel really good about ourselves!)

There are always people worse off than yourself, however, and this was really brought home to me when the guy who boarded the Rescue Bus after me appeared to be having a heart attack. He was losing consciousness, complaining about pins and needles in his arm, losing the feeling in his hands and face, and was obviously in a very distressed condition. The ambulance soon arrived to rush him off to hospital and I remember saying a silent prayer that he would be fine. In a weird way, having witnessed what happened to this fellow runner helped me move out of my self-absorbed space and I started to be thankful that I was still alive and overall very healthy. I suppose, there is a truth here for all of us who are part of the running community. Yes, it’s great to set targets and goals for ourselves and it’s fantastic when we achieve them, but let’s also be deeply grateful that we are simply able to run, that we are healthy, and that we have the opportunity to meet and get to know some incredible people who touch our lives in such special ways. What a gift!

External links: Official Comrades Marathon website



Copyright Nikki Campbell 2011
alsoran@webafrica.org.za