alsoran runners 2010 experiences:
Julie Marsden

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Comrade 30369
Julie Marsden

HOW DID I EXPERIENCE MY FIRST COMRADES?  BY A NOVICE

Four years ago I lived in the USA.  I moved to Cape Town South Africa and married my husband.  The following is my story about the 2010 Comrades Marathon, this year the down run.

I would like to thank everyone in the Strand Athletic Club who helped me reach the starting line in Pietermaritzburg. Thanks to those who trained with me, advised me, told me their stories of Comrades, and encouraged me when I was sure I could not run this race, much less finish it.  Thanks also to the members of Strand Athletic Club who were an example to me of excellence and determination.

I first heard about Comrades from Sallie Whitmore in Carrboro, North Carolina in 2000.  We met running on the treadmill in the gym. Sallie was training for Comrades. Having never heard of the race I was amazed she was willing to fly to South Africa and run 89k (55miles). 

Through the SAC I learned more about Comrades.  Last year after completing my second Two Oceans Ultra I felt it was possible for me to run Comrades. 

This years run was a special one to commemorate the 85th running.  It was also special because of the World Cup beginning in June. Entries were open to 20,000 previous entrants.  Only 5000 novices were eligible.  On November 1st 9 AM my fingers were poised on the keyboard to register as a novice.  Within 20 minutes, my money spent, nervousness ensued.  All eligible novice entrants were scooped up in 4 hours.

My husband and I flew to Durban on the 28th of May.  Friday was spent at the expo.  Saturday we drove the route; I became seriously nervous. How was I ever going to run this distance?

Sunday morning I got on the bus at 2:30.  It would take us to Pietermaritzburg for a 5:30 start.  I piled on after three club members.  For my superstitious mind this was good luck, compounded by the fact I had 3 Americans sitting behind me. 

I waited in Pietermaritzburg with more club members.  As we walked to the corral I met 2 other Americans. I found a place on the middleman.  Fifteen minutes later the cock crowed and my watch said “battery flat.” 

It took 5 minutes to cross the starting line.  This wasn’t bad as the G corral took 15 minutes.  This race is chip timed but also gun timed.  You have twelve hours, according to the official clock, to cross the finish. We were off to the cheers of clapping and yelling.  These were the families of runners, the people of Pietermaritzburg, and others whom had just come out to see the crazy folks.

Runners from the G and H group began to pass me, pulling me along.  I remembered the advice “if you think you are running slow, run even slower”.  An awe striking moment came at 5k as the runners stretched as far as the eye could see. 

At the 10k mark the 11hour bus finally materialized.  There was my friend Candice Winterboer  We had run the Peninsula Marathon in February and 4 Hills for Lindsay 56k in early May together.  Her friend Craig joined us at the 20k mark in Comrades..  It was great to have someone to talk to, to complain to, and just be silent beside.

For a down run there sure seemed to be a lot of “opdraanders” (up hills).  Candice and Craig’s fathers met us with sweet potatoes and hugs.  Thanks to Robert and Phillip for all they did along the route.  I later saw two club members cheering us on the course, Lester had on a lovely pink wig, and Margi was offering peanuts and crisps.

At halfway, barring any unforeseen accidents, I knew I could finish Comrades.  Odd that your mind turns over from “can I?” to “I can!”  I ate oranges, bananas, Marie Biscuits (cookies), chocolate biscuits and more potatoes than I can count.  Coke, Powerade, water and water, and then some more water washed everything down.  

Field’s hill, what can I say about Field’s Hill?  My question to Candice and Craig “was that it?”  I had barely noticed it.  My mind was mush by that point.  Then we hit Cowie’s Hill and walked.  The entire race was a walk/run series.

At Mayville I began to feel nauseous.  It will be weeks before I eat another potato.  We walked some, which helped.  I felt better and off we went.  Craig had been keeping track of our time and pace.  If we picked it up we could cross before 11 hours.

Gathering our strength off we went.  The 2nd 11-hour bus loomed ahead of us.  I was thinking “Finally we can slow down.”  But NO, Craig picked it up and we ran around the outside and then in front of them.  Pulling away, rounding a corner, there was the 1st 11-hour bus.  Staying with them I hoped, but …… NO we passed them as well!

At the 1km mark we RAN, not that piddly little run we had been doing, but RUNNING.  Entering the stadium was amazing.  The crowds were clapping and yelling, the vuvuzelas were blowing.  There were so many people there.  Crossing under the finish line was one of the best feelings I have experienced.  I got my medal, my patch and official finisher’s card and smiled!!  I had now completed Comrades.

Candice, Craig and I posed for photos.  We headed to the soup line.  Vegetable soup was warm and soothing to the stomach.  They went to find Candice’s mom; she finished in 9:55.  I stopped to talk to Mars, Charl and Karin for a moment.  Mike was in the bleachers waiting for me.

I was in the bed around 8.  My alarm went off at 3:30.  Catching a 6:30 flight out I dropped the car off and went inside the airport.  I was pleased to see I was not the only one hobbling around.  Everyone smiled and/or grimaced at each other.

Today, Tuesday, I am walking better, not great but better.  I have a few new black toes and blisters.  Most importantly I can say to people I ran the 2010 Comrades and finished.

Julie Marsden


External links: Official Comrades Marathon website



Copyright Nikki Campbell 2010
alsoran@webafrica.org.za