alsoran runners 2010 Experiences:
Nicola Forgan

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Comrade 35810
Nicola Forgan - Novice

Ice-cream: Comrades from a DNF point of view . . .

I’ve been in two minds as whether to share my story because I feel that everybody’s story is so unique and carries as much value as the next why should my story be of importance to anybody else, but I hope that in sharing my experience as a novice and in particular as a non finisher it will maybe help other novices in their journey to and through Comrades.

Pre Pre Comrades
Plus minus 7 hrs is what I recall my 2010 West Coast marathon time to be, the finishing blow up thingy magigy(its technical name of course) deflated by the time we’d got there. West Coast was my third attempt and what I thought last attempt to qualify for Comrades 2010 having first tried at Redhill marathon managing 5:27 then Peninsula 5:56. There was one last hope though and it was the Outeniqua Marathon and through the support of friends and club mates (one and the same) I came in, in a time of 4:48.YES I’ve made it to Comrades start line.

Pre Comrades
I went to Comrades this year having done a maximum mileage of 350km between Jan- May something that experienced runners laugh at because it’s so ridiculously little compared to what one should have done. It was always going to be tough I knew that and yes there were times in the 2 days before Comrades that I had truly acknowledged to myself that I was not prepared particularly the night before as I lay on the top bunk in our Pietermaritzburg backpackers eyes wide open but in absolute silence scared I might inadvertently blurt out I don’t think I can do this. One thing I had learnt though from the experienced is that no matter your fears you must always talk positively about your intentions to do Comrades whether you’re giving yourself a pep talk or talking to others later during my story you will see when I let negativity take over and its affects.

Time for honesty
Up until Comrades this year I hadn’t, not finished a race that I’d started through reflection however I’ve realised in my mind I had given up in all except for Outeniqua, as soon as I realised I was not going to make the times I couldn’t bring my mind back into the game and walked the rest of the routes pretty much from just after halfway. With Comrades people talk about respecting the distance and they say you do that by doing the proper training this is absolutely true. I knew there would be a point where physically I would feel finished but thought that I’d be okay because I’ve got will power I mean I did 4 marathons and I didn’t bail on one of them.

Time to learn
The difference between being physically finished at 30ks in a standard marathon and physically finished at 60ks in Comrades is a question of how much the physical exhaustion has taken a toll on your emotional/mental wellbeing and how it affects your thinking. I have to believe I’m not a quitter and it is extremely hard to explain but when I hit the wall so to speak I couldn’t have cared less about what was happening in the moment or how I’d feel after I didn’t think well I have to finish the distance even if I don’t get a medal because that’s what I do, I finish what I start. I guess what I’m trying to articulate maybe not so well is that you have to prepare yourself mentally for that point in the race where apathy sets in even if you think you are mentally tough as I had thought I was, it is an apathy you would never have experienced in a standard marathon it may be an apathy you have never experienced in your life before and when you do Comrades remember what I’ve written and tell yourself yes I knew this was coming but I can push through, because you can.

Time to believe
It’s been 4 months since Comrades and to be honest I have not truly reflected properly upon my experience until now maybe because the wounds of not finishing were still fresh but as I now start preparing to take on the challenge again I have to believe that what I experienced happened to teach me. I believed I could finish Comrades up until 20km to go when serious doubt started setting in I reached 18km to go at 9:53:51 leaving me 2hrs6min to do 18km extremely do able except for the fact that in the back of my mind I knew that my fastest 8km time trial was 50min and that was on fresh legs. With that playing on my mind I stopped believing and as soon as that happened it was the end of my race. The last marker I passed was 12kms to go and further down the road I was told that the last cutoff 11:20 at 45th Cutting had come and been it had taken me 1hr 26 min to walk 6km!

Time for others
During the walk there had been a number of spectators that encouraged me one lady even shouted at me “You! You are what makes Comrades!”(Me a lowly straggler I thought). There were times when I wanted to walk in the middle of the road away from the spectators during that 6km that is how much I didn’t believe in what I was doing but they believed so really its not me that makes Comrades but them. You can get anything you need or want on the road from perfect strangers, from food to encouragement to the high fiving healing hands of little children some of whom themselves aren’t even able to walk let alone run. As for the support you get from clubmates pre Comrades and from the family of clubmates on the day I felt like my own mom, dad, brother and sister were out there. From the friends(and I call them friends and no longer clubmates) who still said I could do it after doing a 6hr marathon time, the one who walked with me for 7hrs when he is capable of a 3:30 marathon time, those who ran my qualifier with me, those who looked after us in Durban whether it be driving or feeding us, to the one that  met and shed tears with me whilst I tried to pull myself  towards myself before going into the stands at the stadium to the one who brought me ENO’S(the cure for any ailment physical or mental) and quiet understanding after a tough day on the road and those who I shared laughter with and drew support and knowledge from. Comrades, brings out the best in people.

Grass envy
To say I experience grass envy is to put it mildly. During pre pre and pre Comrades the finishing grass is used as a strategy to drive novices to the finish line the experienced Comrades runners talk of being on the grass as a wonderful experience a truly moving moment none like you have ever experienced and I personally believe this to be true though I’ve yet to experience it. When I came back from Comrades I got a sense that people did not want to venture into the Comrades topic with me because I had not finished on the contrary I was longing to speak about my experience which was a truly wonderful one from my qualifying marathon to being in Durban meeting new people and getting to know club mates to the race itself. It’s about so much more than running from point A to point B than taking on a physical challenge it’s about challenging what you know about yourself and enjoying everything about it from training runs to post Comrades kuiers with mates.

Why I’m going back
Grass envy of course , no not really. Like any normal person I have thought “I don’t want to do it again”, however I verbalized very early on that I would be going back because it was unfinished business. I verbalized it even though I didn’t really believe that I actually could do it again but each time I verbalized I started to gain in belief. It is not really that it is unfinished that is drawing me back but that the journey (which starts now in September) is so good for my soul. My story is entitled ice cream because at 18ks when I stopped believing I also stopped at an ice cream man and bought an ice cream I patiently waited for him to fiddle faff with change hey I wasn’t in a rush. At Comrades 2011 I hope to shout at the ice-cream man as an Irish man once yelled at an ambulance as it drove past  him after he tried to chase it after a heavy night of Guinness drinking….You can keep your bloody  ice-cream!.......... I’ll get one at the finish.


External links: Official Comrades Marathon website



Copyright Nikki Campbell 2010
alsoran@webafrica.org.za