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Comrades 2011

Nikki Campbell

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Comrades is not a FUN RUN
Nikki Campbell, 18595

To be honest I was feeling a little too “relaxed” about the run this year.  Thought about it the day before and was a little worried that I wasn’t suffering with the usual pre-race nerves.  I also couldn’t say that in the place of nerves I was feeling “cautiously optimistic”.  I don’t think I was feeling anything at all?

Pre-Comrades in Durban is always a bit hectic for me.  I’m part of a “tour group” and we are involved in a few must do events leading up to race day.  These include registration, driving the route and my club’s pre-Comrades breakfast the day before.  These days seemed to pass in a blur!

Come race day I arrived at the start just after 4.30am with an hour to kill before the race actually started.  Waiting for the start I met quite a few fellow runners that I had gotten to know via email courtesy of the ALSORANRUNNERS website.  I was happy to chat and kept this up even as the race began.  Thinking back now, I felt like I was doing a “long club training run”.  I happily ran along, completed distracted from what I was meant to be doing, that is, focussing on my own run. 

An hour and a half into the run I realised I hadn’t taken a squeezy yet.  I rectified this situation and made a mental note when next to take one.  Unfortunately I still wasn’t focussing on my race as I carried on chatting away.  I managed Cowies Hill without too much effort but running through Pinetown I was starting to feel an unfamiliar “lameness” and lack of energy.  Field’s Hill came and it was at this point that I started to unravel!  My tried and trusted run/walk counting strategy was failing me (or rather I was failing it), I found myself gasping for breath and even walking had become a huge effort.  Having only just survived Field’s Hill my club mate, Barrie tried very hard to keep me going.  At this point the realisation had set in that I had officially lost the plot.  This was actually a good thing! 

At 28kms into the race I had to take stock.  It wasn’t pretty but the one thing I was absolutely sure of was that I would turn it around.  The beauty of Comrades is its distance.  There are enough kilometres to fix things up.  I sent Barrie packing (I had to reassure him that I would be ok).  I “refocused” myself and in essence had to “restart” my race.  With this new focus came a new source of energy!  Although I had fallen quite far behind on time, I was confident that I would get to Drummond with a little time to spare.  I had to reassure my younger daughter Shannon, who was supporting in Alverstone, that although I had had a wobbly earlier, I was back in control and that I would be OK.  I made sure I took 2 roses at the GAME table and placed the first one at Lindsay Weight’s plaque at the Wall of Honour (asking her to “run” with me for a while – she did!).  The second rose was placed on the huge mound of flowers at Arthur’s Seat.  I said a loud “morning Arthur” as I did so and trusting Arthur would grant me a good second half – he did!  I reached halfway in 5:50 and confident that I would manage the 2nd half a lot better than the first.  I ran/walked up Inchanga (Don allows us to walk it) and once at the top looked forward into the distance and relished the challenge that lay ahead.

I made a point of wishing all the “yellow numbers” that I came into contact with well for the rest of their race.  I also encouraged novice runners as I went along.  The difference this time around was that doing so was part of my plan.  I was being positive and in doing so to others, was helping myself in the process.  I picked up my club mate Elaine and we knocked back 20 kays or so before I moved ahead on Polly Shortts.  At the top I met another of my club mates, Brian Moly, and he informed me that my daughter Heather was just ahead.  With renewed energy (as much as one can have after climbing Pollys) I chased her down.  With about 6 kays to go I was running Comrades with my daughter knowing we would both finish.  We caught Andy (my husband, Heather’s dad) shortly thereafter and for about half a kay got to run as a family!  Andy was taking a bit of strain so sent us on our way shortly thereafter.

In the last few kays I “bragged” to everyone who would listen that I was running with my daughter.  The Toyota mile was upon us and we (including 2 other clubmates) tidied ourselves for our entrance into the stadium.  The support running past the Fish Hoek AC tent was incredible.  As we entered the Oval my eyes were focussed on Heather as she absorbed the crowd, the noise and the atmosphere.  It was as if she was running on air!  Her face said it all.  The run around the track seemed to happen in slow motion and eventually we were crossing the line.  The clock said 11:39:44.  We hugged and posed for photos that no doubt will grace the mantelpiece for the rest of my life.  This was number 14 for me but number 1 for Heather.  Her first Comrades medal, no doubt the first of many!

My splits were virtually even, actually a 1 min 30 negative split!  I had been let off with a warning.  My indiscretion (disrespect) in the first 27 kays had not cost me my medal.  I do believe I have gained much from the experience.  Most of all I hope others can learn something from this.  The race is not over until it’s over!  I think it was Alan Robb that once said “you can be dead and buried at half way and still turn it around”.  Never a truer word was spoken!

Internal links: day before, driving the route, squeezies, wall of honour, Arthurs Seat, splits,
External links: Official Comrades Marathon website

Copyright Nikki Campbell 2011